Holy Bull, the 2-yr-old Champ Returns

The Morning Line: Holy Bull Stakes

The Derby trail will be turned up a notch in the Holy Bull stakes as our reigning 2-yr-old champion Hansen begins his march towards the 138th Kentucky Derby. After capping off a sensational sophomore year by winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Hansen looks poised to hold form and his top contender status in the field of 2012 Kentucky Derby hopefuls.

In this competitive field of 6 all eyes will be on Hansen but before we get there, let’s take a look at his profile so far. 

Son of Tapit, out of the Sir Cat mare Stormy Sunday and trained by Mike Maker, Hansen is a beautiful gray / roan colt who challenges his contenders from the front of the pack. His racing career began in September 2011 at Turfway Park when he dominated in back to back wins by a combined margin of over 25 lengths. His 5 ½ F MSW debut ended with a bang after he turned in a 12 ¼ length victory and final time of 1:05.12. Maker returned him 15 days later in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and it was like watching replay. Breaking right to the front once again, Hansen put the field away in the 1 1/16 mile race by over 13 lengths and a final time of 1:45.82. Pretty Impressive.

As it is in sports and horse racing especially, you have to win against the best before you’re given too much credit.  Entering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile starting gate at 7-1 Hansen was definitely a contender in the eyes of the betting public. But the doubts looming over his transfer to dirt, his front running style and the competition he had romped all over were not enough to make him the favorite.  So the stage was set for Hansen to prove his talent and that’s exactly what he did. 

Breaking from Post 5 Hansen wasted little time grabbing the lead.  By the time jockey Ramon Dominguez reached the quarter pole that’s where he had him and that’s where he stayed. Rounding the far turn it was the 1-1 Favorite Union Rags who mounted his charge. 3 wide at the top of the lane Union Rags couldn’t have asked for better position.  But along the rail was Hansen and he wasn’t giving an inch. As hard as Union Rags came charging it still wasn’t enough as Hansen held on to win by a head. The most important thing in this race, besides me having the winning ticket of course, was that Hansen wasn’t leading the field with a stagnant pace. Clipping fast fractions of :23.26 – :47:.39 – 1:12.24 yet still hanging on to win from the front……… remarkable win.

The Juvenile champ always has the spotlight which makes Hansen the most anticipated 3-yr-old debut of the Derby Prep season. And his debut is the Holy Bull. It’s going to be exciting. 

The G3 Holy Bull is the first of three major prep races at Gulfstream Park followed by the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb 26 and the G1 Florida Derby on March 31. Inaugurated as the Preview Stakes in 1990, the race was later re-named in 1996 in honor of the Hall of Fame thoroughbred, Holy BullIn its short history the Holy Bull Stakes proudly showcases 2 winners that went on to capture the Kentucky Derby – Go for Gin ’94, Barbaro ’06.

The race has had a history of changing dates and distances between 1 mile and 1 1/8 mile but now that the Holy Bull is being held annually at the end of January the distance of 1 Mile continues for the third consecutive year. The field includes 5 others that are ready for the challenge and deserve consideration.

Race 10 – G3 Holy Bull Stakes | Purse $400,000 | 1 Mile | Dirt

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER ML ODDS
1 Silver Max  J. Leparoux  D. Romans 8-1
2 Consortium  J. Velazquez  K. McLaughlin 3-1
3 My Adonis  E. Trujillo  K. Breen 12-1
4 Hansen  R. Dominguez  M. Maker 6-5
5 Fort Loudon  R. Maragh  S. Gold 10-1
6 Algorithms  J. Castellano  T. Pletcher 5-2

Fort Loudon is back in familiar territory. Bred in Florida and having raced outside of the sunshine state only once, the colt returns to Florida after finishing 7th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Although it wasn’t until his 4th maiden appearance that he got his first career victory, a winning streak then developed.  After Fort Loudon went on to win his next 3 non-graded stakes races at Calder trainer Stanley Gold entered him into the Juvenile, his first ever Graded Stakes. A 7th place finish wasn’t his best but it was a great test against a field he had yet to face.  Having only raced twice at a distance over a Mile, the jury is still out on his ability to eventually become a distance runner. So because of that, I think this race caters to his strengths and I expect to see him and jockey Julien Leparoux in the hunt.

Veteran trainer Todd Pletcher, a regular at Gulfstream Park, enters a lesser known but undefeated colt.  Algorithms broke his maiden in his first career race at Belmont last June before waiting until December when he would race again. In that Allowance Optional Claiming race here at Gulfstream Consortium was sent off as the 4-5 favorite but he came up just short – 2nd place.  This is the first career graded stakes race for both horses and 3rd lifetime start.

Looking to get back on track is My Adonis. The first big score for this colt was the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs in October. The win set him up for a return 30 days later in the G3 $1 Million Delta Jackpot. Breaking towards the front and getting on the lead by the half mile pole proved to be too taxing as My Adonis gave way and finished 9th.  Expect to see jockey Elvis Trujillo return to the racing style that got him his win with My Adonis in the Jean Lafitte, stalking close before making a move in the final turn. 

Rounding out the field is Silver Max and I’m not sure if Dale Romans knows what direction this colt is headed.  In 6 lifetime starts, all maiden races, 4 races have been on turf and 2 on dirt.  After 5 consecutive 2nd place finishes, Silver Max finally got into the winners at Gulfstream Park two weekends ago.  Romans must have seen what he was looking for as he returns him 16 days later for his graded stakes debut.  All indications point towards this horse challenging Hansen for the early lead. Dale Romans is great trainer so maybe Silver Max will turn out to be a legitimate live long shot. 

Will Hansen let him pass or will he attempt to remain on the lead regardless of the early fractions? Truth is I don’t think it matters.  His most recent work at Gulfstream was prime – 5F in 59.8 – which tells me that it’s going to take a monster effort to frustrate Hansen’s trail to Kentucky this early.  I think that by now and under Ramon Dominguez’s command, Hansen will be able to win this race from the front or from just off the pace if the early fractions are firing under :22.5 per quarter.

Only 1 of the last 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners was a European horse. This is also the reason why that horse is the only one of the last five who did not race in the U.S. his next time out.  So the question is; Will the trend of American Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champions winning their next race continue?  My bet is that it will but as we’ve seen in so many different ways, on the derby trail there are no guarantees, note even for the best.  Good luck to all horses and their connections in this Sundays’ Holy Bull Stakes.

Written by: Little Brink

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