The Road to the Kentucky Derby has 16 races in the book already, but it seems like when the trail hits Florida and Gulfstream Park, it’s time to really start paying attention to the sophomore colts on their quest to wear the roses.
Saturday afternoon, 10 colts will head to the gate in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream going 1 1/16-miles over the fast strip in Hallandale Beach. This race last produced a Derby winner in 2006 when Barbaro came crashing onto the scene and set a race record at 1 1/8-miles. Another Derby winner, Go For Gin, won the race in 1994 for trainer Nick Zito, who holds the record with three wins in the Holy Bull.
The race will offer 10-4-2-1 points to the top four finishers. The race points start to increase on Feb. 21 with the Fountain of Youth, the next big prep race at Gulfstream.
Let’s take a look at the field (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 – Frosted (McLaughlin, I. Ortiz, 5-2) First start of 2015 for this Godolphin colt who finished second in the G2 Remsen at Aqueduct on Cigar Mile day. A gray Tapit out of a Deputy Minister mare draws the rail that has been winning at a 25 percent clip for a hot trainer. Dangerous.
2 – Keen Ice (Romans, Zayas, 6-1) A Curlin-sired colt who finished a well-beaten third in the aforementioned Remsen, is owned by Donegal Racing who had a solid run with Dullahan on the Triple Crown trail a few years ago. Late running colt who looks to be in over his head.
3 – High Noon Rider (Weaver, Rosario, 15-1) Good to see trainer George Weaver with a Derby-hopeful on the trail and he has top rider Rosario on board this $400K Distorted Humor colt. Looks like a decent horse, definitely runs well on an off-track so keep an eye on the weather map.
4 – Bluegrass Singer (Vitali, Castellano, 4-1) Won the non-graded Mucho Macho Man (MMM) stakes on New Year’s weekend on the same track. Has three wins in seven starts each coming in Florida. Has the two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey aboard and will likely be on the engine early. Contender.
5 – Juan and Bina (Delgado, Lezcano, 20-1) Faltered in the MMM last time out and looks to be more of a miler/sprinter type based on his pedigree. Passing.
6 – First Down (Albertrani, Maragh, 12-1) Second Godolphin in the race, very lightly raced when compared to his competition. This Street Sense colt broke his maiden at Belmont and beat the rail horse by 3/4-lengths in his first race ever. Runs with Lasix for the first time which is a key angle.
7 – Frammento (Zito, Saez, 12-1) Ran second to Bluegrass Singer in the MMM and broke his maiden at Keeneland at the distance. Trainer Zito looking for a record-extending fourth Holy Bull will look for his son of Midshipman to close late on the leaders.
8 – Upstart (Violette, Jr., J. Ortiz, 2-1) One of the classier horses in the race, he finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in November and should be a threat to the pace setters late.
9 – Dom the Bomb (Riveli, Hernandez, 30-1) Illinois-bred colt and son of Bring the Heat will try and defy logic and ship in to try and steal the win after two impressive Hawthorne starts. This is a big move up in class here.
10 – Decision Day (Carroll, Velazquez, 30-1) Woodbine shipper for female trainer Carroll. The race’s namesake is this colt’s grandfather on his sire’s side. We may see this one later in the summer in the Queen’s Plate.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Bluegrass Singer; 2 – Upstart; 3 - Frosted
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.