01/20/2010 1:00AM

Holy Bull appears wide-open


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There were virtually no surprises when Saturday's $100,000 Holy Bull was drawn on Wednesday with nine horses entered to go a mile in the first major test for 3-year-olds to be decided at Gulfstream Park this winter.

Picking a favorite will be difficult amongst a field that includes Grade 1 winner Homeboykris, the multiple Grade 1-placed Aikenite, the once-beaten Jackson Bend, Breeders' Cup Juvenile pacesetter Piscitelli, and the well traveled and steadily improving Winslow Homer.

Thank U Philippe, Litigation Risk, William's Kitten, and Wild Lime complete the field.

Thank U Philippe will race in blinkers for the first time in the Holy Bull and figures to be a major pace factor breaking from the rail. Thank U Philippe has finished second in each of his last three starts, including to Jackson Bend in the In Reality at Calder and Buddy's Saint in the Grade 2 Nashua at Aqueduct.

"He's been second in five of his eight starts and hanging just a little bit, which is why I decided to try the blinkers," said trainer Marty Wolfson. "He worked exceptional with them on last weekend at Calder. He's a very fast horse and he could just end up on the lead in this race."

Homeboykris upset the Grade 1 Champagne going a mile at Belmont Park in his first start since being purchased privately out of Calder and turned over to trainer Rick Dutrow last summer. He will seek to rebound from a disappointing 2-year-old finale when a distant fifth in the Grade 2 Remsen.

Like Homeboykris, Jackson Bend was also purchased out of Calder after completing a sweep of the Florida Stallion Stakes. Jackson Bend, currently trained by Nick Zito, won 5 of 6 starts at 2 and was the only juvenile in North America to post a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure going two turns in 2009.

Aikenite was third in the Hopeful and second in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland before finishing a troubled fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He was preceded across the finish line in the Juvenile by Piscitelli, who surprisingly set the pace into the stretch then held on bravely to be fourth, beaten less than a length, by winner Vale of York.

Winslow Homer has won two in a row, a maiden special weight at Saratoga and a first-level allowance race by more than a dozen lengths at Philadelphia Park in his juvenile finale on Nov. 20.

The Holy Bull is the first of two major preps here this winter, along with the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, that leads up to the Grade 1 Florida Derby, the track's signature event, on March 20.