This weekend the three year olds take the stage with Derby prep point races on both coasts with the $200,000 Holy Bull (Gr3) at Gulfstream Park and the $100,000 Robert Lewis (Gr3) at Santa Anita, both 1 1/16th races being run on Saturday.
Holy Bull analysis
Jirafales - Draws rail stretching out from 6 1/2 to 1 1/16th in stakes debut after breaking maiden in state bred company over at the track formerly known as Calder. Took no money that day and despite the presence of Johnny V, we would need to see that 20-1 ML or higher to use much.
Willy Boi - Stretches out after winning back to back races going 6f against state bred company. He has shown high speed in both races at the shorter distances and should be a pace factor on the stretch out. The pedigree doesn’t scream two turns and with Prime Factor in here to keep him company on the lead, he might find a winning trip tough despite running a competitive number last out. Loses Lanerie to a Kentucky outfit but the capable Junior Alvarado is aboard.
Papetu - Rallied to be a non-threatening 2nd to the now injured Mutasaabeq in the Mucho Macho Man but that was a much improved effort after two complete no shows in Saratoga. His TG number for that race is very competitive in this group, the question is was that race an aberration, is he a better closing sprinter type around one turn or can Antonio Sano work some more Dialed In magic (Gunnevera) ? He will likely be overlooked by the new faces and there is no reason that he can’t rally again to get a piece at a nice price. Based on his recent race and workout pattern, he won’t be lacking fitness.
Amount - One of two maiden breakers from the Pletcher barn, this son of Curlin was a OBS June purchase ($110000 after working 10.2) is out of a nice Claiborne farm family. He had a little early trouble that he overcame to easily beat a maiden special weight field here at GP on December 26. The race wasn’t extremely fast on figures but with his pedigree the two turns should be no issue and he doesn’t need to improve a huge amount to be a factor in this bunch. Picks up Luis Saez which is always a positive.
Tarantino - This is an interesting horse though you’d have to want a huge price to use him anywhere near the top of your tickets. He was a $610,000 Pioneer of the Nile yearling that started his career in Southern California with Bob Baffert for the typical BB connections. The odd part was Baffert chose to race him on the turf, breaking his maiden at Del Mar going 1 mile and coming back and just missing in the Zuma Beach, a listed stakes at Santa Anita in early October. Transferred to current trainer Brisset who is based in Florida, he won an allowance race in early December at GP after being difficult in the starting gate. He has had 5 straight dirt works since that race and would have been likely 3rd choice in the 4th race today, the Kittens Joy (Gr3) going 1 mile on the grass. He is listed at 8-1 here but with weak figures and a surface change being an unknown, anything less than 20-1 would be an underlay.
Prime Factor - This Quality Road colt was ultra impressive for leading trainer Pletcher December 12, running what looked like a deep MSW group off its feet, crossing the wire almost 9 lengths in front with the Equibase chart caller comment of “ridden out” being accurate. The $900,000 Keeneland September purchase earned solid TG and Beyer number but not off the charts high either. He will have had 7 weeks to recover and has been working in impressive fashion at the TAP base Palm Beach Downs. Pletcher lost the likely race favorite Mutasaabeq this week to injury but his bench this season is really strong. Prime Factor will be over bet but has a tactical speed advantage over most of the field and a pedigree that says 1 1/16 won’t be an issue.
Greatest Honour - A recent maiden breaker that has a lot of positives in his corner. Trained by Shug McGaughey, he has kept excellent company in his 4 race career, finishing just behind Caddo River, the blowout winner of last weeks Smarty Jones stakes at Oaklawn Park, his first two races in NY going 7f. Stretched out to 1 1/8 in his next start over a ridiculously slow surface at Aqueduct, he was wide on both turns and just missed to a 3/5 Known Agenda, who was the beaten favorite in the Remson (Gr2) when finishing 3rd. Stretched out to 1 1/16 on December 26 at GP, Greatest Honour overcame trouble in the first turn and a wide trip to break his maiden and earn the fields highest TG number. The third place finisher from that maiden win, Another Duke came back last Saturday on the Pegasus undercard to break his maiden, seeming to redeem the quality of Greatest Honour’s win. He won’t be a big price but he is the most likely winner but the lack of tactical speed is always an issue at GP especially in short stretch races against quality speed.
Sittin On Go - Kentucky invader has very little early speed and only one race remotely close to good enough to have any prayer here. Romans horses are often erratic and can occasionally surprise at price but without a complete pace meltdown that takes out the chasers as well as the speed horses, this colt doesn’t seem to have much else to recommend.
Awesome Gerry - An improving colt, he showed speed in the one turn Mucho Macho Man, setting a pressured pace till mid-stretch where he weakened and was eventually passed by Papetu for 3rd. He needs to continue to improve because he has to overcome a wide draw with a short run to the first turn and a couple of faster horses to his inside. This is a tough post to navigate unless he outbreaks the field and can clear which might be Tyler Gafflione’s best chance at working out a trip here.
Robert Lewis quick look
The usual suspects have contenders in this Southern California KY Derby prep. Bob Baffert has 2, John Sheriffs has 2, Doug O’Neill has 2 while Mike McCarthy and Simon Callaghan each have a starter. The morning line favorite is Baffert’s Medina Spirit from post one, coming off a fast closing 2nd in the Sham(Gr3) on Jan 2 to the highly regarded winner of that race, Life is Good. Medina Spirit who is an atypical Baffert horse as he is by relatively obscure FL sire Protonico, was a bargain $35000 OBS June purchase, but a repeat of that race might be enough to beat Hot Rod Charlie and the rest of this field. Hot Rod Charlie was a close 2nd in the Breeders Cup Juvenile to 2 year old champion Essential Quality in his last for O’Neill, but he was 94-1 for a reason and his prior form was pretty unremarkable. The son of Oxbow gets Joel Rosario in the irons for the first time. Other potential contenders are the slow starting Rombauer who got completely lost early in the same BC juvy race as Hot Rod Charlie, but gets Mike Smith back whom he teamed up with to almost upset the grade 1 American Pharoh back in September over the this Santa Anita strip. Roman Centurian improved in his first start around two turns in breaking his maiden last out but is lasix off here. Wipe the Slate is a good looking Nyquist colt who broke his maiden impressively for O’Neill last out going 7f. Spielberg won the Los Al futurity in mid-December with an inside stalking trip but has never really run fast enough to beat some of the other contenders in here and is going to be way over bet due to his connections of Baffert and Prat.
Other races of note
-Never Surprised looks to stay undefeated in his third lifetime start in the Kittens Joy (Gr3) going 1 mile on the grass at GP for Pletcher/Repole/I.Ortiz.
- The Swale at Gulfstream, which was once a first step for Kentucky Derby contenders looks like a three horse race with recent sprint stakes winners, Poppy’s Pride and Drain the Clock perhaps challenged by recent Aqueduct maiden breaker with excellent figure in tow, By George who is by the mercurial sire Into Mischief for the icy (at GP) Chris Clement.
- Stakes winner Competitive Speed takes on recent maiden breaker Zaajel in an incredibly weak edition of the Forward Gal (Gr3)
-The Sweetest Chant (Gr3) is also not an accomplished group with but a single stakes winner, Con Lima for who else, Pletcher, with Honey Pants for Clement, a also a proven stakes performer. However there are quite a few impressive, lightly raced, recent maiden winners in this field including the aptly named Queen of the Green, Candace O, White Frost and Domain Expertise.
-King Guillermo ships West to take on a small field in the San Pasqual (Gr2) at Santa Anita including Idol and Express Train whose last race, a runner up finish in the Malibu (Gr1) was flattered by Independence Hall’s excellent third in last weeks Pegasus.
- Joys Rocket looks to stretch out again in the short field, Martha Washington at Oaklawn, after a failed attempt going 1 mile in the Frizette (Gr1) at Belmont back in October followed up by two stakes wins sprinting at Keeneland and Fair Grounds. Coach will likely be the favorite after her 3rd place finish last out at Churchill in the Golden Rod (Gr2)
-Frank’s Rockette figures to be a heavy favorite in the American Beauty at 6f at Oaklawn, looking to rebound off her poor Breeders Cup Sprint effort last out
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