The Holy Bull Stakes

Gulfstream Park’s  Road to the Kentucky Derby begins this Saturday with the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes.

The race offers ten qualifying points to the Winner as top 3-year-olds look to accumulate points and earn a place in the Derby starting gate.

Inaugurated in 1990 as the Preview Stakes, the race was re-named in 1996 to honor the 1994 Horse of the Year HOLY BULL.

It has been run at a variety of distances, settling in at its current 1 1/16 miles in 2013. The race was run as a Grade 3 for the first time in 1996.

Here’s a look back at two horses who used the Holy Bull as a springboard to Kentucky Derby glory.

GO FOR GIN (1994) This Nick Zito trainee was in fine form going into the 1994 Preview Stakes. He Won two stakes at Aqueduct that fall, including the Remsen Stakes, and looked like one of the early Kentucky Derby favorites. In a field of six, GO FOR GIN was sent off as the 4-5 favorite.

He Won like an odds-on favorite should, stalking the pace and drawing off for a 3 ½-length Victory. That Win gave jockey Jerry Baily his third Victory in the Preview; he would go on to Win the race five times.

By the time the first Saturday in May rolled around, Bailey had jumped ship to ride BLUMIN AFFAIR, and was replaced by Chris McCarron. GO FOR GIN was the 9-1 fifth choice in the 14-horse Derby field.

Those who kept the faith after Baily defected were rewarded, as GO FOR GIN took control of the race early on and pulled away to Win by two lengths. It marked the second Derby Win for both Zito and McCarron. GO FOR GIN subsequently finished 2nd in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

BARBARO (2006) Although he was best-known for his success on dirt, BARBARO started off his career a perfect 3-for-3 on the grass.

Trainer Michael Matz decided to try him on the Derby trail and entered him in the Holy Bull for his first dirt race.

BARBARO enjoyed a good stalking trip off pacesetting DOCTOR DECHARD before challenging him on the final turn. He wrested away control entering the stretch, then encountered fresh challenges from FLASHY BULL and GREAT SONG. Undaunted and showing great resolve, he splashed past the finish line on a wet track three-quarters of a length in front.

In his next start, BARBARO Won the Grade 1 Florida Derby by a half-length with a similar trip.

He then gave racing fans the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in his next two starts, as he rolled to a dominant Win in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby before suffering a severe injury in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes.

Although he fought valiantly in recovery, he developed acute laminitis in July of 2006 and was euthanized in January 2007.

BARBARO is memorialized with a statue at the main entrance of CHURCHILL DOWNS.

On Friday the Daily Racing Blog will take a look at this year’s field for the Holy Bull. So stop back and see who we like.

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