The $200,000, Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes begins the three race series for sophomores at Gulfstream Park. The series continues with the Fountain of Youth Stakes, and ends with the Florida Derby. With Road to the Kentucky Derby points on the line, the Holy Bull is the starting off spot for many 3-year olds hoping to prove themselves worthy of entering the starting gate in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. A field of nine will compete at a distance of 1 1/16 miles on the dirt. Post time is scheduled for 4:50 p.m. ET.
In terms of horses with stakes credentials, 2020 Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes winner Sittin On Go deserves mentioning. With ninth- and sixth-place finishes in two starts since that win, there is certainly the question of whether he can return to top form. Papetu and Awesome Gerry recently finished second and third, respectively, in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on this track in a one-turn mile race. If they can improve and run as well in this two-turn race, they may have a strong say in the outcome. Another Holy Bull entrant with stakes form is Tarantino. The colt is trying dirt for the first time after three tries on grass, one of them a runner-up effort in the Zuma Beach Stakes last October. There’s an impressive pair of maiden winners from the barn of Todd Pletcher, in the form of Amount and Prime Factor. Both are stretching out to two turns off debut wins by 5 3/4 lengths and 8 3/4 lengths, respectively. Greatest Honour also broke his maiden in his most recent start, but he did so at the 1 1/16 miles. Jirafales and Willy Boi enter the Holy Bull off visually impressive wins in sprints; both are stretching out for the first time.
Greatest Honour started his career sprinting and finished third in two races at seven furlongs, improving from a debut 84 Equibase Speed Figure to 89 in his second start. Stretched out to two turns (nine furlongs) for his third career start in November, Greatest Honour regressed slightly to an 85 figure but ran a much better race, battling head-and-head the entire length of the stretch before losing by a head at the finish line. Shipped to Gulfstream in December, Greatest Honour improved markedly at the distance of the Holy Bull, when maturely rallying from seventh of nine early to win by 1 ½ lengths. In doing so he improved to a field-high 104 speed figure. Even if some of the other impressive recent winners improve, they will have to improve significantly more than Greatest Honour to beat this colt, even if he just repeats his last effort. As a son of Tapit, sire of many top 3-year-olds in recent years such as Enforceable, Hofburg and Tacitus, Greatest Honour should only get better over the course of his sophomore campaign. He appears to be the one to beat in this year’s Holy Bull Stakes.
Sittin On Go won his debut last summer impressively by four lengths in a five-furlong sprint, then won the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford at one mile in only the second start of his career. The improvement from an 80 figure in his debut to 95 second out portended great things for this colt, but that did not pan out. After a ninth-place effort in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Sittin on Go was given some time off to mature. It appears that time off helped him, as he’s been in steady training at Gulfstream Park for more than a month. Given that he ran so well fresh last year, and that his first-crop sire, Brody’s Cause, has had decent success, I think Sittin on Go could run well in the Holy Bull Stakes. If he repeats his Iroquois Stakes effort, he will be a contender.
Papetu was overlooked in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes four weeks ago when sent to post at odds of 20.30-1. Although no match for the winner, Papetu nevertheless finished well for second in the field of nine with an 87 Equibase Speed Figure. He could improve upon that in his second start off a four-month layoff, so he can be given a look at a contender as well.
Prime Factor (89 figure winning last month) and Amount (84 figure winning last month) come from the top barn of Todd Pletcher. According to STATS Race Lens, Pletcher wins at a hefty 33% rate with horses stretching out from a sprint to a route in their second career starts. Still, asking a horse to both go from maiden ranks to graded stakes, and from one turn to two turns can be a big lift. Considering other horses in this race have experience in stakes and routes, I think they may fall short of the win.
Awesome Gerry finished third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, 1 1/4 lengths from Papetu. He’s earned back-to-back 84 figures and is not on the same pattern for improvement to be competitive here as some of the others in my opinion. Tarantino has two wins and a nose defeat to his credit in three career starts. In the best of those three, Tarantino finished second, beaten a nose, in the Zuma Beach Stakes in October and earned an 81 figure. As a son of Pioneerof the Nile, Tarantino should run as well on dirt. Even if he reapers that effort, he’ll likely all short of what it will take to win this race. Willy Boi won at first asking, then beat a Florida-bred allowance field earlier this month, earning an 85 figure in doing so. He appears to have the same tall task of running two turns and trying stakes for the first time. Jirafales won at first asking in November and earned a 71 figure in doing so. Even with improvement, it appears he could be far short of being competitive.
Win Contenders, in probability order:
Sittin on Go