At the start of the Grade 2, $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes, Audible had to straighten himself out after taking contact from the longest shot on the board. On the final turn, he had a Grade 1 winner breathing down his neck, threatening to give him a lesson in what really comes with a step up in class.
The good ones know how to shake off such challenges, however, and in the 1 1/16-mile test at Gulfstream Park Feb. 3 , the latest wunderkind from the barn of Todd Pletcher announced himself as such. In his first try against graded company against some of more well-regarded members of his class, it was Audible who looked most professional of all in a statement-making win on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
It wouldn't be prep season without a Pletcher-trained youngster throwing down an eye-catching run at Gulfstream, and Audible answered that bell in emphatic fashion Saturday. After racing three-wide down the backstretch, the son of Into Mischief turned back a challenge from Free Drop Billy on the far turn and then thoroughly humbled all of his eight foes during a 5 ½-length victory in the Holy Bull.
Though he didn't try stakes company in his three starts as a 2-year-old, Audible did show signs of serious talent. After breaking his maiden second-time out in a one-mile test at Aqueduct Nov. 15, the bay colt stalked-and-pounced his way to a sizzling 9 ¾-length allowance win over the same track and distance Dec. 6.
"We actually brought him down (to Florida) a little bit later because we were entered in the New York-bred stakes, and then all the bad weather hit in New York and it got delayed and carried over," Pletcher said. "Maybe it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The original plan was to run him in the New York-bred stake and then bring him down but when all the bad weather hit we came up with a different strategy and it seemed to work out well today.
"He shipped in great, he trained really well when he got here so it kind of made it an easy decision that this was an easy race to target."
After a rough start in which he bumped with 108-1 longshot Bandito, Audible tracked in third behind Master Manipulator and Aequor as the nine-horse field reached the half-mile in :47.14. As the pacesetters started to fade, jockey Javier Castellano confidently began asking Audible for a sustained run in the final turn.
Audible took charge entering the lane and put away Claiborne Breeders' Futurity winner Free Drop Billy en route to an impressive win. He hit the wire in 1:41.92 over a track rated fast as the 3.20-1 third betting choice.
"I love the way he did it today, compared to our last race, because his last race he was still developing and bit laid back," Castellano said of his mount. "I really had to ride him last time out and he'd give it to you. Today he was sharp and had tactical speed in the race and we could move and he'd give me everything I asked of him. I love these kinds of horses ... where you can move quick and can put them in a good position.
"It's only a mile and sixteenth today, but the way he galloped out was amazing. I look forward to the next race."
Free Drop Billy was a clear second-best, finishing 7 ¾ lengths in front of Dale Romans-trained stablemate Tiz Mischief in third. Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner and 1.90-1 favorite Enticed had no response after a ground-saving trip and ended up fourth. The Holy Bull offered qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale towards the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to the top four finishers.
"He ran hard. He tried hard. The winner was tough," said Luis Saez, jockey of Free Drop Billy. "Maybe after the layoff he got a little tired, but he tried. I think he'll be ready for his next start."
Added Joel Rosario, jockey of Enticed, "I got a good trip. He just didn't give me a run."
Audible is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and SF Racing and improved his record to three wins from four starts with $287,720 in earnings.
"I think the question now is do you run him two more times or one more time and we'll let him tell us kind of how he bounces out of this," Pletcher said. "He's a very kind horse to train, very easy on himself in the morning. I love the way he came over here and handled everything. He was perfect in the paddock, post parade, gate – all those little intangibles that really help with horses that are pointing for big days."