He is undefeated and in fact has never even been headed during one stride in his career. He won far and away the most important race a two-year-old male could win. He was recently named champion as America’s best juvenile of 2011 and reports from the Michael Maker barn have been nothing but positive all winter. So knowing all these things, why is it that I think Hansen will likely go down to defeat in tomorrow’s $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes?
The one-mile, grade 3 test begins Gulfstream Park’s road to the roses in earnest … the key word being “begins.” Nothing more than a prep, and the first one at that, the Holy Bull is no more than a means to an ends for many horses. If Hansen is to make his way to the Kentucky Derby as one of the horses to beat, the result of tomorrow’s race, or at least whether he finishes first or not, will matter little in the grand scheme of things. He is already a proven commodity, who only needs to move in the right direction tomorrow. Meanwhile, there are others in the race that need to not only prove they belong in elite company, but also need to start collecting graded stakes earnings just to qualify for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
Look no further than red-hot young sire Bernardini for the answer as to which horse will pull the upset on Hansen. Or perhaps I should say answers. Two impressive looking and lightly raced sons of Bernardini are the main reason I am picking against the champ.
Owned by Starlight Racing and trained by Todd Pletcher, Algorithms has won both of his two starts in style, taking his debut at Belmont Park by 5 ¼ lengths back in June, before scoring a sharp 1 length allowance score going 6 ½ furlongs at Gulfstream last month. Leading meet rider Javier Castellano will ride, and with the promise of plenty of early speed in the race, he should sit a nice stalking trip from his outside post position.
Sitting in not quite as favorable a post position is the other Bernardini, Consortium. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee was also in that fast allowance heat won by Algorithms, finishing a game second, despite pressuring a very fast pace, as the 4-5 favorite. The Darley homebred comes in to the Holy Bull off consecutive sharp performances. He turned many a head in November when he scored in his debut by 4 ¾ lengths at Aqueduct. Of note, Consortium will race with Lasix for the first time tomorrow.
So, while Hansen will be making his first start since his tough win in the two-turn Breeders’ Cup Juvenile nearly three months ago, he will have to tackle two very talented colts with a good race over the track, and who are primed to be sharp for tomorrow’s one-turn mile. Even if he can carry over his excellence as a juvenile to this season, (not all juvenile champions, or offspring of Tapit do… see Stardom Bound) it is not a race he needs to win.
The Holy Bull would seem like the perfect recipe for an upset. But then again, what do I know? I picked Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup.