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Shug Saddles Mr Speaker, Top Billing Saturday

Shug McGaughey is set to saddle Mr Speaker for Saturday’s $400,000 Holy Bull (G2), an important prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but the Hall of Fame trainer could well come up with another prospect for the spring classics earlier on the 11-race program.            

The McGaughey-trained Top Billing is scheduled to go to post in a strong entry-level allowance for 3-year-olds in the fourth race. The winner of his debut at Laurel by 5 ¼ lengths in November, the son of Curlin impressed at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3, when he encountered a less-than-ideal trip before closing with a rush to miss catching the highly regarded Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner by a neck. “He’s been doing really well,” McGaughey said. “He’s had a couple of works since his race. Everything looks good.”            

Top Billing’s performance in the 1 1/16-mile race could lead to a stakes appearance in a subsequent start. “It would depend on how he ran. If he made the lead and just got beat or he came running and in trouble like he was the last time, I might (run in a stake). But if he gets beat, I still have the conditions and he doesn’t necessarily have to run in a stake,” McGaughey said. “Of course, if he were to win, he’ll have to run in a stake.”

Top Billing and Mr Speaker schooled in the Gulfstream paddock and walking ring during the first race on Thursday’s card. Mr Speaker, who captured the $100,000 Dania Beach (G3) on turf last time out, is set to make his debut on dirt in the Holy Bull. While McGaughey will discover if the son of Pulpit can transfer his abundant talent from grass to dirt and is ready to continue on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, McGaughey is confident in his colt’s credentials for classic distances.            

“He’ll run as far as you want him to run, I think. He settles good. His female family is all stamina,” McGaughey said. “The one thing that is encouraging about him is that he’s such an athletic kind of horse.”            

McGaughey, who is also pointing Remsen winner Honor Code to the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream on Feb. 22, won the Kentucky Derby (G1) last year with Florida Derby winner Orb.            

“The one thing I found out about last year is that everything has to go right. Last year, everything went right. When we wanted to work, we got to work. The work was right. Everything went right. When we shipped to Kentucky, it all went fine,” he said. “Whether that’s going to happen this year, who knows?”                        


 

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