2023 Holy Bull Stakes Cheat Sheet

Horses break from Gulfstream Park’s starting gate in the 2021 Holy Bull Stakes. (Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photo)

The road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve stops in south Florida Saturday for the $250,000, Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Holy Bull is the first of three Gulfstream qualifying points preps for the 149th Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs, and offers a points distribution of 20-8-6-4-2 to the top five finishers. It will be followed by the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes on March 4 and the Curlin Florida Derby on April 1.

The 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, named after the 1994 Horse of the Year, has been won by such notable horses as Offlee Wild (2003), Closing Argument (2005), Dialed In (2011), Irish War Cry (2017), Audible (2019), and Tiz the Law (2020). Two Holy Bull winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby: Go For Gin (1994) and Barbaro (2006).

This year’s race drew a field of eight and will be televised on FanDuel TV. Post time is set for 5:43 p.m. ET.

Read on for information on all of the Holy Bull contenders:

1. Lord Miles (4-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owner: Vegso Racing Stable

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $38,100

Earnings per start: $19,050

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 81

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Curlin – Lady Esme, by Majestic Warrior

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Lord Miles enters the Holy Bull off of a fast-closing third-place finish in the Mucho Macho Stakes at Gulfstream on New Year’s Day. He rolled through the stretch in that one-turn-mile race and finished three-quarters of a length behind Legacy Isle, the pacesetter who crossed the finish line first but was disqualified to second after drifting out in the stretch. Prior to the Mucho Macho Man, Lord Miles had overcome early bumping to win his debut race, a six-furlong sprint at Gulfstream, by an impressive 5 ¾ lengths. He sharpened up for the Holy Bull with a solid five-furlong drill at Palm Meadows Training Center in :59.60 on Jan. 27 and has a good pedigree for stretching out to two turns as a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and out of a female family that includes 2017 champion 2-year-old filly Caledonia Road. Notably, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. has named 2022 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride Lord Miles and switched Edgard Zayas, who rode this colt in his prior two races, to stablemate West Coast Cowboy. Add it all up, and Lord Miles is a leading win candidate in Saturday’s Holy Bull.

2. West Coast Cowboy (12-1)

Jockey: Edgard Zayas

Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.

Owner: Gentry Farms

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $26,200

Earnings per start: $13,100

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 72

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: West Coast – Coco’s Sweetie, by Tenpins

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt from the first crop of 2017 champion 3-year-old male and Travers Stakes winner West Coast figures to get less support from bettors than the other Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained entrant drawn to his inside. West Coast Cowboy comes in off of two months rest, and was last seen competing in a one-turn-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream on Nov. 27. In that race, he started in a stalking position (fourth of six) early on and kept it throughout, finishing 4 ½ lengths behind Holy Bull foe Legacy Isle. Before that, West Coast Cowboy won his debut on a sloppy track at Gulfstream back in September, setting the pace and gamely holding off a stretch challenge to win by a neck going a one-turn mile. It will be interesting to see where jockey Edgard Zayas attempts to position West Coast Cowboy in the early stages of the Holy Bull based on the discrepancy in running styles from his prior two starts. He should be able to handle the two-turn, 1 1/16-mile configuration in the Holy Bull but will need to run faster to hit the board. That, of course, is possible since many horses improve significantly early in their 3-year-old seasons and we haven’t seen him run in a while. His workout tab at Gulfstream has been steady over the past month but not particularly swift.

Adam Coglianese/NYRA

3. Shadow Dragon (15-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: Peachtree Stable

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $43,550

Earnings per start: $21,775

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 70

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Army Mule – Fire Assay, by Medaglia d’Oro

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The first of two Bill Mott trainees in Saturday’s Holy Bull ships in from New York, and he’ll start his 3-year-old campaign off of three months of rest. From the first crop of Grade 1-winning sprinter Army Mule, Shadow Dragon won first out during the Belmont at the Big A meet (held at Aqueduct) on Sept. 29, rallying in the stretch to take a six-furlong sprint by three-quarters of a length. He then threw in a clunker when moved up to stakes company, finishing a distant sixth of 10 starters in the one-turn-mile Sleepy Hollow Stakes restricted to New York-breds. It’s anyone’s guess as to how well he’ll run off of the layoff and whether he’s improved enough to challenge two or three contenders in the Holy Bull with good recent form. Even though Army Mule never won beyond seven furlongs, Shadow Dragon should be able to stretch out to at least 1 1/16 miles, as his second dam (maternal grandmother) Jostle won two marquee Grade 1 stakes in New York at 1 ¼ miles or longer and earned more than $1.3 million. It’s worth noting that Mott’s first-call rider Junior Alvarado (who just won the lucrative Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Art Collector for Mott) is tabbed to ride the Hall of Fame trainer’s other starter in the Holy Bull, Rocket Can, while two-time Holy Bull winner Jose Ortiz takes the mount on Shadow Dragon.

Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

4. Cyclone Mischief (2-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owners: Albaugh Family Stables and Castleton Lyons

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $112,450

Earnings per start: $28,113

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Areyoucominghere, by Bernardini

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: It’s been a while since Dale Romans has had a top-tier Kentucky Derby prospect, but the Louisville native can never be counted out, and this colt is an intriguing Holy Bull contender based on the substantial improvement he showed in his first start as a 3-year-old. Cyclone Mischief went 2-for-3 last year, finishing a close third in his debut at Churchill Downs and then taking a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Keeneland by 5 ¼ lengths. He then finished seventh in Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes held at the same distance in November and did not earn any Kentucky Derby qualifying points – however, he checked in only 2 ¾ lengths behind Instant Coffee, who came back to win the recent Lecomte Stakes in his 3-year-old bow. Cyclone Mischief came back for his own sophomore debut in a one-turn-mile allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 8, and took over coming out of the turn under Tyler Gaffalione to win going away by 5 ¾ lengths. He earned a 101 Equibase Speed Figure in that race, which is the best in the Holy Bull field. Cyclone Mischief is a son of leading sire Into Mischief and he has several accomplished relatives in his dam’s (mother’s) side of his pedigree, including horses who excelled at age 3 such as 2016 Southwest Stakes winner Suddenbreakingnews, 2008 West Virginia Derby winner Ready Set, and 2020 Indiana Derby winner Shared Sense. He’s already proven capable of handling two turns, and if he can equal or surpass the speed figure from his recent win, this colt could kickstart some Derby dreams again for the Romans barn and his longtime clients, co-owners Albaugh Family Stables.  

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5. Mr Bob (10-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Robert Falcone Jr.

Owners: John Grossi’s Racing Corp., Beast Mode Racing, and Robert Falcone Jr.

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $89,276

Earnings per start: $22,319

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 84

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Practical Joke – Tiz Imaginary, by Tizway

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Mr Bob profiles as a Holy Bull longshot as he makes his second start at age 3 following a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on this track on New Year’s Day. He had a rough start in that race and was last of 11 early on, and he did not make up much ground in the latter stages of the one-turn-mile stakes, checking in 4 ¾ lengths behind first-place finisher Legacy Isle (who was disqualified) and four lengths behind third-place Lord Miles. Both of those runners are back for Saturday’s race, although it’s worth noting that in terms of speed figures there’s not a lot separating the trio. Mr Bob was claimed out of his first start when third last summer at Saratoga and then ran well in two starts in Kentucky to close out his 2-year-old season, winning a 6 ½-furlong maiden claiming race at Keeneland by an easy 5 ½ lengths and then finishing a good second in the Ed Brown Stakes at Churchill Downs at the same distance. He did have an excuse in the Mucho Macho Man and gets Joel Rosario to ride for the first time Saturday, which is a plus. Rosario won the Holy Bull back in 2017 on Irish War Cry.

Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photo

6. Legacy Isle (7-2)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Rohan Crichton

Owners: Daniel Walters, Dennis Smith, Anthony Smith, and Rohan Crichton

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $78,600

Earnings per start: $26,200

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 82

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Shackleford – Queenameina, by Read the Footnotes

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Legacy Isle projects as the pacesetter in Saturday’s Holy Bull as he’s led at every point of call in two of his three career starts, which have all come on Gulfstream’s dirt main track. He won his debut in that fashion back in September, romping by five lengths in a 6 ½-furlong sprint, but then changed tactics and rallied from a stalking spot to take a one-turn-mile allowance-optional claiming race by three lengths in late November. Returning in the one-turn-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes Jan. 1, he shot to the lead from the inside post position and held off Dreaming of Kona by a half-length at the finish, but he was disqualified for drifting out in deep stretch and impeding that foe’s own bid for victory. 2014 Holy Bull winner Luis Saez replaces Emisael Jaramillo, who rode Legacy Isle in his first three starts, for Saturday’s test, and Saez figures to get this horse to the front quickly so he can move him close to the rail before reaching the first turn. His Equibase Speed Figures have resided in the low-80 range through three career starts, but conversely, his pedigree should be stout enough to help him extend his speed enough to handle the Holy Bull’s two-turn, 1 1/16-mile layout. Legacy Isle is a second-tier win candidate in this race but will be a factor in shaping the pace scenario, and thus the outcome.

Lauren King/Coglianese Photo

7. Il Miracolo (20-1)

Jockey: Leonel Reyes

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Owner: Alexandres

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $54,850

Earnings per start: $9,142

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 81

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Tapit’s World, by Tapit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of 2017 Horse of the Year and prominent sire Gun Runner has the most experience among the Holy Bull’s eight contenders, having made six career starts stretching back to Sept. 1, 2022. He finished second in each of his first three races, all at Gulfstream at distances ranging from 5 ½ furlongs to a mile, and was beaten by five lengths or more in each of them. In mid-November, Il Miracolo broke through with a pacesetting, 5 ½-length win in a one-turn-mile Gulfstream maiden, and that encouraged his connections enough to ship him to Aqueduct for a try in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes. Unfortunately, he had a poor trip in the Remsen on a sloppy track and was no threat whatsoever, finishing sixth of seven and 31 lengths behind winner Dubyuhnell. Brought back to Antonio Sano’s home track for the Jan. 1 Mucho Macho Man Stakes, he once again made little impression, checking in seventh of 11. Il Miracolo will need to recover his form from last fall to have a shot at hitting the board in the Holy Bull. Even if he does that, he’s a longshot to win.

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8. Rocket Can (7-2)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owner: Frank Fletcher Racing Operations

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $99,388

Earnings per start: $24,847

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Into Mischief – Tension, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Making his 3-year-old debut, Rocket Can shapes up as a leading win contender in the Holy Bull for hot trainer-jockey combo Bill Mott and Junior Alvarado, who took down the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Baccarat at Gulfstream Jan. 28. His past performances make the case for him quite starkly, and distance is the key: he finished well out of contention in his first two starts at age 2, both going seven furlongs at Saratoga, but then returned after a nearly two-month break and ran much better in a pair of two-turn routes at Churchill Downs. Rocket Can captured a 1 1/16-mile maiden under the Twin Spires on Oct. 30 and then ran a game second in an allowance-optional claiming race on Churchill’s Stars of Tomorrow Nov. 26 card, finishing second by a half-length to Confidence Game (who in his next start finished third in the Lecomte Stakes). In both of those races, Rocket Can was kept fairly close to the pace early on, and expect Alvarado to get him in a forward position as well Saturday, which means he’ll have to hustle him out of the gate in order to reach contention in the short runup to Gulfstream’s first turn. This colt’s dam (mother) was winless in two starts but his second dam is Tough Tiz’s Sis, a two-time Grade 1 winner at 1 1/16 miles by two-time Horse of the Year Tiznow. Hall of Famer Mott is renowned for patiently developing his horses, and if Rocket Can does reach another rung on the maturity and talent ladder Saturday after two months away from the track, he’ll be tough to beat under Alvarado, who won the 2016 Holy Bull aboard Mohaymen.

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