Maybe it’s just the name, but Saturday’s $400k Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes, at 1 1/16 miles for 3yos, feels like a race that even we want to call a Derby prep. There are 17 valuable Derby points waiting to be dispensed to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1), and the first three horses across the line will have their nominations to the Grade 1 Florida Derby comped.
A field of 10 is set to go for the Holy Bull, and, as has become the norm with our ever-so-lightly raced young horses, there is nary a graded stakes winner in sight.
Pace Projector indicates that there will be a fast early pace, and it places #4 Bluegrass Singer, winner of the Mucho Macho Man stakes here three weeks ago in wire-to-wire fashion, on the lead. He is closely followed by #9 Dom the Bomb, with the grouping of #1 Frosted, #5 Juan and Bina and #6 First Down kept up behind them. The talented NY-bred #8 Upstart comes next, and the rest of them will be more toward the back, waiting for the fractions to take their toll. We will just point out here that both Bluegrass Singer and Dom the Bomb are cross-entered into the Hutcheson Stakes earlier on the card, so check back in with Pace Projector after scratches, as it will update.
Enough with the preliminaries. Let’s look at the field for the Holy Bull:
#1 is Frosted. Well-bred, well-connected, and talented, with a cozy inside draw, don’t be surprised if he is your post time favorite. The reality of his last race, which came in Aqueduct’s Remsen at the end of November, is that he should have emerged from that race as a Grade 2 winner. Marooned out in post 13 on that notoriously inside-favoring track, Frosted dropped a tough decision after giving dead-game chase to a rail-riding winner from the outside. The problem with Frosted as a wagering opportunity is that he seems to be the one horse everyone has focused on as a hard-luck loser exiting that stakes-filled card. They’re not wrong, but they’re not going to be lonely in betting this horse back, either.
#2 is Keen Ice. Devoid of early speed, he owns the top Late Pace Rating in the field (narrowly) at 82. He got up for 3rd in that Remsen in his 2yo finale, but he received an excellent ride that day, getting down on the rail early and staying there all the way. He’s an improving sort, but his top TFUS Speed Figure of 83 leaves him more than a little light right now.
#3 is High Noon Rider. Began his career on turf for an excellent trainer, but he has put his strong pedigree (97 Breeding Rating for dirt routes) to good use on the main track in his last two starts. He put up a new TFUS Speed Figure top of 89 when breaking his maiden in an off-the-turf mile at Belmont two starts back. He was with a rail that got very strong toward the end of that card on November 19th, but he was game in getting the best of a race-long duel and showed that he can handle dirt. He then went to Remington Park for the muddy Springboard Mile, and he put in a big run through the second-turn in that race before flattening out late. He seems well equipped to take advantage if a fast pace develops, and if he gets a more well-timed ride than he was given last time, he can be there late.
#4 is Bluegrass Singer. He’s gone back-to-back in pair of one-turn miles here recently, and done so in front-running fashion both times. His TFUS Speed Figures of 91 and 93 for those efforts give him a chance, but he seems sure to be part of the pace should his connections elect to run him here, and he figures to have a tougher time of it up there vs. this crew.
#5 is Juan and Bina. He was dusted by Bluegrass Singer last time while trying to be a part of the pace. Those tactics will give him little chance in this race, and his top speed figures of 82 and 80 leave him with a little too much to find.
#6 is First Down. He is one of the more interesting runners in this race. Highly impressive when defeating an experienced Frosted on debut with a 97 TFUS Speed Figure, he failed to back that race up over a muddy track in the Grade 2 Nashua in his second career start. That is not a race that necessarily has to be held against him, and he will have lasix for the first time Saturday. A son of Derby winner Street Sense, he has a Breeding Rating of 95 for dirt routes and should have no trouble navigating the 1 1/16 in front of him on Saturday.
#7 is Frammento. $260k 2yo in training purchase has been coming along slowly for a trainer who knows something about developing early season 3yos. He could not impact Bluegrass Singer over a track we have labeled as speed-favoring (note Race Rating Box shaded in red) last time, but he stayed on admirably through the stretch to be making some late ground on that rival. Frammento needs to improve in order to win this race on Saturday, but it’s that time of year, and his running style fits this race very well.
#8 is Upstart.
Talented NY-bred has been on the ball from Day 1, pairing up TFUS Speed Figures of 94 in his first two career starts (both wins) before going on to run a very good 2nd in the Grade 1 Champagne. His Breeders’ Cup effort was also excellent (new top figure of 99). Although he was away from that punishing pace early, he took the first run to contention ahead of the 1-2 finishers and lost an unlucky photo for 2nd. To us, he’s the best of these based on his 2yo form. But, as always, these young and lightly raced horses will be changing a lot over the next couple of months, and Upstart still has to come back running as a 3yo.
#9 is Dom the Bomb. His trainer has been leaning toward running him in the shorter (and easier) Hutcheson, so we’ll see if he shows up here on Saturday. If he does, it will reflect a major rise in class over the races he was running in as a 2yo (Race Ratings of 70-86-76-77, vs. today’s 95). He also projects to be part of the fast pace in this race, which makes his task that much tougher.
#10 is Decision Day. We’re always willing to give an extra-long look to runners produced from this barn, and Decision Day has improved as expected through his first three starts (TFUS Speed Figures of 66-72-86). He’s already a stakes winner and has won around two turns, but he has never raced on dirt (Breeding Rating of 78 is acceptable), and he drew a very tough post for this race.
The Play: We aren’t straying too far from the logical favorites, #1 Frosted and #8 Upstart, in multi-race wagers. They both appear to have real ability, and they are legit favorites in this race. But we also want to use #3 High Noon Rider, and in playing the Holy Bull straight up, we will try to get him involved at what should be an acceptable price.
Win bet High Noon Rider. Exactas/tris using him with Frosted, First Down, and Upstart.