After watching Mr Speaker cavort over the turf course to win going
away in his stakes debut last month, trainer Shug McGaughey couldn’t
resist the temptation to try the Phipps Stable’s homebred colt on the
main track in Saturday’s $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) at
“He’s trained good on the dirt. I thought somewhere along the line I
was going to give him this kind of opportunity,” McGaughey said. “I
didn’t know it was going to be now but this is something I did have on
my mind to give him the opportunity.”
Any trainer with a talented 3-year-old colt would have done exactly
the same thing, but McGaughey, who saddled Florida Derby (G1) and
Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb last year, has some pretty solid reasons
to suspect that the son of Pulpit can handle the footing on the Road to
the Kentucky Derby.
“Pulpit never ran on turf and his dam never ran of turf,” said
McGaughey, whose colt came off a maiden win to capture the Dania Beach
(G3) last time out on turf. “He’s always trained good on it.”
Being a son of Pulpit, who won the 1997 Fountain of Youth (G2) on
Gulfstream’s main track, and Salute, a daughter of undefeated champion
Personal Ensign, Mr Speaker would seem suited to dirt at the highest
“I think he’s equipped to make the jump. It’s a matter whether he’ll
make the jump from turf to dirt. He’s already done it on the turf. He
went from a maiden to a Grade 3,” said McGaughey, who awarded the return
mount aboard Mr Speaker to Jose Lezcano.
“We’ll just have to see if he does it on the dirt.”
The talented field entered Monday for the Holy Bull presents a
challenge for all 11 candidates for the 1 1/16-mile stakes, an important
steppingstone to the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1) at
Gulfstream On March 29.
Mr Speaker is scheduled to meet Nashua Stakes (G2) winner Cairo
Prince, undefeated Coup de Grace, Remsen Stakes (G2) third-place
finisher Wicked Strong, Churchill Downs allowance winner Almost Famous,
and Woodbine stakes winner Conquest Titan.
“When you get on the Derby Trail, they’re all going to be tough. I
think we have a really nice horse, and I wouldn’t trade places with
anybody,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Cairo Prince.
Cairo Prince, who romped to victory in the Nashua, suffered his first
loss in three starts in the Remsen, in which he took the lead in the
stretch, only to lose the tightest of photo finishes to the highly
regarded McGaughey-trained Honor Code.
McLaughlin attributed the heart-breaking loss to a six-pound weight
advantage in Honor Code’s favor and rider error by Luis Saez, who has
maintained the mount aboard Cairo Prince for the Holy Bull.
“He knows he made a mistake, but everyone makes mistakes,” said
McLaughlin, who was critical of the rider falling into the trap of an
extremely slow early pace and allowing Honor Code to rally inside of
him. “He knows the horse and he knows not to make the same
Almost Famous comes into the Holy Bull off a six-length romp at
Churchill Downs in his first race around two turns. Previously, he had
won his debut and finished a distant fourth in his return.
“His first race was spectacular, then in his second race, he kind of
went to sleep on me. I kind of babied him. It was my fault. He’d been
off for seven weeks. He kind of just went around in place. He just
didn’t run. It was nothing to do with talent,” said trainer Patrick
Byrne, who saddled Take Charge Indy for a victory in the 2012 Florida
Derby. “I wheeled him back in 14 days, put blinkers on him and he
Borel, who guided Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby, will be
aboard Almost Famous.
James Jerkens, who saddled Quality Road for
victories in the 2009 Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, is scheduled
to saddle Wicked Strong for the Holy Bull. The son of Hard Spun finished
just a half-line behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince in the
Coupe de Grace, a son of Tapit trained by Chad Brown, has won both of
his starts, including a mile allowance at Gulfstream on Dec. 15.“He’s
unproven around two turns, and it’s a real test for him,” Brown said. “I
think it’s that time of year to try him around two turns and then we
can figure out how to campaign him the rest of the year.”
Conquest Titan, who won the Swinford Stakes at Woodbine, followed up a
13th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) with an allowance
victory at Churchill Downs to conclude his 2-year-old campaign for
trainer Mark Casse.
Todd Pletcher-trained Intense Holiday finished fourth
in the Remsen.
“Intense Holiday is training well. I thought his race in the Remsen
was sneaky good,” Pletcher said. “He had a bit of a troubled trip in the
Nashua so hopefully we’re heading in the right direction with him.”
Financial Mogul, Best Plan Yet, Our Caravan and Big Bazinga round out