Holy Bull Odds & More Graded Races at Gulfstream Park

Three-year-olds are in the spotlight at stakes-heavy Gulfstream Park on Saturday, with the undisputed highlight being the Grade 3 Holy Bull, a big step on the road to the Kentucky Derby that has attracted a strong field including Mo Donegal, Tiz The Bomb and Simplification. The in-form Todd Pletcher has leading candidates in the Grade 3 Swale and the Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy, while potential Kentucky Oaks fillies go on trial in the Grade 3 Forward Gal and the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant.

Holy Bull

This is where it begins to get serious on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. There are only ten points available to the winner of the Holy Bull, the main event at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, but for the first time there is a clash between heavyweights and a real pecking order has the chance to form.

The place to start is morning-line favourite Mo Donegal, whose trainer Todd Pletcher is in spectacular form. The Uncle Mo colt has always been highly regarded and went some way towards justifying that opinion when getting home by a nose in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct in December, prevailing after a thrilling stretch duel with Zandon in which he interfered with the runner-up, although the stewards let things stand. They were ten lengths clear of the third horse and Eloquist (20-1) was beaten a country mile into fifth place.

That thrust Mo Donegal into the Derby picture and, with his barn on a hot streak and his stamina and will to win proven beyond doubt, he has a solid look about him here against rivals who are contending with variables. One with plenty to prove is Tiz The Bomb (6-1), whose ability is beyond question – but not on the main track.

He has been doing great things on turf, winning the Grade 2 Bourbon at Keeneland and then finishing runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, but there has to be a big doubt as to whether he can be equally effective on both surfaces. He broke his maiden on dirt at little Ellis Park, but there’s a feeling that three-year-old turf horses don’t have many options and that this is a ‘hail mary’ to give Tiz The Bomb a career path.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile longshot third Giant Game (7-2) was three and a quarter lengths behind Corniche at Del Mar, when he couldn’t dig in late after looking a big threat at the top of the lane. His maiden win at Keeneland in October looks better now that runner-up Call Me Midnight came back to win the Grade 3 Lecomte two weeks ago, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t run a big race getting weight from all the other fancied contenders, although his outside post doesn’t help with such a short run to the first turn.

The sole pace angle in the race is Simplification (4-1), who has run all his four races here and made a big step forward on his most recent start, going gate-to-wire in a valuable stakes over a mile to post a dominant four-length win. This is his first try at two turns but trainer Antonio Sano reckons the further he goes the better he’ll be, and if he does like going long then his freewheeling style will make him hard to catch. On form he has something to find, but the shape of the race makes him a big player.

The eyecatching grey White Abarrio (6-1) won an allowance optional claimer here over a mile before stepping up to the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, in which he rallied well for third after looking short of kick at a crucial stage, although he was still six lengths behind Smile Happy at the wire. A hot pace would bring his strong finish into play and he could be undervalued.

Class issues are a concern for Cajun’s Magic (8-1), runner-up in two state-bred stakes races here last year and now coming back off a four-month layoff. This looks a tough spot, as it does for Spin Wheel (20-1), who is making his stakes debut off the back of a narrow victory in a Churchill Downs maiden over a mile-eighth. Galt (15-1), on the other hand, won over course and distance when breaking his maiden by three lengths and a little improvement could give him a chance of hitting the board

Betting Prediction for Holy Bull

It’s a fascinating Holy Bull full of serious Derby contenders, but lone front-runner SIMPLIFICATION goes well here and is the choice with the race likely to set up right for him.

HorseJockey Horse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
GaltJunior Alvarado+1500
Mo DonegalIrad Ortiz, Jr.+250
EloquistFrankie Pennington+2000
SimplificationJavier Castellano+400
Cajun’s MagicJesus M. Rios+800
Tiz the BombBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr+600
Spin WheelJulien R. Leparoux+2000
White AbarrioTyler Gaffalione+600
Giant GameLuis Saez+350

Swale S

Last week Todd Pletcher and Brad Cox were facing off in the Pegasus World Cup and now they go head to head again in the Swale, which has drawn a tight, competitive field if a little short on numbers.

Cox comes with stakes debutant In Dreams (5-2), who is bidding for a three-timer following a Churchill Downs maiden win and an impressive victory in an allowance optional claimer at Oaklawn Park in December, when he cleared right away from the turn to score by six lengths from subsequent winner and Kentucky Derby fancy Chasing Time.

The form can’t be faulted and In Dreams is ready to step up and stretch out, and given that he has led at every call in both those wins he figures to be on or near the pace again.

Pletcher’s representative My Prankster (2-1) has already tried his luck in higher grade, finishing more than 13 lengths behind Jack Christopher when fourth in the Grade 1 Champagne over the Belmont Park mile. He got back on the winning trail in an allowance optional claimer here over six furlongs last time out, toughing it out to win a duel by half a length with the third horse more than 13 lengths adrift, and deserves another crack at stakes company.

Dean Delivers (4-1) and On A Revolution (4-1) have practically identical profiles, both two-for-three having never been away from Gulfstream and both boasting a second-place finish at stakes level. Dean Delivers was a neck behind Cajun’s Magic – runs in the Holy Bull – in a state-bred stakes here over six furlongs in July, and went under by another neck in an allowance optional claimer last month on his first start for five months.

The extra furlong today should help, which also goes for On A Revolution, who closed all the way to the wire in a six-furlong stakes here last month but came up a half-length short when the camera clicked. They went fast that day and On A Revolution is worth a try in this higher grade.

Belmont Park maiden winner Graphic Detail (6-1) was run off his feet when fourth behind Simplification – another in the Holy Bull – in a mile stakes here on New Year’s Day and cutting back in distance may not be the way to go, while Ellis Park maiden winner Mr Bouma (12-1) was never in the game at all in an allowance optional claimer at Churchill Downs latest and surely needs an easier spot.

Top Pick for the Swale has drawn some promising types, but IN DREAMS comes here on a roll, was very impressive last time out, and looks ready to make his stakes breakthrough.

HorseJockey Horse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
My PranksterLuis Saez+200
Graphic DetailJavier Castellano+600
Of a RevolutionTyler Gaffalione+400
Dean DeliversMiguel Angel Vasquez+400
In DreamsIrad Ortiz, Jr.+250
Mr. BoumaCorey J. Lanerie+1200

Forward Gal S

Pletcher and Cox are again to the fore in the Forward Gal, the distaff equivalent of the Swale and similarly competitive, although this time the odds-makers are looking elsewhere for their first choice.

That privilege goes to Shug McGaughey’s unbeaten Radio Days (8-5), whose two wins comprise a six-furlong maiden at Belmont Park and an absolute demolition job in an allowance optional claimer over today’s distance at Aqueduct in December, when she barrelled through the stretch on her way to an eight-and-a-half-length score. With her stamina proven and her promise there for all to see, the daughter of Gun Runner ranks as the one to beat.

Cox sends Girl With A Dream (5-2) to the gate on a three-timer, with success in a Churchill Downs allowance followed by her stakes breakthrough at the Fair Grounds over six furlongs, where she led throughout and came home a length clear. This step up in grade is a logical move and she has a higher profile than Pletcher’s Greatitude (5-1), who lost her maiden tag over course and distance in December when pulling clear through mid-stretch to win going away by two and three-quarter lengths. Given the red-hot form of Pletcher’s barn, which was successful with Zaajel in last year’s Forward Gal, better can be expected of the daughter of Dialed In.

Disco Ebo (6-1) took a three-race winning streak, including a gate-to-wire stroll in a six-furlong state-bred stakes at Penn National, into another Pennsylvania-bred stakes contest at Parx Racing last time out, but she ran so poorly in fifth place that it’s hard to say whether the extra furlong was an issue or it was simply an off day.

In any case, this demands much more, although she is preferred to Last Leaf (12-1), a stakes winner here over five furlongs on turf in September but below that form on her three subsequent starts, and She’s So Beautiful (20-1), winner of a state-bred stakes over course and distance in October but disappointing twice since then.

Much more interesting is Diamond Wow (9-2), a stakes winner over course and distance in September before showing considerable improvement when stepped up to the Grade 2 Jessamine over a mile-sixteenth on turf at Keeneland the following month, when she had the race won before being pipped on the line and beaten a head. However, she’s back on the main track today and down in distance, and to complete a trio of concerns her trainer Patrick Biancone has suggested that she’ll need the run after nearly four months away.

Betting Prediction for Forward Gal

Diamond Wow may one day end up the best horse in the Forward Gal, but today she is passed over in favour of unbeaten RADIO DAYS, who was so impressive last time.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
She’s So BeautifulPaco Lopez+2000
GreatitudeIrad Ortiz, Jr.+500
Last LeafMiguel Angel Vasquez+1200
Disco EboFrankie Pennington+600
Radio DaysDylan Davis+160
Girl With a DreamLuis Saez+250
Diamond WowRomero Ramsay Maragh+450

Kitten’s Joy S

No surprise to see Pletcher again prominent in the Kitten’s Joy, a race he won nine years ago with Charming Kitten, a son of the horse whose name adorns this contest. The Hall of Famer puts two in the gate, headed by course winner Grand Sonata (3-1), who made his stakes breakthrough here over a mile on New Year’s Day when getting up in the last few jumps to prevail by a head, with Father Glado (8-1) doing all his best work late when beaten a length and a quarter into third.

The slightly longer distance won’t be against him and at this stage he has more about him than barnmate Royal Spirit (5-1), who took a class drop to win a maiden here over seven and a half furlongs after two races in stakes grade, his best when runner-up at Monmouth Park over a mile, when he was six lengths clear of Coinage (6-1) in third.

Coinage had shown he belonged in this grade when winning the Grade 3 With Anticipation over a mile-sixteenth at Saratoga in September, but he got an easy lead that day and the subsequent performances of the second and third suggest it wasn’t much of a race. He pressed the pace before dropping out to finish ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and his limitations have been exposed.

The Pulpit Stakes here over seven and a half furlongs in December may be a guide to this race, and it was won by Red Danger (7-2) in a driving finish by a head from the rallying Speaking Scout (4-1), with Eldon’s Prince (12-1) a never-nearer sixth. Red Danger was odds-on favourite that day after some sound performances, notably when fourth in the Grade 2 Bourbon at Keeneland, beaten two lengths by the high-class Tiz The Bomb.

Yet that was a solid effort from Speaking Scout on his stakes debut, especially as he was on the wrong lead all the way down the stretch, and with that under his belt there are grounds for believing he can flip the form with Red Danger.

This represents a throw of the dice for Red Knobs (12-1), who reverts to turf after three defeats in stakes company on the main track at Churchill Downs, on one occasion finishing four lengths behind Red Danger. He was well beaten on his only previous start on the weeds, although it was his debut and that’s forgivable, but his form has stagnated and the switch needs to make a big difference.

Top Pick for Kitten’s Joy

With a 5lb concession from his main rivals in the Kitten’s Joy, it’s worth taking a chance that SPEAKING SCOUT can improve again after a good showing on his stakes debut.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
Grand SonataTyler Gaffalione+300
CoinageLuis Saez+600
Red KnobsCorey J. Lanerie+1200
Speaking ScoutJunior Alvarado+400
Eldon’s PrinceIrad Ortiz, Jr+1200
Royal SpiritPaco Lopez+500
Father GladoJavier Castellano+800
Red DangerJulien R. Leparoux+350

Sweetest Chant S

It’s never a bad idea to begin the search in a Graded stakes on turf with Chad Brown and the Sweetest Chant is a good example. Brown won the race six times running between 2012 and 2017 and his candidate this year is Miss You Ella (10-1), who lost her maiden tag at the third time of asking over the extended mile on the all-weather track here, coming late and fast to take the spoils by a head.

She reverts to turf now, as does fellow synthetics winner Ambitieuse (6-1), who got off the mark second time around with a tenacious stretch run over course and distance, seeing out her race well to prevail by three-quarters of a length. A third course winner on synthetics is Running Legacy (15-1), who got it right first time over the extended mile when she won going away by a length and a quarter, beating more experienced rivals. How she’ll cope with turf is an extra query on top of a rise in class.

Belmont Park maiden winner Nostalgic (9-2) left things too late when a never-nearer fourth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct in December, and the drop in class could help a filly making her first start on turf. Hal’s Dream (12-1) won on her debut over this distance on turf at Keeneland, but was never at the races when last in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs in November. Perhaps the return to the weeds will perk her up.

With no standout form evident in an open contest, the performances of Opalina (3-1) and Roughly A Diamond (15-1) when fifth and sixth in the Grade 2 Jessamine at Keeneland over a mile-sixteenth, beaten a length and three-quarters and two and a half lengths, read well here. Opalina is a winner on turf here at a mile, and finished a length and three-quarters behind stakes debutante Ocean Safari (4-1) when they filled out the board in a stakes over a mile here on New Year’s Day. That was a very creditable effort from Ocean Safari, and there is likely more to come.

Roughly A Diamond went on to win an allowance optional claimer at Tampa Bay Downs over a mile-sixteenth on turf, getting first run on Myfavoritedaughter (20-1) – whose only victory came on the main track here – and beating her by three-quarters of a length. Likewise Battle Charge (5-1), also winner of a Tampa Bay allowance optional claimer on turf last time out, following her second place in a minor sprint stakes at Presque Isle Downs.

Betting Prediction  for the Sweetest Chant is wide open, just waiting for a filly to step up and claim it, and a chance is taken with OCEAN SAFARI, who showed promise on her stakes debut here.

HorseJockeyHorse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports
NostalgicJunior Alvarado+450
OpalinaLuis Saez+300
Roughly a DiamondJulien R. Leparoux+1500
AmbitieusePaco Lopez+600
MyfavoritedaughterCorey J. Lanerie+2000
Ocean SafariJavier Castellano+400
Miss You EllaIrad Ortiz, Jr.+1000
Battle ChargeTyler Gaffalione+500
Running LegacyDylan Davis+1500
Hal’s DreamBrian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.+1200

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