2023 Holy Bull Stakes & Robert B. Lewis Odds & Picks

Kentucky Derby preps on both coasts take center stage on Saturday, with the G3 2023 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park featuring a hatful of stakes-winners bidding to upgrade and put themselves on the Triple Crown trail. There are more accomplished horses in the G3 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, but all four are trained by Bob Baffert and therefore prevented from earning RTKD points under the terms of his suspension from Churchill Downs.

Holy Bull Stakes

G3, $250,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo, Gulfstream Park, 5.43pm ET

The Holy Bull is the main event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday and has showcased the future Kentucky Derby winner on two occasions over the last 30 years, with Go For Gin and Barbaro doing the double. This year’s edition offers Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 20-8-6-4-2 basis.

It’s a field without an established Derby candidate, which gives it an open and intriguing aspect especially with half the field given a serious chance by the odds-makers. The morning-line choice is Cyclone Mischief (2-1), who began 2023 with a bang when crushing the opposition in an allowance optional claimer here over a mile, taking control at the quarter-pole and drawing off to win by five and three-quarter lengths.

That was a big move up from his previous outing and stakes debut, when he emptied in the stretch after being on the lead in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, finishing a tired seventh. This is a much easier spot, though, and he merits another try at this level.

The ungraded Mucho Macho Man, run here over a mile on New Year’s Day, will likely have a major bearing on this race, with four of today’s runners coming on from there. It was won in wire-to-wire style by Legacy Isle (7-2), who fought hard in the closing stages but drifted out and was demoted to second by the stewards.

Behind him were the rallying Lord Miles (4-1), third beaten three-quarters of a length, Mr Bob (10-1), beaten another four lengths into sixth and never a factor, and Il Miracolo (20-1), one place and a length and a quarter further back and also never in the mix.

The two to take are obviously Legacy Isle, who was making his stakes debut after two previous wins at this track, and Lord Miles, another stakes debutant and an easy winner of a sprint maiden here on his sole previous start.

The latter should appreciate the extra yardage given the way he was finishing off his race, while Legacy Isle would be unbeaten in three if he hadn’t wandered about and his potential is still unknown. He looks a likely pace angle again, and beat Lord Miles’s barnmate West Coast Cowboy (12-1) into fourth place in an AOC over a mile here in November.

The remaining pair come down the east coast from Bill Mott’s barn and Rocket Can (7-2) is the more accomplished of the two, with his stamina proven. He makes his stakes debut today after a maiden score over today’s distance at Churchill Downs and then an improved effort in an AOC over the same course and distance, when he couldn’t reel in the wire-to-wire winner but clung on gamely for the ‘place’ slot, beaten a half-length.

The winner went on to run third in the G3 Lecomte behind the progressive Instant Coffee and the form stacks up nicely. Mott’s second-string Shadow Dragon (15-1) won an Aqueduct maiden before taking a sound thrashing in a mile stakes back at the Big A, beaten more than 15 lengths into sixth.

2023 Holy Bull Stakes Odds & Betting Pick

HorseJockeyOdds by JazzSports
Lord MilesIrad Ortiz, Jr.+400
West Coast CowboyEdgard J. Zayas+1200
Shadow DragonJose L. Ortiz+1500
Cyclone MischiefTyler Gaffalione+200
Mr Bob Joel Rosario+1000
Legacy IsleLuis Saez+350
Il MiracoloLeonel Reyes+2000
Rocket CanJunior Alvarado+350

This is tricky, but the form of ROCKET CAN’s defeat at Churchill Downs reads well and he can improve past recent course winners Legacy Isle and Cyclone Mischief.

**Keep in mind that odds are subject to change**

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Robert B. Lewis Stakes

G3, $200,000, 1m 1/16 dirt, 3yo, Santa Anita, 1.05pm PT

This is a Derby prep that really isn’t a Derby prep any more; all four runners in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita on Saturday are trained by Bob Baffert and are therefore ineligible to pick up any of the RTKD points available.

It’s essentially a public paid workout, and Bob Baffert will collect his 11th Robert B. Lewis and his fifth straight at the end of it. But it’s still a betting race, and a close-coupled, fascinating betting race at that, with the morning-line barely able to split Baffert’s three main hopes.

The slight favourite is Arabian Lion (7-5), who looked a top prospect when runner-up in a Keeneland allowance optional claimer over seven furlongs, more than 17 lengths clear of the third horse. Next time out, though, on his stakes debut in the mile-sixteenth G2 Los Alamitos Futurity, he destroyed that good impression when trailing in last of five, pressing the pace before falling apart like a cheap suit.

Which Arabian Lion is the real one? He’s certainly worth another chance, but if it was either the trip or the class hike that laid him low, he’ll struggle again.

Then there’s Newgate (8-5), who won a Del Mar maiden in the summer but has come up short in four starts in Graded company since then, twice at G1 level and twice in G3s, most recently when beaten a neck by barnmate Reincarnate in the Sham here over a mile. Another decent effort is probable, but he’s developing a losing habit and this is just as tough a spot.

Moving in from left-field is Worcester (9-5), who is a two-race maiden but has been following home very good horses from the Baffert barn. He was fourth behind the highly regarded and subsequently Graded-placed Faustin here over six furlongs on debut, and then came home second-best to the expensive and talented Hejazi over an extra half-furlong three weeks ago.

His running style and pedigree suggest he’s waiting to stretch out, and now he gets two turns he could make considerable improvement.

The least likely of the Baffert quartet looks to be Hard To Figure (8-1), who won a sprint stakes at Los Alamitos in September but was then brushed aside in the G3 Bob Hope at Del Mar over seven furlongs, last of five and more than 12 lengths behind runner-up Newgate.

Robert B. Lewis Stakes Odds & Betting Prediction

HorseJockeyOdds by JazzSports
Arabian LionJohn R. Velazquez+140
NewgateLanfranco Dettori+160
WorcesterJuan J. Hernandez+180
Hard to FigureRamon A. Vazquez+800

Arabian Lion and Newgate both need to regroup and the upgrading maiden WORCESTER, stretching out for the first time, looks ready to get off the mark.

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