Road to the Kentucky Derby – The Grade 3 Holy Bull – By Eric Solomon

In years past, this has been an important first stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in South Florida. Tiz the Law won this race in 2020 en route to a Belmont Stakes victory in a year where that was the first race in the Triple Crown. Barbaro and Go For Gin used this race to put them on the fast track to their wins in the Kentucky Derby. 

Last year, White Abarrio won a strong edition of this race, which propelled him to a victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby toward the end of the Championship Meet. His trainer, Saffie Joseph, has a pair of runners to try to help him win this race for consecutive years. Six other rivals will be standing in his way 

Gulfstream Park Saturday 2/4/23, Race 12: The Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes

40 Total Derby points (20/8/6/4/2)

1 – Lord Miles (4-1 ML, 175-1 Circa): He’s one of four that is coming out of the Mucho Macho Stakes here last month. He broke toward the back of the pack in a race where the frontrunner, Legacy Isle, took them gate to wire after setting some aggressive fractions. He’s the first of two from the Saffie Joseph barn, and the runner that I feel has the better chance of getting the job done. He’s sired by Curlin, so there’s reason to believe that he’ll improve as the races get longer. He’s the first foal to race from the unraced dam, Lady Esme. His maiden win was strong in November and he definitely improved upon that race in his last start. Blinkers go on and Irad Ortiz, fresh off seven consecutive wins on Friday, takes over on top. 

2 – West Coast Cowboy (12-1 ML): Edgard Zayas rides a lot of horses for Saffie Joseph on this oval, and he was the last jockey to ride both and his stablemate in the stall next door. That being said, I feel this son of West Coast is the lesser of the two runners from this barn. He broke his maiden in a slow race against a soft field in the slop back in September. He was going a one turn mile, which is never an easy assignment, so I can excuse the low speed figure for that effort. He came back to run fourth behind Legacy Isle in allowance company in his last start in November. While this race lacks the depth it has had in previous runnings, this still feels like an ambitious spot for his first start of the season. 

3 – Shadow Dragon (15-1 ML): Like Saffie Joseph, Bill Mott also sends out a pair of runners in the first Derby Points race of the season at Gulfstream. This New York bred son of Army Mule was a winner with state bred maiden allowance types in September. He came back to run in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes, which was also restricted to fellow Empire Breds. While Arctic Arrogance was the winner of that race, he didn’t finish in the same zip code as he did. His sire, Army Mule, was known for his one turn efforts, but the few horses he’s sired that have run in two turn races have held their own, winning two of six races on the dirt. In addition, the dam, Fire Assay, was stakes placed in multiple dirt routes, and her dam, Jostle won the CCA Oaks at Belmont when it was contested at 12 furlongs. For Mott to enter him in this spot, and for Jose Ortiz to take the mount, he must be showing the signs of a horse that has improved in the mornings over the last few months. I think the water might be a little deep for him, but he might be a longshot to at least consider using underneath in the vertical exotics. 

4 – Cyclone Mischief (2-1 ML, 75-1 Circa): The morning line favorite is coming off a strong effort while going a one turn mile in his local debut. He set the pace two starts back in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, only to come up empty in the final stages, finishing 7th, but beaten less than three lengths. Instant Coffee was a winner in his next start and Red Route One, who finished in front of this one, was a respectable second to the new Future Book favorite, Arabian Knight, last week. While his last race was strong, he was using Lasix that day. We know he likes the track, and I don’t think this is a particularly strong field. I’ll use him, but at short odds, I think there’s value in trying to beat him. 

5 – Mr Bob (15-1 ML): Joel Rosario gets the mount for the first time on this son of Practical Joke. He split the field in the Much Macho Man last out, finishing 6th of 11 on the wire. The public had him at tepid 9-2 that day, on the stretch out from 6 and ½ furlongs to a one turn mile. He did struggle to gain early position while finding a few spots of trouble, so it’s reasonable to think that he just didn’t have it that day. However, I think he’ll be more effective at one turn.

6 – Legacy Isle (7-2 ML, 300-1 Circa): He set demanding fractions in the Mucho Man Stakes last month, leading every step of the way, refusing to lose. However, he did come out, which caused interference, leading him to be disqualified and placed second in that race. Two starts back. He tracked some aggressive fractions when coming from off the pace to clear the N2L allowance condition. No horse has ever finished in front of him on the racetrack, however, this will be his biggest test to date. I can see him making the lead and slowing the pace down, which might be his best chance to beat these today. 

7 – Il Miracolo (20-1 ML, 300-1 Circa): With six starts under his belt, this son of Gun Runner is the most experienced runner in the field. He broke his maiden in his 4th start with a solid win on this oval, going the one turn mile. Trainer Antonio Sano swung for the fences when he shipped him to New York to run in the Remsen, where he was soundly defeated. He returned home to run in the Mucho Macho Man where he finished 7th in the 11 horse field. This is a tougher spot and he hasn’t shown that he can be competitive at this level. I would prefer to see him try to clear an allowance condition at this point in his career. 

8 – Rocket Can (7-2 ML, 300-1 Circa): Bill Mott’s second entrant started to figure some things out after struggling in his first two starts at Saratoga. He came to Churchill and broke his maiden in his third career try, which was also his first start at two turns. He followed up that effort with a solid second place try in allowance company. He’ll make his three year old debut today, trying to do it from a wide post, which is no picnic in these 1 mile and 1/16 at Gulfstream. He’s sired by Into Mischief, out of the Tapit mare, Tension. She didn’t do much on the track, losing both career starts, however her dam was the Grade 1 winner, Tough Tiz’s Sis, who was a perennial bridesmaid to the great Zenyatta. He has some early speed, but probably not enough to clear from the high draw, I’m not sure he’s good enough yet to overcome a wide journey here, but I do see him as one of the more promising runners from this race. 



The Verdict: 1-6-3

With this race wrapping up the Late Pick-4 and Pick-5 at Gulfstream on Saturday, I’d definitely want a fair amount of coverage here. I see this as a wide open field with several opportunities for someone to step up. While I’d definitely cover with him in those wagers, vertically speaking, I think there’s going to be decent value when playing against Cyclone Mischief (#4). He was huge last out when clearing the first level allowance condition. However,  Iwonder if he’ll be as effective at two turns. His big Beyer Figure (90) will keep the money flowing in on him, while hopefully creating value elsewhere. 

Irad Ortiz couldn’t lose yesterday and he’ll get the call of Lord Miles (#1) who will be my top pick. I liked the way he was traveling in the final stages of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes last month. He’s a young and improving horse that should benefit from his rail draw. Legacy Isle (#6) figures to go to the front end once again. He’s been very tough to pass once he finds his way there. I’m not sure how high his ceiling really his, but I think he’s factor in the outcome of this one. 

Shadow Dragon (#3) is the longshot that I’m most interested in here. He showed some ability with New York breds in his two starts this fall. He’s been on the sidelines since, but for Mott to enter him in a spot like this, tells me that he likes how this horse is doing. He tends to be more conservative, so seeing him take a shot like this figures to mean something. 


We’ll have coverage of every North American Derby Points Race, along with plenty of coverage leading up to the 149th Kentucky Derby on May 6th, 2023. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.


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