Head to Head: Handicapping the 2019 Holy Bull Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2019 Holy Bull Stakes
Photo: Leslie Martin/Gulfstream Park

A field of 10 3-year-old colts are scheduled to line up in the starting gate for Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16-mile race is the first of three points-paying prep races at the track toward the 2019 Kentucky Derby. Note that there’s a 40 percent chance of rain in the area Saturday, enough so that a pair of turf stakes were carded for Sunday instead.

Ashley Tamulonis of HRN's Coast To Coast blog and I shoot the bull and work on a winning combination in the latest version of "Head to Head" handicapping.



Garter and Tie — Trained by Ralph Nicks, Garter and Tie made a similar, though slightly delayed, mid-race move in the Mucho Macho Man as winner Mihos did. While that one got a clear outside trip, Garter and Tie was tucked into a pocket and had to split foes. It was enough to get him third while not being able to run with Mihos. He is consistently in the money though not always a winner, but his wet track form leaves something to be desired. Good for using underneath.


Garter and Tie — draws the speed-favoring rail, which is wasted on him because he likes to settle behind the pace. In the Mucho Macho Man, the Ralph Nicks trainee also broke from post 1. Coming around the turn, he faced a wall of horses in front, but bravely pushed through a pinhole. He lost momentum briefly while playing bumper cars, but picked it up a bit in the stretch, slowly closing ground on the top two. Garter and Tie tries hard, but doesn’t always get a good trip. Additionally, his pedigree isn’t the best for mud. Pass.

Federal Case — Undefeated, Federal Case looks to be a typical Todd Pletcher speedster. Three of his last four works have been bullet moves, and both career races were won while running on the pace. Lack of experience hasn’t hurt Pletcher trainees in the past, so this one could be dangerous.

Federal Case — As Ashley said, this this guy is a Pletcher speedball, and the inner post and Federal Case’s pace pressing running style suit the track bias. Federal Case has been breezing brilliantly at Palm Beach Downs and should have no excuse. Pletcher/Castellano teamed to win the Holy Bull last year with Audible. Contender.

Epic Dreamer — A better finish in the Springboard Mile, a race that is now a points race thanks to its recent spring influence, would have made me like this Orb colt a lot more. He did not get the best trips, but it certainly was not terrible either. I don’t think trainer Kelly Breen has had a big 3-year-old winner since Ruler On Ice, and really, that was a fluke due to the track.

Epic Dreamer — Toss his sixth-place finish in the Springboard Mile. The son of Orb broke from post 1, but was taken out of his preferred running style and forced to race off the rail in traffic the entire way, with no clear running room. In the stretch, Epic Dreamer bounced around and had to check. In his first breeze after the race, Epic Dreamer worked a bullet five furlongs and has been doing well since. Pedigree says he could move up on mud. Exotics.

Everfast — On class alone, this colt is a toss for me. He has not lifted a hoof in graded company before now, his best finish at 1 1/16 miles is a fifth, and his sole race on a sloppy track resulted in him finishing more than 50 lengths behind the winner. No thanks.

Everfast — by Take Charge Indy out of a full sister to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko, Everfast has the genes to improve with maturity and distance. Given his current running lines, I expect he’ll mature sometime around his late 4-year-old to 5-year-old season. Pass.


Harvey Wallbanger — By Congrats, Harvey Wallbanger has a serious case of seconditis. He finally got that monkey off his back in his last outing, but his numbers trended downward with each start. Perhaps he has matured a bit since November, but until I see progress on the track, I’ll pass.

Harvey Wallbanger — How can you not like a horse named after a tasty drink? He finally won last November after 3 consecutive second-place finishes against some classy colts. Ken McPeek gave this son of Congrats a sharp bullet half mile second-to-last breeze. But I agree with Ashley. Ieed to see progression first.


Mhios — This son of Cairo Prince posted a career-best number when winning the Mucho Macho Man by a determined neck. Perhaps most impressive about that effort was the fact that he came from off the pace to do so. He has improved with each start and looks primed for trainer James Jerkens. A wet track is still a question for him, but he definitely has the talent. Contender.

Mihos — He raced wide the entire way in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes while rated off a strong early pace. He gradually wore down a tiring Trophy Chaser to win by a neck. Extra distance will suit Mihos’ running style, especially if the pace is strong early. Cairo Prince babies are hitting at 18% on mud, and he also won the 2014 edition of the Holy Bull. Contender. 

Come On Gerry — This Dale Romans trainee improved significantly when stretching out to two turns. He is a half-brother to long-winded Fundamental and Inflexibility. I’m intrigued to watch this one going forward, but he takes a step up in class and experience here. A good selection for underneath.

Come On Gerry — The last out maiden winner will have company on the pace. The son of Elusive Quality gets a class test, but should handle it. As Ashley noted, he’s a half to two stakes horses. Additionally, his second dam is a blacktype-earning full sister to champion Ashado. Would be surprised if he won, but if he gets a good trip, maybe he’ll hang on for a minor award.


Maximus Mischief — So far Maximus Mischief has answered every question presented to him, winning from 5 1/2 furlongs to 9 furlongs. He has not been seriously tested, and his speed will be an asset at Gulfstream. This is not a particularly strong field. I can see him staying perfect in start No. 4.

Maximus Mischief — speedball has won all three starts by a combined 17 lengths. Post 8 isn’t the best spot for him, but he’s shown the ability to win at nine furlongs, so being wide early shouldn’t hinder him. The son of Into Mischief has posted a bullet breeze every other work. Contender.


Gladiator King — His form could be helped by a wet track, but I do not think this one wants any part of middle to route distances. He has been badly beaten from distances 7-9 furlongs so far. His three wins have been either on the turf or a sloppy track. If this were the Swale, I might be inclined to take a risk, but wet track or not, I just do not see him getting the distance. Pass.

Gladiator King — This guy is a different horse on turf, so you’d think his connections would get a clue. He’s also the only one in the field with a race over the slop, a decent 6 furlongs in 1:11 and change in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa. If the track comes up wet, take a close look at him to hang on for a minor award.

Going for Gold — Though still a maiden, Going for Gold is just a nose and a neck shy of being a winner. This will be his first start for new trainer Bob Hess and also the first time he has been asked to go two turns. A speedy type, the gelding will make his first start with blinkers on. Considering that he has been getting nabbed late, this could very well be what he needs.

Going for Gold — Made the pace in both starts, only to lose by a short nose. The far outside post doesn’t do this speed horse any favors, but if the track is wet, it will aid his pace-setting style. Bob Hess gives the son of Atreides a set of shiny new blinkers in an effort to get him to relax. If he does so and gets a good ride, he has a shot to hit the board. Albin Jimenez is 100% win/place in all dirt routes in which he’s competed over the last month.  


Track bias

In the last six editions of the Holy Bull, one pacesetter has wired the field. Pace pressers (within three lengths of the lead) have captured the other five. Due to the track configuration, the starting gate is about 10 strides from the first turn, so anybody in post eight or higher is at a disadvantage. Five of the last six winners were making their 3-year-old debuts and had last raced in November or December. 

Additionally, if rain materializes, Gulfstream has a strong speed bias when the track is wet.

Final Thoughts

Maximus Mischief hasn’t put a hoof wrong in three starts and his speed figures out-class the rest of the field. Post 8 is a disadvantage, but not impossible. Jose Ortiz jumps off Mihos for Mischief, but Mihos is in excellent hands with Johnny Velazquez The veteran jock has won or placed in all dirt routes in which he’s competed over the last month.   

Ashley:  The likelihood of a wet track is a good, so that obviously had to be accounted for. However, realistically, there’s talent and there’s lack thereof. This is not a strong field, so I’m not trying to beat the favorites here.






#6 MIHOS (5-2)


#7 COME ON GERRY (20-1)

#6 MIHOS (5-2)

#10 GOING FOR GOLD (30-1)

#3 EPIC DREAMER (15-1)

Meet Laurie Ross

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Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

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