Updated on 01/20/2014 3:13PM

Holy Bull Stakes: Coup de Grace set for two-turn test

Coglianese Photos
Coup de Grace will stretch to two turns for Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. – The campaign that Coup de Grace will have in the next few months will be determined by how he performs Saturday in the Grade 2, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Unbeaten in two starts, Coup de Grace will be making his first start around two turns in the Holy Bull. His aptitude at this endeavor will chart his course.

“I could see it going either way, but we have to try it,” said Chad Brown, who trains Coup de Grace. “To try the Kentucky Derby trail, you’ve got to try two turns, and he’s got the pedigree to suggest he can get two turns.”

Coup de Grace, a son of Tapit, completed his serious preparation for the Holy Bull on Sunday morning here at the Palm Meadows training center when he worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds under John Velazquez, who will ride him for the first time Saturday. The time equaled the fastest of 50 at the distance Sunday.

“I thought he worked well,” Brown said. “He can be a little strong going to the pole. With the cooler weather, he’s feeling good. He’s coming into the race in good shape.”

Velazquez picked up the mount because Javier Castellano, who rode Coup de Grace in his first two starts, opted to ride Wicked Strong in the Holy Bull.

Coup de Grace will break from the rail in a field of 11 3-year-olds that was drawn Monday for the Holy Bull, which was upgraded to a Grade 2 this year. The rest of the field, in post position order, includes Financial Mogul (Jose Ortiz), Best Plan Yet (Edgard Zayas), Almost Famous (Calvin Borel), Our Caravan (Corey Lanerie), Mr Speaker (Jose Lezcano), Cairo Prince (Luis Saez), Wicked Strong (Javier Castellano), Conquest Titan (Shaun Bridgmohan), Big Bazinga (Joe Bravo), and Intense Holiday (Joel Rosario).

“With 10 or more, you worry about the post, with a short run to the first turn,” said Kiaran McLaughlin who trains Cairo Prince, the likely favorite who will break from post 7.

The Holy Bull is run at 1 1/16 miles, so it ends at a secondary finish line that is earlier in the stretch at Gulfstream than the regular finish line, making the stretch run more abrupt than a 1 1/8-mile race like the Florida Derby.

Cairo Prince worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds at Palm Meadows on Sunday.

“He had a couple of works of 59 and change, so we wanted to go a little easier this time, and he went perfect,” McLaughlin said.

Almost Famous (four furlongs, 48.40), Intense Holiday (four furlongs, 49.05), and Wicked Strong (five furlongs, 1:00.90) also worked at Palm Meadows on Sunday.

Farther north, at the Payson Park training center on Sunday, Mr Speaker worked a half-mile in 49.10.

The Holy Bull is worth 10 points to the winner – with point values of 4, 2, and 1 for the next three spots – on the point system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby should the field have more than the maximum 20 runners entered.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch