Here’s a closer look at the field of eight for this years edition of the Holy Bull Stakes, which takes place Saturday afternoon at Gulfstream Park.
1. LORD MILES [ML 4-1] Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. He enters the Holy Bull off of a fast-closing 3rd-place finish in the Mucho Macho Stakes at Gulfstream on New Year’s Day. He rolled through the stretch in that one-turn-mile race and finished three-quarters of a length behind LEGACY ISLE, the pacesetter who crossed the finish line first but was disqualified to 2nd after drifting out in the stretch. Prior to the Mucho Macho Man, LORD MILES overcame some early bumping to Win his debut race, a six-furlong sprint at Gulfstream, by an impressive 5 ¾ lengths. Gets a jockey change as Ortiz takes over Edgar Zayas who was upon LORD MILES his previous two starts.
2. WEST COAST COWBOY [ML 12-1] Jockey: Edgar Zayas. Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr. Comes in off of two months rest, and was last seen competing in a one-turn-mile Allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream on November 27th. In that race, he started in a stalking position (fourth of six) early on and kept it throughout, finishing 4 ½ lengths behind LEGACY ISLE. Before that, WEST COAST COWBOY Won his debut on a sloppy track at Gulfstream back in September, setting the pace and gamely holding off a stretch challenge to Win by a neck going a one-turn mile. He should be able to handle the two-turn, 1 1/16-mile configuration in the Holy Bull but will need to run faster to be in the money. Which is possible given that many horses improve significantly early in their 3-year-old seasons and he hasn’t run in a while.
3. SHADOW DRAGON [15-1] Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Bill Mott. One of two Mott trainees in the race, he ships in from New York, and he’ll start his 3-year-old campaign off of three months of rest. SHADOW DRAGON Won first out during the Belmont At The Big A meet on September 29th, rallying in the stretch to take a six-furlong sprint by three-quarters of a length. He didn’t show up when moved up to Stakes company, finishing a distant 6th of 10 starters in the one-turn-mile Sleepy Hollow Stakes restricted to New York-breds. Who’s to say how well he’ll run off of the layoff and whether he’s improved enough to challenge two or three contenders in the Holy Bull with good recent form. It’s worth pointing out that Mott’s first-call rider Junior Alvarado is scheduled to ride the Hall of Fame trainer’s other starter in the Holy Bull, ROCKET CAN, while two-time Holy Bull Winner Jose Ortiz takes the reins on SHADOW DRAGON.
4. CYCLONE MISCHIEF [ML 2-1] Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. Trainer: Dale Romans. He went 1-for-3 last year, finishing a close 3rd in his debut at Churchill Downs and then taking a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile Maiden race at Keeneland by 5 ¼ lengths. He then finished seventh in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill. In his sophomore debut CYCLONE MISCHIEF ran a one-turn-mile Allowance race at Gulfstream on January 8th, and took over coming out of the turn to Win going away by 5 ¾ lengths. He earned a 101 Speed Figure in that race, which is the best in the Holy Bull field. He seems capable of handling two turns, and if he can equal or surpass the speed figure from his recent Win, this colt could have the Romans barn Derby dreaming once again.
5. MR. BOB [ML10-1] Jockey: Joel Rosario. Trainer: Robert Falcone Jr. As a Holy Bull longshot as he makes his second start at age 3 following a disappointing 6th-place finish in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on this track on New Year’s Day. After a rough start in that race and was last of 11 early on, and he did not make up much ground in the latter stages of the one-turn-mile Stakes. MR. BOB was claimed out of his first start when 3rd last summer at Saratoga and then ran well in two starts in Kentucky to close out his 2-year-old season, Winning a 6 ½-furlong Maiden claiming race at Keeneland by an easy 5 ½ lengths and then finishing a good second in the Ed Brown Stakes at Churchill Downs at the same distance.
6. LEGACY ISLE [ML 7-2] Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: Rohan Crichton. Should be the pacesetter here, as he’s led at every point of call in two of his three career starts, which have all been on the dirt main track at Gulfstream. He Won his debut in that fashion back in September, romping by five lengths in a 6 ½-furlong sprint, he then changed tactics and rallied from a stalking spot to take a one-turn-mile Allowance-optional claiming race by three lengths in late November. In the one-turn-mile Mucho Macho Man Stakes he shot to the lead from the inside post position and held off DREAMING OF KONA by a half-length at the finish, but he was disqualified for drifting out in deep stretch and impeding that rivals own bid for the Win. LEGACY ISLE seems a second-tier Win candidate in this race but will be a factor in shaping the pace scenario, hence the outcome.
7. IL MIRACOLO [ML 20-1] Jockey: Leonel Reyes. Trainer: Antonio Sano. This son of GUN RUNNER has the most experience among the Holy Bull’s eight contenders, having made six career starts stretching back to September 1st, 2022. He finished 2nd in each of his first three races, all at Gulfstream at distances ranging from 5 ½ furlongs to a mile, and was beaten by five lengths or more in each of them. In mid-November, IL MIRACOLO broke through with a pacesetting, 5 ½-length Win in a one-turn-mile Gulfstream Maiden. With a false sense of encouragement his connections then to shipped him to Aqueduct for a try in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes. He had a poor trip on a sloppy track in the Remsen and was no threat whatsoever, finishing 6th in a field of seven, 31 lengths behind the Winner. In the January 1st Mucho Macho Man Stakes, he once again made little impression, checking in 7th of eleven. Why is he here?
8. ROCKET CAN [ML 7-2] Jockey: Junior Alvarado. Trainer: Bill Mott. Making his 3-year-old debut, he shapes up as a leading Win contender in the Holy Bull for a hot trainer-jockey combo- who last week took down the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes. ROCKET CAN captured a 1 1/16-mile Maiden under the Twin Spires on October 30th and then ran a game 2nd in an Allowance-optional claiming race on Churchill’s Stars of Tomorrow November 26th card, finishing 2nd by a half-length. In both of those races he was kept fairly close to the pace early on, and expect Alvarado to get him in a forward position as well Saturday, which means he’ll have to hustle him out of the gate in order to reach contention in the short runup to the first turn at Gulfstream. Mott is renowned for patiently developing his horses, so if ROCKET CAN does reach another rung on the maturity and talent ladder Saturday after two months away from the track, he’ll be tough to beat.
The Holy Bull is listed as the final race on a card of 12, with a scheduled Post Time of 5:45.
Best of luck with all your plays on Saturday.