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Irish War Cry kept his undefeated status by handing last year’s 2yo champion, Classic Empire his first defeat in the G2 Holy Bull Stakes!

I love seeing Motion get a nice Derby prospect.

Hansen Gets a Free Pass in the Holy Bull

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Despite being very excited for the race, I had to lay down for my pre-work nap early yesterday, meaning I would have to miss the Holy Bull Stakes (III), which featured the return of the champ Hansen against five others. As I sandwiched my head in between two pillows (yes, this is really how I sleep), I felt uneasy: after scoring a couple bucks on El Padrino’s allowance win, the track had been downgraded to sloppy. Normally speed-favoring, Gulfstream Park got hit with a brief rainstorm and a beating of hooves leading up to the Holy Bull, and honestly nothing was remotely for sure when that happens. While the track had been sealed earlier, I canceled my pick 4– a spread that included Hansen as the winner of race 10– and went to sleep uneasy. Waking up, the seemingly unnatural came true.

Hansen was to have a tough race regardless, but every one of those horses liked being right up with the speed early. On a tiring, muddy surface after a stumble at the start, Hansen gave way in mid-stretch to the Bernardini colt, Algorithms, who went home to win by five– that’s one second that ultimately destroyed Hansen’s unbeaten streak and raised questions about his ability.

So, he failed the mud test, but is the mile-long Holy Bull really grounds to give Algorithms a higher class grade than Hansen just yet? Perhaps it’s patriotism empowering me, but it’s a simple “no” answer without looking back. I have not seen a horse like Hansen in quite some time, who not only wins convincingly but against top competition. Algorithms, on the other hand, still has something to prove. In a mile-long first test of the year where a good first-time Lasix entry trailed the field (Consortium) and the champ stumbled and grew frustrated with the surface, it’s too early to tell much.

Holy Bull himself may have had an undefeated two-year-old season, but he still came in last in the Fountain of Youth leading up to the Derby. For Hansen’s sake, let he encounter no more freak rainstorms.

Hansen Looks to Gore Rivals in Holy Bull

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***DERBY HANDICAP CONTEST Week 1 of 12! - Email or message me your trifecta pick to earn points towards winning the Derby Handicap Contest. You have until 1 hour before post time to send/edit picks. See details in the Contest tab!*

The Holy Bull Stakes (III) is the first graded prep for three-year-olds taking the Florida route to the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Fountain of Youth Stakes (II) to ultimately culminate in the lucrative $1 million Florida Derby (I). This year’s lineup is short but oh so sweet, with champion juvenile Hansen [pictured] looking sharp and ready to stretch his legs (I’ve been following his morning workouts at Gulfstream intensely over the past few weeks). Does he have a worthy opponent here?

$400,000 Holy Bull Stakes (III) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 mile on dirt at Gulfstream Park. Post Time: Sunday, January 29 at 4:45pm EST.

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Silver Max - Julien Leparoux, 116 lbs, Dale Romans - The darkhorse of the field lies in the rail horse, and it’s an odd pick to say the least. He broke his maiden only on January 13 over a mile on the Gulfstream Park turf, but did it well winning by more than 3 lengths. He’ll likely try to set the pace off the rail spot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hansen were to be held back behind this horse as his first rating test. Mr. Romans, you’ve confused me with this entry and with your ways of running back horses so soon…

2) Consortium - John Velazquez, 116 lbs, Kieran McLaughlin - Darley’s Triple Crown darling is this Bernardini colt, who just came up short last out in an op-claimer to Algorithms. Hopefully Johnny V will be able to hold him back this time around and keep the coals stoked long enough to fight through a full mile, but I don’t see it happening.

3) My Adonis - Elvis Trujillo, 120 lbs, Kelly Breen - Winner of the Jean Lafitte Stakes and a heavy-hitter in general leading up to the three-year-old races, the Pleasantly Perfect colt was a distant 9th last out in the Delta Downs Jackpot (II), but has been breezing nicely for his sophomore debut. The mile distance should suit him well.

4) Hansen - Ramon Dominguez, 122 lbs, Mike Maker - Undefeated and IMPRESSIVE in all three of his career starts, this almost-white son of Tapit is going to be a decimating favorite to win here with his aggressive, front-running style. Mike Maker has been trying to teach this guy to rate a little recently, but I still suspect the headstrong Hansen to want to rip the topsoil off the track. The track conditions would have to be horrible for Hansen to have a chance at losing this… Hansen for the win!

5) Fort Loudon - Luis Jurado, 120 lbs, Stanley Gold - A personal favorite of mine, the blinkered, blaze-faced son of Awesome Of Course broke his maiden by 10, then swept the 3 Florida Stallion Series Stakes at Calder before doing A-okay in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I), coming in 7th overall. He can do two turns, but has shown to be dynamite on only one. Overlooked a lot just like last year’s Gourmet Dinner, but to be fair, he’ll need to be at his sharpest. I trust Mr. Gold enough to fill my trifecta with Fort Loudon.

6) Algorithms - Javier Castellano, 116 lbs, Todd Pletcher - 2-for-2 allowance winning son of Bernardini moves up to stakes competition for the first time while stretching out a bit. Nice horse with nice connections that I expect to improve. He’s got some tactical speed and a good two-turn pedigree, so he’s worth watching.

Predicted trifecta: 1) Hansen 2) Algorithms 3) Fort Loudon

Value pick: Algorithms might offer a little value firing off from the outside as well as My Adonis, who will likely be overlooked after that Jackpot clunker.

Kentucky Derby Musings: Holy Bull Stakes

Early prep races for the Kentucky Derby are absolutely horrid to handicap. You have several horses, in this case eleven, most of whom are coming off sizeable layoffs and growth spurts with the intention of preparing for longer, more serious races than this one. But, Cairo Prince made for not just a fitting winner as a grandson of Holy Bull, but as a promising prospect as the distances get longer. There’s little more annoying to me than seeing sprinter types win Derby preps and everyone going up in arms that they’re going to win it all. Not so!

Many horses in the field, however, appeared to be the victims of poor trips or just not taking to the challenge of the race that well. Chad Brown and Fox Hill have since announced that it will be back to one-turns for Coup de Grace, who stopped running once he realized there was another turn at the end of the backstretch. Conquest Titan also made an impressive run late from way back, but was too late to catch the winner who held the advantage straight from the gate.

As mentioned, most of these horses are coming off layoffs and have a ways to go before the first Saturday in May fitness-wise. But I’m also curious as to how well some horses dealt with the pace as well as the track, which is normally speed-favoring. The field split into two groups during the race, with Cairo Prince coming from behind the pace in the first group to win easily with 2nd and 3rd place coming from way behind in the second group. Remove Cairo Prince from the equation, and it would have been a pretty boring race, but I would anticipate seeing these horses improve in their second starts off the layoff. I’m not a fan of Harlan’s Holiday progeny, but I recall Intense Holiday having a compromised trip in the Remsen and he did not look too awful here either. Regardless, Cairo Prince was much the best and even better when you take into account he did not utilize the fast rail, which added even more lengths to his trip.

Itsmyluckyday launches upset, new track record over Shanghai Bobby

Wow! A Calder-based pony wins it big… on a track that looked very speed-biased. I got nothing for my pennies.

The first week of last year’s Derby Handicap competition drew 7 entries for picking Holy Bull selections… this time around I received a generous 12 entries. I’m already happy with the way things are going! The leader currently is…

Jumpsandbumps! With an early exacta, she was the lone picker of Itsmyluckyday as the winner with Shanghai Bobby in second. She leads the fray with 11 points.

Other point earners, all picking Shanghai Bobby to run second: Morningline (3), Exactagirl (3), and Thetrackrecord (3)!

A complete leaderboard is coming soon and will be posted and updated on the Contest tab. Round 2 is next Saturday will be the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita so stay tuned!