The first Saturday in February features coast-to-coast betting action on the 2019 Kentucky Derby Trail with the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park and the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. I have turned my attention to the Sunshine State for this week’s free trifecta pick for the running of the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The highlight of Saturday’s racing card at Florida’s most famous horse track features a field of 10 colts looking to take that first big step towards Churchill Downs in early May. As an added plus, most of the entries in the field will be making their three-year-old debut. The following three Kentucky Derby hopefuls have the best chance to make that early mark at Gulfstream.
2019 Holy Bull Stakes - Gulfstream Park
The Holy Bull is a Grade 2 stakes race open to three-year-old thoroughbreds. The total prize purse of this year’s event has been set at $350,000 with Kentucky Derby qualifying points up for grabs as well. The race will be contested on the dirt track at Gulfstream at a total distance of 1 1/16 miles.
Coming off an impressive juvenile campaign, the colt at the top of my list for this race is trainer Robert Reid’s Maximus Mischief. The Kentucky-bred three-year-old will break from the No. 8 post with jockey Jose Ortiz getting the call. He comes into his first race of the year with a lofty Horse Racing Nation rating of 6.37 based on what he was able to accomplish as a two-year-old. He closed things out with a victory in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 1. Covering the 1 1/8-mile run on dirt in 1:51.34, he ran past Network Effect and Tax.
In two races at Philadelphia Park earlier in the fall, the son of Into Mischief posted victories in a 5 ½-furlong Maiden Special Weight on Sept. 28 followed by a run to the front of the field on Oct. 20 in an Allowance race over the course seven furlongs on dirt.
My second choice for the Holy Bull would be Mihos. Trained by James Jenkins, this three-year-old Kentucky-bred colt has the highest HRN rating in Saturday’s field at 6.62. He will break from the No. 6 post with John Velazquez getting the ride. This is one of the few entries in this race with experience as a three-year-old. He won the 2019 ungraded Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 5, covering the one mile on dirt in 1:37.56 ahead of Trophy Chaser and Garter and Tie.
The highlight reel for this sire of Cairo Prince as a juvenile is rather limited. Going back to late September, he finished third in a Maiden Special Weight event at Belmont Park over a distance of six furlongs. The early win in January has him clearly pointed in the right direction in this year’s campaign.
Anytime famed trainer Todd Pletcher decides to debut one of his top three-year-old contenders in what will be his first major stakes debut as well, it catches quite a few horse bettor’s attention. Breaking from the No. 2 post with veteran jockey Javier Castellano aboard, I am all in on Federal Case as my third choice for a trifecta pick in the Holy Bull. With very little experience as a juvenile, this Kentucky-bred colt is already making some noise with an HRN rating of 6.34. Pletcher and Castellano as part of the team are just icing on the cake.
The pedigree of Gemologist made his biggest splash last year at Gulfstream with a victory in a one-mile Allowance Claimer on Dec. 23. This followed a win at Keeneland on Oct. 19 in a Maiden Special Weight race over seven furlongs.