Kentucky Derby

Holy Bull Stakes Preview: Classic Empire Makes 3 Year Old Debut

Emily Shields

The reigning 2 Year Old Horse of the Year and Kentucky Derby single betting interest favorite Classic Empire is slated to make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s $350,000 Lambholm South Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The Mark Casse trained colt has been working steadily for his 3 year old debut, and had will look to use the South Florida route to the Kentucky Derby.

His main challengers look to be Fact Finding and Gunnevera, both of which are coming into the race off of wins. Fact Finding romped in a small stakes at Gulfstream Park last time out to extend his recored to a perfect 3 for 3, while Gunnevera was victories in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot last time out.

The Grade 3 Holy Bull will go as Race 12 on Saturday, which is the last race on the card.

Top Choice

#3 Classic Empire – It’s always a big deal when the early Kentucky Derby favorite makes their first start as a 3 year old!  Classic Empire has a ton of hype heading into the year, and rightly so as he is a Breeders Cup winner and an Eclipse Award winner.  This race has shaped up to be tougher than you would think, but the bottom line is he has simply run much faster races than any of these in here.  The Casse’s have said he is working out great, and all systems seem to be on go for this horse. I’m expecting a big performance, and believe this horse is a logical single.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#6 Fact Finding – Even though I do believe Classic Empire is a solid single you better take a look at Fact Finding if you have it in your budget to include him.  He’s a perfect three for three in his career, and he has that trainer that is really tough to beat at Gulfstream Park…Todd Pletcher.  There is no doubt he’ll have to to jump up and run bigger than ever, but he does have a recent race over the track so if Classic Empire isn’t fully cranked up Fact Finding could pull the upset.  Breeding wise I’m not sure he’ll be great going longer than this distance, but the 1 1/16th mile race should be right up his alley.  Looms dangerous if the favorite falters.

Exotic Plays

#1 Gunnevera – I can’t put my finger on why I can’t get on board with this horse.  Last time out he was a runaway winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot, and he also was impressive in the Saratoga Special.  Those are two very good races to win, yet I’m still not all that excited about him.  As far as this race goes, he was beaten by almost seven lengths by him in the Breeders’ Futurity two races back so I don’t think he can turn the tables today.  Huge underneath play though.

#5 Irish War Cry – Definitely a horse that has some “wise guy” hype around him, but I am yet to see what all the hype is about.  He’s a nice enough colt, and I think Motion can develop him, but as far as this race goes I don’t think he matches up all that well with the top three I have listed.  He can definitely hit the board though, and maybe he’s a horse that can kind of start to close the gap as the distance gets a little longer.

#4 Talk Logistics – Consistent runner that has been decent so far, but nothing overly great.  Finished a close third last time out in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, and was second in the Buffalo Man Stakes the race before that effort.  The top ones in this group are much better than he’s faced in the past though so I think finishing third or fourth is definitely his ceiling.

Party Crashers

NONE – No upsetters in this group.  If Classic Empire falters it should be Fact Finding or Gunnevera that is there to pick up the pieces, and either of those horses winning would not be considered a “Party Crasher.”

Throw Outs

#7 Shamsaan – Blowout maiden special weight winner last time out at Gulfstream Park, but the track was sloppy that day.  Had been running mostly on turf before that, and doesn’t look to match up from a speed figure standpoint.

#8 Cavil – Had a little bit of hype behind him heading into the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, but ran miserably in that one.  He’ll need to rebound before I give him a shot against a tough field like this one.  Out of all the throw outs he has the best chance, but it’s not a strong one.

#9 Fire for Effect – Recent maiden special weight winner at Gulstream Park, but will really have to improve today to have a chance against any of these.

#2 Perro Rojo – Nick Zito just taking a shot with this one…would be the upset of the year if he won.

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