01/23/2010 1:00AM

Holy Bull first step toward bigger goal

Barbara D. Livingston
Aikenite, shown winning his career debut last August in Saratoga, makes his first start since the BC Juvenile on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Aikenite, Homeboykris, Jackson Bend, and Winslow Homer are all hoping to use Saturday's $100,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things on the Triple Crown trail. The connections of all four leading contenders in the Grade 3 race, to be run out of the one-mile chute, are looking at the first significant prep for 3-year-olds here this winter from different perspectives, however.

Aikenite and Homeboykris are the most accomplished of the group and already have plenty of graded stakes earnings in their pockets. Jackson Bend was the king of Calder last season, no small achievement considering the number of big-name 2-year-olds to come out of south Florida in 2009, but has never run in a graded stakes. Winslow Homer showed enormous potential winning his last two starts at 2 but has yet to take on stakes competition of any kind.

Aikenite finished third in the Grade 1 Hopeful and second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity before closing out his 2-year-old campaign finishing a troubled fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He capped off a series of sharp works with a 59.80-second bullet at Palm Meadows last Sunday.

"He's a thick horse who carries a lot of weight and not the kind of horse who would be absolutely revved up off the bench," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "Nor would I want him to be. I don't want this to be the best race of the year for him, although we've done enough to put him in position to run well and a position to move forward off the race. I guess a lot will depend on how cranked up a few of the others are coming off a rest."

Homeboykris won his maiden at Calder before being purchased privately and turned over to trainer Rick Dutrow during the summer. Homeboykris returned quick dividends when he rallied to win the Grade 1 Champagne by 1 1/2 lengths on Oct. 10, only to disappoint his connections and supporters by finishing a badly beaten fifth in the Grade 2 Remsen.

"There's got to be some reason why he ran so poorly in the Remsen, but I can't explain it," said Dutrow. "He just didn't show up that day, which makes it all the more important for him to show up on Saturday. He ran big in a one-turn mile winning the Champagne, and we're giving him the same opportunity to run big doing the same thing here. This race is extremely important for him if he's going to run in bigger races down the road."

Dutrow's older brother Tony is taking an opposite view of the Holy Bull with Winslow Homer.

"Personally, a one-turn mile is not what my horse wants and I'm not excited about the Holy Bull a little bit," said Dutrow. "It's only January and it's a long year. Naturally I'm hoping he runs better than worse, just so long as he's in good shape for the Fountain of Youth. That's the race I'm looking forward to. We'll know where we stand at that point. If he's not able to get graded earnings in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, then he doesn't belong in the Kentucky Derby."

Jackson Bend closed out his 2-year-old campaign with five consecutive victories, including a sweep of Calder's Stallion Stakes. Afterward, his owner, Fred Brie, sold a majority interest in the horse to Robert LaPenta. Jackson Bend was subsequently turned over to trainer Nick Zito and has been training for his return at Palm Meadows, where he posted a pair of bullet five-furlong drills over the past two weeks.

"Naturally I'm hoping this horse will live up to the expectations of both his owners and the potential these people think he has," said Zito. "These are obviously different horses he'll be trying on Saturday, and we haven't played any games with him in his last three works. When you get in this league, it's a different story."

Zito was also delighted Jackson Bend drew the outside post for the Holy Bull.

"I'm really grateful for the post position," said Zito. "That was one of my main concerns. He stumbled last time leaving the gate and I think there's a lot less chance he'll have a similar issue breaking from the outside."

Aikenite is one of three members of the Holy Bull field who ran in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The others are Piscitelli and William's Kitten, who finished fourth and eighth at Santa Anita.

Piscitelli surprisingly set the pace in the Juvenile but may wind up sitting off the early pace of Thank U Philippe on Saturday. Thank U Philippe, second in his last three starts, will break from the rail while equipped with blinkers for the first time.

Litigation Risk and Wild Lime complete the lineup.

:: KING: (DRF Plus)