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HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Gulfstream Park hosts a huge event for the second weekend in a row when Saturday’s $200,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) kicks off the track’s Kentucky Derby (G1) trail. The race serves as a Kentucky Derby points race, awarding the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
An intriguing field of nine drew into the event and red-hot trainer Todd Pletcher leads the charge with two entries. The event will go off as race 11 on the card with a post time of 4:50 PM ET.
Leading the Pletcher charge is Prime Factor, who enters the contest off an impressive 8 3/4-length debut romp on December 12. His effort was good enough to shoot him towards the top of most Kentucky Derby Top 10 lists, as he won with plenty left in the tank. He’ll break from post 6 for his first two-turn challenge with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard once again.
“He was brilliant in his debut and has trained sharply since then,” said Pletcher, who won this race in 2012 and 2018. “We kind of considered going into an allowance race, but that never materialized. It’s always a big step to go from maiden race against winners, giving up experience, but he can hopefully overcome it.”
The Shug McGaughey-trained Greatest Honour could pose the biggest threat to the favorite. It took him a bit longer to break his maiden in his fourth start, but he won a solid maiden special weight over this track on December 26. Jose Ortiz picks up the mount for this event, breaking from post 7.
“He’s developed a lot,” McGaughey said. “I was just sitting there thinking if, through the winter and spring, he keeps going in that direction, he’ll be good.”
Sittin On Go is the most established horse in the field, despite his form tailing off a bit lately. He won the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs but finished off the board twice against tougher company. Regular jockey Corey Lanerie is aboard the Dale Romans trainee once again and breaks from post 8.
“He’s ready for another big race,” Romans said. “He’s sitting on go. He’s had 2 good works. He’s ready. If he’s good enough, he’ll run big.”
The full field from the rail out: Jirafales, Willy Boi, Papetu, Amount, Tarantino, Prime Factor, Greatest Honour, Sittin On Go, and Awesome Gerry.
#6 Prime Factor – Simply put, this horse could not have been more impressive on debut, so it’s very exciting to see him back and ready to tackle his next challenge. He won his debut under a hand ride, which tells you that the stretch out in distance shouldn’t be a problem, and his natural early speed should mean that he will be out in front with an easy lead. If that’s the case, then he’ll be very difficult to run down in the stretch.
#7 Greatest Honour – This is the logical alternative to the favorite after his solid maiden special weight score last time out over this track. He has plenty of two-turn experience as well, which is a big advantage over the favorite making his two-turn debut. Shug is a capable trainer and this horse has already faced tough company in his career. He should put in a solid effort here.
#4 Amount – He’ll be known as the “other Pletcher,” unavoidable with Prime Factor also entered. He was impressive on debut as well, though, blowing out a maiden special weight field here on December 26. He’s by Curlin, which suggests that he might stretch out in distance pretty well, but his half-brother Mucho is a sprinter, so he’s a mixed bag coming into this race. Still, he showed enough talent in his maiden special weight romp to make him interesting if his price floats up.
#8 Sittin On Go – Can this Dale Romans trainee return to his top form? He looked pretty solid winning the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, which earned him a solid speed figure compared to the rest of this field. The problem is, he was a no-show in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), which is a big concern. He might be a good underneath candidate, but let him prove his talent again before playing him to win.
#3 Papetu – We’ll see if this colt can run well two starts in a row, after finishing second in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at 20/1. That race was not all that strong from a visual standpoint, but his speed figure compares favorably to the rest of this field. If he’s a big price once again, he’ll be worth a small shot.
#5 Tarantino – This horse is definitely a mystery as he tries dirt for the first time. His turf tries have been solid, including an allowance win over the track last time out, and his connections are also pretty good here, which gives added confidence that they wouldn’t just throw this horse in here for no reason. If he takes to the surface, then he’ll have a decent shot at a nice price.
#9 Awesome Gerry – It’s always a bit risky to throw out Saffie Joseph Jr., but this horse wasn’t great in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes last time out. He got the early lead going the one-turn mile distance but still faded to a well-beaten third. This spot seems tougher and there are a few others horses who look faster in the early stages.
#2 Willy Boi – So far, so good for this Florida-bred by Uncaptured, who has won 2 straight to kick off his career. Both of those came against state-bred company at 6 furlongs, though. This is a totally different ball game.
#1 Jirafales – This colt is 1-for-1 in is young career, with that victory coming against maiden special weight company at Gulfstream Park West. The problems? That was all the way back in November, it was at 6 1/2 furlongs, it was against Florida-breds, and the speed figure came back fairly slow. He’ll need to step up in a big way to compete.
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