Last year, New Jersey-bred Irish War Cry won the Holy Bull. This year, it was New York-bred Audible who earned a blowout victory. The Todd Pletcher-trainee was in New York when a scheduled state-bred stakes race was postponed several times due to bad weather. Pletcher called an, wait for it, audible, and brought him to Florida. It worked out in a big way.
Let’s take a look at the Holy Bull.
Fractions: 23.59, 47.14, 1:12.00, 1:35.89, 1:41.92 (1 1/16 miles)
Race Flow: Moderate pace
Winning Beyer Speed Figure: 99
On the Pace: Longshots Master Manipulator and Aequor were on the lead early but the pace was not fast. They both finished at the back of the pack but that was more of the fact they were overmatched (32-1 and 56-1 respectively) than the very fast pace.
On the Winner: Audible sat a great trip behind the dueling longshots early on. Javier Castellano tipped him outside heading into the far turn and he took the lead on the bend. Free Drop Billy moved up to his outside and it looked like a major confrontation at the top of the stretch, but Audible flicked his rival aside and drew off to a runaway win. He hadn’t run anything quite like that and Pletcher’s horses are at their best at Gulfstream. Plus he had a little more recency than his rivals, so there are reasons not to jump him all the way up a Derby list. He had a great trip, but it was certainly a good performance.
On the Others: Free Drop Billy hadn’t run since the Breeders Cup, where he spent most of the race on the bad inside. He ran fine, sitting close to the pace and moving up on the outside. Still, Audible ran away from him at the top of the lane. It was FDB’s first start in three months, and Dale Romans’ horses typically get better with racing, so it was a somewhat encouraging return. Remember, even though he was beaten by 5 1/2 lengths, he was 7 3/4 lengths clear of the third place finisher.
We liked Tiz Mischief in here and his race was disappointing. He is always going to be compromised by his lack of early speed but he was close enough early. Robby Albarado, however, was all-in on the far turn and he was pretty flat in the lane. We liked his races last year but he simply has to get faster. It’s still early on the Derby Trail, but he should have finished a little better.
Enticed, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club last time, was disappointing as well. Even though he had a slight steady early on, he sat in a good spot behind the pace on the inside, but had nothing on the far turn. Like Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief, perhaps he needed a race but he still should have run better than he did. The others were well overmatched.
What’s Next: Audible might wait until the Florida Derby, which would give him just four career starts heading into the Kentucky Derby.
Free Drop Billy and Tiz Mischief will move on for Dale Romans. I’d guess we’ll see one in the Fountain of Youth on March 3rd and one elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent Enticed to the one-turn Gotham as he ran well going a one-turn mile in the Champagne last year. They could bring Avery Island down to Florida for the Fountain of Youth as Kiran McLaughlin already said they want to keep him going two-turns.
What’s Next (Derby Trail): The next prep at Gulfstream is the March 3rd Fountain of Youth, which will be followed by the March 31st Florida Derby. This week, Catholic Boy returns off his Remsen win in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay. Then next week, Instilled Regard returns to New Orleans for the Risen Star on February 17th and Mourinho will be challenged in the February 19th Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn.