The Holy Bull, lengthened this year from a one-turn mile to 1 3/16 miles and dropped to near the end of the Gulfstream schedule, drew a field of seven up-and-coming 3-year-olds. The race was previously at the top of the Triple Crown schedule as a lead-in to the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). This year, officials decided to switch it to the final graded stakes of the South Florida track's season as a late addition for sophomores looking for graded earnings to possibly break into the field for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs May 3.
With the possible exception of Hey Byrn, that does not appear to have happened. The rest of the field lacks anything approaching Derby credentials. Heavy rain, including more than three inches recorded April 6, hurt training schedules and limited the size of the field.
Trained by Edward Plesa Jr., Hey Byrn won back-to-back allowance races during the Gulfstream meet by a combined margin of 20 1/2 lengths, making the Florida-bred son of Put It Back a "buzz horse" in the nine-furlong Florida Derby. However the bay colt was bumped hard at the break and never managed to be a factor in the race, dropping back in the stretch after rallying mildly on the final turn at odds of 10-1. He came home 15 lengths behind the romping Big Brown.
"His energy level coming out of the Florida Derby is 100%, we're here, and it's going to be a short field," Plesa told Daily Racing Form prior to entries April 9.
Hey Byrn has $50,000 in graded money from his Florida Derby effort. Plesa said that qualifying for the Derby field is not his primary consideration, although if Hey Byrn were to win the Holy Bull and amass enough graded earnings to get into the field, they would likely go.
Bred by the late Arthur I. Appleton, Hey Byrn has won three of seven starts with two seconds and has banked $176,000. Hey Byrn finished second to Wise Answer in the Florida Stallion Stakes' Affirmed division in his stakes debut at 2. Chuck Lopez will get the mount, replacing Jose Lezcano, and they will break from post two.
Web Gem, trained by Nick Zito, appears to have the best chance to defeat Hey Byrn. A colt by Fusaichi Pegasus , Web Gem is making his stakes debut following consecutive in-the-money performances against allowance company at Gulfstream. Coming off a third-place finish going a mile March 20, Web Gem has one victory in eight starts. That win came over maidens as a 2-year-old on a sloppy Aqueduct strip last fall.
Bipolar Express finished third in both the Michigan Sire Stakes and Michigan Futurity as a 2-year-old and seeks his first win of 2008.
Dream Maestro and Famous Patriot are last-out maiden winners. Famous Patriot, a Florida-bred trained by Timothy Hills, broke his maiden by 2 1/4 lengths in his first two-turn attempt at 1 1/8 miles March 6. Dream Maestro's victory also came at nine furlongs March 23 over a sloppy track for trainer William Kaplan.
The three-race maiden Chief Bear has been favored in his past two starts, but lost all chance when he hit the gate last time out, finishing fifth, 11 1/4 lengths behind Dream Maestro.
$150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, 6 p.m.), 3-year-olds, 1 3/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Famous Patriot (FL), 118, Eddie Castro
2. Hey Byrn (FL), 118, Charles C. Lopez
3. Chief Bear (KY), 116, Sebastian O. Madrid
4. Bipolar Express (MI), 116, Andrew R. Ramgeet
5. Nathan Ridge (FL), 116, Eduardo O. Nunez
6. Dream Maestro (FL), 118, Manoel R. Cruz
7. Web Gem (KY), 118, Joe Bravo