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Aaron previews the 2024 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) from Gulfstream Park, then gives his top picks from this Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race.
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Repole Stable’s Fierceness, the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner who was named champion 2-year-old at last week’s Eclipse Awards dinner in Palm Beach, tops a field of eight 3-year-olds entered for Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
The Holy Bull Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile prep for the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) will headline a program with four stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds, including the $175,000 Kitten’s Joy, a 1 1/16-mile stakes on turf, the $175,000 Sweetest Chant, a 1 1/16-mile stakes on turf for fillies, the $125,000 Claiborne Farm Swale, a seven-furlong sprint, and the $125,000 Forward Gal (G3), a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.
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Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Fierceness captured the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile at Santa Anita Nov. 3 by 6 ¼ lengths over next-out San Vicente (G2) winner Muth.
“We were thrilled with his performance in the Breeders’ Cup and happy that he vindicated himself from the Champagne and delivered the performance that we thought he was capable of,” Pletcher said. “I think some people kind of questioned how good he might be after the disappointing Champagne, but he kind of sold us watching him train that that was a throw-out race, so it was very rewarding to see him do that.”
Fierceness is currently scheduled to go directly to the March 30 Curlin Florida Derby from the Holy Bull – the same schedule Pletcher set for Audible, who won the 2017 Holy Bull and Florida Derby before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He came out of the Breeders’ Cup really well so we brought him down here and were trying to come up with the best game plan of how we can get him ready hopefully for the Florida Derby and Churchill, and we felt like by using the Holy Bull as the stepping stone to the Florida Derby that we could give him a little bit of a freshening after the Breeders’ Cup but not have to let him completely down,” said Pletcher, who will bypass the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2 with Fierceness.
“By bringing him back in the Holy Bull we get good spacing to the Florida Derby and like the five weeks from the Florida Derby to the Kentucky Derby,” he added. “Knock on wood, everything’s gone according to plan so far and hopefully continues to go that way. He’s had some super breezes leading up to this, and we’re super excited about getting him started.”
WinStar Farm LLC and Siena Farm LLC’s Otello, who captured the Jan. 1 Mucho Macho Man, is entered to return in the Holy Bull Stakes. The Christophe Clement-trained son of Curlin is undefeated in two career starts.
“One of the reasons why we decided to go the longer route with him for his debut. He has speed but he’s also able to sustain his speed, which makes him more effective the longer we go,” said trainer Christophe Clement’s son and assistant Miguel Clement.
In the Mucho Macho Man, Otello shook free of traffic in the stretch to prevail by a half-length.
“I thought he was very impressive. As you know, he was only able to run in the later stages of the race. Nevertheless, he ran rather impressively,” Clement said. “We’re looking forward for him to take the next step, which is no easy task taking on last year’s champion. Nevertheless, the horse is doing well.”
D J Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades will put his undefeated record on the line in the Holy Bull. The Joe Orseno-trained son of Awesome Slew has won his first two races in impressive fashion at Gulfstream.
“His first start was 5 ½, and I knew he was a very talented horse, so I thought if anything gets him beat it’s the distance. He overcame it. Fortunately, Paco had a lot of faith in him. His second race was seven-eighths and Paco rode him pretty much the way he wanted to in there and had him in contention,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “But going long, I think he’s a horse that will sit still. He does just about anything you ask him to do. So, if he has a good mind and he doesn’t try to run off and he relaxes for the jock, I think he’ll get a distance all day long.”
Holly Crest Farm’s Sea Streak, who led in the stretch of the mile Mucho Macho Man before finishing just a half-length back in third, was entered in the Holy Bull Stakes by trainer Eddie Owens Jr. The New Jersey-bred son of Sea Wizard had previously finished second behind Inveigled in a mile optional claiming allowance.
Mark Grier’s Inveigled, who lost a photo finish while finishing second in the James F. Lewis Stakes at Laurel prior to his Gulfstream optional claiming allowance win, has been entered in the Holy Bull Stakes by trainer Jane Cibelli. The son of Enticed finished a troubled fourth in the Mucho Macho Man.
Trainer Chad Brown is represented in the Holy Bull Stakes field by Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Domestic Product, who finished off the board in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct last time out.
Alexandres LLC’s Dancing Groom, who finished off the board in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and a distant third in the Champagne (G1) in his last two starts, was entered in the Holy Bull by trainer Antonio Sano.
Morplay Racing’s No More Time, who finished fifth in the Mucho Macho Man following a troubled start, was entered in the Holy Bull by trainer Jose D’Angelo.
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