Buckle Down Ben Favored in Holy Bull

From Gulfstream Park
Buckle Down Ben, third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II), has been installed the 5-2 morning-line favorite among eight 3-year-olds entered in Saturday's $100,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull is one of the steppingstones to the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) on March 10.

With jockey John Velazquez in the irons, Buckle Down Ben worked five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 breezing at Gulfstream Park on Monday.

"We have to take him out early in the morning because he's a difficult horse to train," said Lillian Altieri, who handles the horses locally for trainer Steve Klesaris. "It was a beautiful work. John Velazquez who will ride him on Saturday has breezed him twice now and said he was very happy with the way he handled the track."

All four of Buckle Down Ben's races have been around two turns and he has won two them, including the Laurel Futurity (gr. III) at 1 1/8 miles in Maryland on Nov. 4. The dark bay or brown colt then started in the 1 1/8 miles Remsen in his last start on Nov. 5. He finished third, beaten four and one-half lengths in that race.

"He's a big long striding horse," Altieri said. "The farther he goes the better he seems to like it. He ran good races in both the Laurel Futurity and Remsen. He's still a young horse that is maturing and he figures to get better with each race."

Jockey Mike McCarthy has ridden Buckle Down Ben in all his races but McCarthy is currently taking some vacation time and thus the switch to Velazquez.

"John is an excellent rider and has gotten to know him in his works," Altieri said. "Right now, the main thing we want to do is get a race into "Ben". He's coming into Saturday's race fresh off a two month lay-off."

When asked whether the Florida Derby was in the future plans for Buckle Down Ben, Altieri said. "We're going to take it one race at a time. We'll see how he does in Saturday's race and how he comes out of it then go from there."

The field for the Holy Bull, with weights, jockeys, and morning-line odds:

1--Ghoastly Prize, 112, Mark Guidry, 12-1
2--Buckle Down Ben, 119, John Velazquez, 5-2
3--Drumcliff, 112, Jorge Chavez, 118
4--Songandaprayer, 117, Pat Day, 6-1
5--Master Planner, 112, Edgar Prado, 4-1
6--Cee Dee, 117, Julio Garcia, 15-1
7--Airy Hill, 114, Jerry Bailey, 3-1
8--Radical Riley, 119, Eduardo Nunez, 6-1

Drumcliff Tries Route Again in Holy Bull

The first time Drumcliff raced around two turns he finished last in an 11-horse field in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) at Turfway Park in September. The D. Wayne Lukas trained 3-year-old will try and prove that race was a fluke when he starts in Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes.

"I don't know whether it was the track or what, but he backed up pretty good that day," said Barry Knight, assistant trainer to D. Wayne Lukas. "We gave him a rest after that race and didn't run him until opening day here in the Spectacular Bid Stakes. It was at six furlongs and he had the one hole. He got caught running up behind horses down the backstretch, was throwing his head and never settled down and run his race."

The winner of a pair of races last summer at Belmont and Saratoga, Drumcliff also was third in the six furlong Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) in California. He had speed for six furlongs before stopping in the 1 1/6 miles Kentucky Cup Juvenile in his 2000 finale. Following some time off at a farm in Kentucky, Drumcliff showed some speed before tiring and finished tenth in the Spectacular Bid Stakes on Jan. 3.

"The disappointing thing about his race in the Spectacular Bid is that he trained so well going into the race and he came out of in great shape," Knight continued. "He had another good work last Sunday. He went five furlongs in 1:021 and was within himself. We're hoping that maybe going around two turns he'll be able to relax early and then run the race we know he's capable of running."

Gift of an Eagle Won't Run in Holy Bull

Gift of an Eagle had been expected to run in Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes but because of a hock inflammation the colt will wait for another day according to trainer Ken McPeek.

"I really wanted to run him in the Holy Bull," McPeek said. "But he got a hock inflammation last week and I haven't been able to train him right. I had planned on working him this morning (Monday) but the inflammation is still there so he'll stay in the barn this weekend."