I saw my first Holy Bull Stakes when it was called the Preview Stakes in the early 1990s. I especially remember the ’94 renewal when Go for Gin defeated Halo’s Image and ran the fastest time for 14 of the races staged at 1 1/16 miles – 1:41 3/5.
Holy Bull swallowed his palate and finished off the board. But the loser had surgery and bounced back in the Florida Derby, winning by 5 3/4 lengths, while Go for Gin was fourth.
The Gulfstream Park race might have been called the Go for Gin after he captured the 120th Kentucky Derby while Holy Bull was finishing 12th after breaking slowly, being carried very wide in the slop and tiring badly.
After missing the remaining two legs of the Triple Crown in which Go for Gin was the runner-up, Holy Bull reeled off five consecutive victories in graded stakes, earning top 3-year-old honors and Horse of the Year.
Saturday’s 21st renewal, shortened to a mile from 1 1/8 miles, has attracted seven starters while as many as three more might run.
However, the trainers are better known than the 3-year-olds in this Grade 3 worth $150,000. Two did run in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but finished off the board.
Rick Sacco’s Piscitelli set the pace on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita before fading to fourth beaten three-quarters of a length. Todd Pletcher’s Aikenite was steadied in mid-stretch and ended up fifth another 1 3/4 lengths back.
Piscitelli, who broke his maiden at a mile last summer, worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 at Gulfstream’s Palm Meadows training facility on Jan. 15. The son of Victory Gallop galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 with his BC rider Kent Desormeaux aboard.
Aikenite, who also broke his maiden last summer at seven furlongs, posted a bullet work of 59 4/5 handily for five furlongs at Palm Meadows on Sunday. Jockey Alan Garcia gives way to John Velazquez who rode the son of Yes It’s True in his winning debut at Saratoga.
However, the likely favorite will be Nick Zito’s Jackson Bend, with six victories and a second at Calder Race Course where he swept the Florida Stallion Stakes three-race series.
The son Hear No Evil, a four-time stakes winner with five straight wins, went five furlongs in a bullet 59 1/5 at Palm Meadows last Saturday.
Others slated to go:
Richard Dutrow’s Homeboykris, winner of the Champagne Stakes with Edgar Prado in the irons at a mile last fall at Belmont. The son of Roman Ruler breezed four furlongs in 48 1/5 at Gulfstream on Tuesday.
Richard Violette’s Litigation Risk, who broke his maiden last fall at Belmont, breezed five furlongs on a good Palm Meadows surface in 1:03 1/5 on Monday. His sire Closing Argument won the Holy Bull in ’05.
Marty Wolfson’s Thank U Philippe, who broke his maiden at Calder where he was in the money four of six times, was runner up to Jackson Bend in the Florida Stallion’s In Reality. The son of Proud Accolade was runner-up to Eskendereya in a Gulfstream allowance contest Jan. 7.
Anthony Dutrow’s Winslow Homer is seeking his third consecutive triumph after a third-place finish. The son of Unbridled’s Song breezed four furlongs in 50 1/5 on a good track at Palm Meadows Sunday.
Three possible starters include Michael Trombetta’s Wild Lime, with two victories in four sprints all at different tracks. The son of Limehouse breezed four furlongs in 49 seconds at Calder on Sunday.