It’s still January and this is only step one on the road to the Florida Derby (gr. I), but Gulfstream Park will host an important showdown between several of the most talented 3-year-olds in Southern Florida Jan. 23 when a field of nine square off in the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III).
Most eyes will be on a trio of highly-regarded sophomores in the one-mile Holy Bull—probable morning-line favorite Jackson Bend, grade I winner Homeboykris, and multiple graded stakes-placed Aikenite. But also not to be forgotten are Piscitelli, who finished fourth by less than a length in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and Winslow Homer, a romping 12-length allowance winner in November. Post time for the Holy Bull is 5:08 p.m. EST.
A son of Hear No Evil—Sexy Stockings, by Tobasco Cat, Jackson Bend won five of six starts as a juvenile—all of them at Calder. The chestnut colt swept the Florida Stallion Series, culminating with his 2 3/4-length score in the In Reality Stakes last Oct. 17. It was his first start around two turns.
Bred by Jacks or Better Farm, he won those five starts for trainer Stanley Gold, but after Robert LaPenta purchased a majority interest in the horse in late October he was transferred to the barn of Nick Zito. Jackson Bend has been working steadily at Palm Meadows this winter, his last one coming Jan. 16 when he turned in a bullet five-furlong move in :59.30.
Jackson Bend likes to race close to the pace, which could force his new rider, Jeremy Rose, to get him going early since they will break from post 9. Jeffrey Sanchez rode Jackson Bend in his first six starts.
Carrying top weight of 122 pounds will be Homeboykris, winner of the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont in October. The gelding by Roman Ruler, who is trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., finished fifth in the Remsen (gr. II) in his final start of 2009.
Bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farm and William Paca Beatson, Homeboykris was purchased privately by a group led by Louis Lazzinnaro after he broke his maiden by more than 3 1/4 lengths at Calder last July. Edgar Prado keeps the mount.
Dodwood Stable’s Aikenite is one of several promising colts from the barn of Todd Pletcher. The dark bay son of Yes It's True finished third in the Three Chimneys Hopeful (gr. I) in his first stakes try, then missed by just a half-length when running second in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland Oct. 10. The following month he ran a troubled fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Bred in Florida by Brylynn Farm, Aikenite turned in a solid final work Jan. 17 at Palm Meadows, getting five furlongs in a bullet :59.80. John Velazquez will have the mount for the first time since the colt broke his maiden at Saratoga in August.
William Schettine’s Piscitelli has made his last three starts over artificial surfaces, including that solid effort in the Breeders’ Cup when he set the pace under Kent Desormeaux and gave way stubbornly down the stretch at odds of 50-1. Before that, the Victory Gallop colt was fifth in the Breeders’ Futurity and third in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. II) on Polytrack.
Bred in Kentucky by Jerry and Ann Moss, Piscitelli broke his maiden last summer on the dirt at Monmouth Park. He has also been breezing very well at Palm Meadows for trainer Rick Sacco. Desormeaux keeps the mount.
Fox Hill Farms’ Winslow Homer annihilated a field of winners at muddy Philadelphia Park Nov. 20, taking over after a half-mile and rolling to a 12 1/2-length score under Mario Pino in the one-mile contest. It was his second win in three starts. Ramon Dominguez, who guided the Unbridled's Song colt to victory in his maiden win at Saratoga last summer, will jump back aboard for the Holy Bull. Trainer Tony Dutrow worked his charge four furlongs in :50.30 at Palm Meadows Jan. 18.
Also in the mix is Marty Wolfson trainee Thank U Phillipe, who finished runner-up to some solid horses in his last three starts. The Proud Accolade colt was second to Jackson Bend in the In Reality, 12 lengths back of Buddy’s Saint in the Nashua (gr. II), and missed by 1 1/4 lengths to Eskendereya in allowance company Jan. 7 at Gulfstream. Eddie Castro will be in the irons.
$150,000 Holy Bull (gr. III, Race 9, 5:08 p.m.), 3YO, 1 Mile (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Thank U Philippe (FL), E Castro, 116, M D Wolfson
2. Homeboykris (MD), E S Prado, 122, R E Dutrow Jr.
3. Litigation Risk (FL), L A Garcia, 116, R A Violette, Jr.
4. Piscitelli (KY), K J Desormeaux, 116, R W Sacco
5. William's Kitten (KY), J R Leparoux, 120, M J Maker
6. Winslow Homer (KY), R A Dominguez, 116, A W Dutrow
7. Wild Lime (KY), J Lezcano, 116, M J Trombetta
8. Aikenite (FL), J R Velazquez, 116, T A Pletcher
9. Jackson Bend (FL), J Rose, 120, N P Zito