SHORT BUT CONTENTIOUS GROUP FACE THE STARTER IN HOLY BULL
Sunday Derby Prep Begins Gulfstream Series
By Jim Hurley
On Sunday, Gulfstream Park will feature the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes. The one turn, one mile race has drawn a compact but nonetheless contentious field that is headlined by the return of the undefeated BC Juvenile winner HANSEN.
HANSEN dominated maiden special weights in his career debut, winning a 5 ½ furlong sprint at Turfway Park by 12 ½ lengths under a hand ride. His next gate appearance was in the mile and a sixteenth Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes, which he won in equally impressive fashion, jumping out to a clear lead early and never looking back as he went on to a widening 13 ¼ length triumph.
Buoyed by the exhibited promise, trainer Michael Maker entered the son of Tapit in the BC Juvenile and engaged Ramon Dominguez to replace Victor Lebron, whose only mistake in his two rides was to not have a name as well known as Dominguez.
In the Juvenile HANSEN was able to set workable fractions of 47 1/5 and 1:12 1/5 while on the lead and dug in resolutely to hold off the well-regarded UNINO RAGS by a head to win the mile and a sixteenth test over the Churchill Downs surface at 7.1-1. The colt has never been headed in his three race carrier, and if his five works in four weeks over the Gulfstream surface in preparation for his 3-year old debut are any indication, he looks to be ready to assume that pace setting assignment again.
Following a second best of thirty one 5 furlong work in 1:00 2/5 on 1/7 he breezed the same distance in 1:01 on 1/14 and this past Sunday worked in tandem with a stable mate and turned in a sparkling five furlong drill in :59 4/5...the third best of forty on the day. Each of his five workouts over the four week period have come exactly seven days apart and he is running on the seventh day...to say he is in hand is an understatement. He has been established as the 6-5 ML favorite and will obviously be sent off the favorite. However, looking at the running styles and accomplishments of his five opponents gives one pause as to whether this will be a walkover.
First in importance is that HANSEN'S aforementioned desire to be on the front end should be challenged.
With the exception of FORT LOUDEN, the remaining four opponents prefer being right where HANSEN does in the early going.
SILVER MAX has been on the lead at first and second call in each of his last five races. The Dale Romans trainee is ultra fast and should be sent early from the rail by Julian Leparoux. The question mark is not his quickness, but the fact that he has only had one of his six career starts over a fast track (a 5 ½ furlong MSW test at Saratoga) with four being on turf and another over a muddy surface. He is also making a distinct jump in class after finally breaking his maiden in his sixth career start over the turf course here on January 12. In his other five races he finished second. He'll be in it as far as he goes.
CONSORTIUM is another well-bred colt that is stepping up in class following a solid second place effort behind ALGORYTHMS (who is also in the Holy Bull) in a very good allowance/optional claimer on 12/16. From the barn of Kieran McLaughlin, the son of Bernardini has had a couple of string 5 furlong breezes the last two weeks and being out of the Machiavellian mare Marrietta, an getting lasix for the first time from a trainer who wins at 26% with the medication added, 24% first at a route and 32% next race after being beaten as the favorite, the step up doesn't appear an insurmountable hurdle.
On paper, Kelly Breen's MY ADONIS might appear a bit overmatched given that he has raced four times at Monmouth and twice at Delta Downs, with his last race at the Louisiana track being a disaster as he dueled along the rail and stopped badly in the mile and a sixteenth Grade III Delta Jackpot Stakes on November 19th. However, he is another that likes to press the issue (never been further back than 1 ½ lengths in any of his last five races.) But what is noteworthy is that the son of Pleasantly Perfect has been a monster over the Palm Meadows training track here. He has turned in three straight bullets...a best of twenty one 5 furlong breeze in :59 2/5 on 12/27...a best of seventy two half mile breeze in :47 on 1/14 and a best of ten 3 furlong breeze in :34 4/5 on 1/22.
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If there is one horse that appears the outsider it would be FORT LOUDEN, who has not exhibited the early speed of his five opponents and when last seen was beaten by 9 lengths at 54-1 in HANSEN'S BC Juvenile. He spent his entire 7 race career prior to the BC Juvenile at Calder Race Course where he amassed 4 wins and a pair of third place finishes that included a sweep of the restricted Florida Bred Dr. Fager Stakes, Affirmed Stakes and In Reality Stakes series. He has worked forwardly for trainer Stanley Gold, and while he might seem outclassed, the fact that he figures to get the last run against a race that could get very contentious on the front end means he could inherit a piece by default.
ALGORYHTMS completes the "I'll be with you early" formula that will determine how the equation of this race is solved. The Todd Pletcher trainee is also a son of Bernardini and being out of the Crytoclearance mare Ava Knowsthecode, should love the added distance of ground following his press the pace victory over CONSORTIUM in the previously mentioned allowance/optional claimer. Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for both the colt's career starts (he won his debut by 5 ½ lengths while in hand at Belmont back in June) will be in the saddle. Looking to move forward with the lightly raced youngster, Pletcher has not asked him for a blowout speed work in the a.m., sending him out for a series of five furlong breezes that were each run in 1:02 and a fraction. This could indicate that Pletcher wants to bring him along slowly, attempting to peak at the right time...or it could be an indication that the colt is in fine fettle and is just being kept loose.
As I said, this might be a compact field, but it is competitive. The question to be answered is whether or not HANSEN on the front end at a short price winds up being the KEY to an Exacta Score, or a solid price comes from one of the up-and-comers pulling the upset.
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