Trainer Shug McGaughey is still sorting out the pecking order of his
3-year-old colts, but Top Billing stamped himself as one to watch
further down the Triple Crown trail. Making only his third lifetime
start in an allowance on the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) undercard at
Gulfstream Park, the chestnut colt caboosed the field early, but circled
the field on the far turn and was hand-ridden by jockey Joel Rosario to
a 2 ¾-length success over Surfing U S A. The son of Curlin was timed in
1:42.66, just a few ticks off of the track record of 1:41.73 set by
River Seven in December. Top Billing earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for
“I’m not sure who was behind him,” McGaughey offered. “On paper it
looked maybe better than it was, but for him to get back and make a run
like that…he was an easy winner. I was impressed with him.”
Top Billing will almost certainly find himself in stakes company next
time, but it is unlikely that he would face off with highly regarded
stablemate Honor Code in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) in
four weeks’ time at Gulfstream.
“I’ll have to see how he comes out of it and I’ll speak to (owner)
Mr. Farish the first of the week,” McGaughey said. “I’ll figure out what
he wants to do and how much pressure he wants to put on
Racing for the partnership of breeders William S. Farish and E.J.
Hudson Jr., Top Billing has now won two of three career appearances and
$56,835. In his previous start, the 3-year-old lost a narrow decision to
Commissioner—a highly regarded colt from the Todd Pletcher barn—in a
Gulfstream allowance on January 3.
McGaughey also saddled Mr Speaker in the Holy Bull itself. That
Phipps Stable homebred had won his last two starts on turf, including a
rallying success in the Dania Beach Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream in
December, but didn’t transfer that form to the main track in the Holy
Bull. Sent off as the 8-1 fourth choice, the Pulpit colt raced in third
in the early stages before fading to finish seventh behind the
authoritative Cairo Prince.
“I was a little surprised that he was up that close, but the winner
was sitting right on his tail,” McGaughey pointed out. “I think at this
point he’s going to be better on the grass, so we’ll go back to grass. I
think the (3-year-olds) back around here are pretty good.”
McGaughey mentioned the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (G3) on March 1 as another target for Mr Speaker.