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COUNTDOWN REWIND: HOLY BULL STAKES
By Jeremy Plonk
Date: Saturday, January 26, 2013
Track: Gulfstream Park
Kentucky Derby Points Awarded: 10-4-2-1
Distance: 1-1/16 miles (2 turns)
HANDICAPPERS’ RECAP: Making his seventh straight start in stakes company and ninth trip to the post in his career -- all before the end of January of his 3-year-old season -- few could question the durability and quality of ITSMYLUCKYDAY (Eddie Plesa Jr.). But could he be brilliant enough to beat a Grade 1-winning speedball like SHANGHAI BOBBY (Todd Pletcher) over a distance and course configuration that heavily favors the inside speed of the reigning champion 2-year-old? We got that answer emphatically as a “Yes!” when ITSMYLUCKYDAY not only collared SHANGHAI BOBBY, but he set a 1-1/16 miles track record in the process. The top pair decimated the rest, putting 13 lengths between first and third.
ON THE CLOCK: Any way you check your watch, this impressed. Sure, the Gulfstream Park course was a little on the quick side Saturday; but compare the G3 Holy Bull to other races on the card and it looks even better. The 1:41.81 time shaved about 3 lengths off the previous track record, and maybe more impressively this race clocked more than 4 lengths faster than reigning Travers winner Golden Ticket ran on the same card when looking like a star in his 4-year-old return. SHANGHAI BOBBY set identical 23.34 first and second quarters before the pace only moderately slowed to 24.01 and 24.42 splits, wrapping up the last half-furlong in a solid 6.70. This was a big performance from the top two on the clock.
THE EYE TEST: A trip handicapper could have a field day with the Holy Bull. Credit the winner ITSMYLUCKYDAY for being able to navigate into the three-path into the clubhouse turn, which is critical the way this nine-furlong oval is configured for these races. Ask FREDERICKSBURG (Michael Matz), five-wide early, how easy it is when stuck wide. ITSMYLUCKYDAY maintained a three-wide trip for most of the running and still proved best and fast, though do note he did drift a bit late from the left-hand whip used by Elvis Trujillo. SHANGHAI BOBBY ran straight and true in the lane, and he actually galloped out much better than winner. BERN IDENTITY (Kelly Breen) was roughed up big-time at the start by SR. QUISQUEYANO (Luis Olivares), then worked his way up to fourth at the quarter-pole but was spent. CLEARLY NOW (Brian Lynch) also was shoved around at the start in that aforementioned chain reaction, then had to do all of the dirty work pressing lone speed SHANGHAI BOBBY. He ran pretty remarkably to be third despite those scenarios, albeit a baker’s dozen lengths behind the winner. Longshot closer JOSHUA’S COMPRISE (Barry Rose) galloped out well while not threatening and seems like an all-day plodding type. FRAC DADDY (Kenny McPeek) bobbled a bit leaving the gate and perhaps that’s where he grabbed a quarter, as trainer McPeek reported after the race.
PROJECTING THE HOLY BULL FORWARD: Both ITSMYLUCKYDAY and SHANGHAI BOBBY are scheduled to await the G1 Florida Derby in March and bypass the G2 Fountain of Youth in February. I don’t fault that strategy given the length of their juvenile campaigns. Plus, this was a whacker of a race and the potential to bounce out of it seems likely if you run back too soon. Thinking back to the last decade in Florida on the Derby trail, was this early season brilliance like Read the Footnotes or Trust N Luck or Booklet? Read The Footnotes won a slugfest with Second of June in 2004 then was fourth at even money in Florida Derby and seventh in the Kentucky Derby and never to run again. Trust N Luck was a fast 2003 Fountain of Youth winner in wire-to-wire style and then lost the Florida Derby at even money when distant a second to a west coast ship-in named Empire Maker. Trust N Luck ended his career 0-for-3 after the FoY. Booklet beat Harlan’s Holiday in the 2002 Holy Bull and FoY, but was then 0-for-6 in stakes the rest of his career. ITSMYLUCKYDAY has some similarities to those previous early season GP flashes, but this guy is sired by Lawyer Ron and would seem to have more pedigree on his side than those sons of Notebook and Smoke Glacken. CLEARLY NOW is lightly raced and probably benefits from a Fountain of Youth bid next time; and the total no-show by DEWEY SQUARE puts him back to square one whereas he’ll need to prove himself in the FoY. FRAC DADDY could use more racing, so if the hoof issue makes him miss the next start, it won’t do him any favors. He’s a must-watch in the coming weeks on the workout tab. BERN IDENTITY certainly deserves another look in his next start, but distances will be a question for him now that we’re past 1-1/16 miles. I wouldn’t mind seeing him head out of town for the March 16 G2 Rebel at Oaklawn at that shorter trip.