Head to Head: Holy Bull Stakes 2020 handicapping

January 30, 2020 01:06pm
Head to Head: Holy Bull Stakes 2020 handicapping
Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA

Florida’s road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby starts Saturday in the Grade 3, $250,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.  A field of seven 3-year-old colts led by Tiz the Law will contest 1 1/16 miles, with the top four finishers to receive Derby qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

Ashley Tamulonis of HRN's Coast To Coast blog and I don’t see eye-to-eye on all the top choices for this one. Let's meet the field...




Never out of the exacta, homebred Toledo is sent out for Juddmonte Farms by the esteemed Chad Brown. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the mount, which in this field actually says little. This Into Mischief colt put up a career-best speed figure last out when running second to fellow entrant Ete Indien. He hails from a classy turf family which has me wondering if he would prefer that surface despite his success so far on dirt. All in all, I think he has a shot here.

Toledo didn’t have the best trip in his previous start, racing wide the entire way in traffic. His dam is a dirt miler and finished second at 1 1/16 miles. However, Toledo gets a coveted rail post and can save ground. In two of his final breezes in company with Cost Basis, a recent maiden winner by Into Mischief, Toledo stayed a measured neck behind his stablemate. His speed figures are improving, and he should be fit second off the layoff. I agree with Ashley: holy Toledo!


Undefeated Uncork the Bottle is a winner on both turf and dirt, though his margins of victory were significantly larger on the latter. Of course, that could also be because those dirt races were sprints while his turf race was at a mile. I do like the versatility, and it would be nice to have an heir apparent to recently retired World of Trouble. I would have liked to have seen a dirt route leading into this, so I’m going to stick with using this one underneath.

Talented on both surfaces, Uncork the Bottle was a sneaky $16,000 claim from the Ramseys. Saffie Joseph Jr. is a 31% trainer and hot right now. Not thrilled that Uncork the Bottle’s Brisnet Speed Ratings have declined in each start, but his last two works were sharp, and he out-performed his stablemate. Former Gulfstream claimer rags to riches stories are all the rage, including with this barn and Math Wizard, so why not? He has the right running style and could pull an upset. Contender.


The Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) has turned into a key race again this year as Enforceable and Finnick the Fierce came back to win and place fourth, respectively, in the Lecomte (G3). Tiz the Law is already a Grade 1 winner and perhaps just did not handle the slop as well as trainer trainer Barclay Tagg would have liked. He has been training solidly, and I expect a winning effort here. Contender. 

The obvious class of the field, Tiz the Law had his troubles in every start. He was able to overcome them twice but was left with too much to do in the Kentucky Jockey Club. If he gets a clear trip and can stay closer to the pace than in previous starts, the Tagg trainee should win this. Tiz the Law looked good striding out at Gulfstream and had a pre-race bullet four-furlong breeze. Contender. 


Like Uncork the Bottle, Ete Indien is a winner on turf and dirt; however, his dirt win came going a mile right here at Gulfstream Park. He wired the field that day, a style that can only help in South Florida. He will need to step up to beat the class of the field, but his speed figure on dirt fits.

Ete Indien took advantage of an inside post and speed-favoring surface to score by 2 1/2-lengths over Toledo. The Patrick Biancone trainee drifted down the stretch. But because it was Ete Indien’s first start off the layoff, I expect that he will be sharper for the Holy Bull. Contender.


This Seek Again colt has spent most of his career on the turf and all weather surfaces at Woodbine. His two dirt starts left a lot to be desired. My money will be going elsewhere.

The most experienced colt here with nine starts, Clear Destination gets another chance to prove his true destination is on another surface. He’s by a Grade 1-winning turf router out of a hardy sprinter/miler, whose best work was over a wet track. I agree with Ashley on this one.


This son of Midshipman took to the dirt like a duck to water after debuting on the lawn. My big question is how far this colt will want to run. I think the Swale Stakes (G3) at seven furlongs earlier on the card would have been a better spot.

Relentless Dancer won his maiden in a dead heat with Silver State, who returned two starts later to run a fast-closing second in the Lecomte. The Louisiana-bred demolished state-breds next out. Distance is a concern for this son of Midshipman. His half-siblings didn’t win beyond 1 mile and 70 yards. His dam missed by a nose at 1 1/16 miles over the lawn, but she too was best as a sprinter. Pass.


Moving from Kentucky to South Florida seemed to do the trick for Mayberry Deputy, who notched his first victory in three tries when running at Gulfstream for the first time. Dam Wyn Jym is a half-sister to former Kentucky Derby hopeful The Pamplemousse. The last colt to beat Mayberry Deputy was Smarty Jones winner Gold Street. I rather like this one.

Mayberry Deputy improved to win his third start, a mile maiden race at Gulfstream. He beat a full field, but the ones who finished behind him are still finishing behind other horses, so the quality of competition remains suspect aside from Gear Jockey, who later proved he prefers the turf. Additionally, the Ken McPeek trainee timed his final furlong in an uninspiring 13.47. Mayberry Deputy was well-beaten by Lynn's Map and Gold Street in previous starts, another sign that this son of Mayberry Deputy isn’t fast enough to arrest the competition. Pass.

Final Thoughts

 No need to get fancy here. Tiz the Law is the proven class of the field and should have no problems dispatching of the competition. It’s a simple matter of filling out the superfecta.

Tiz the Law is the clear class, couldn’t be working any better, and is the likely favorite. I like this horse. All that being said, this is his first start back. Post No. 5 and Tiz the Law’s mid-pack running style means Manny Franco will likely have to take the colt wide around the first turn. Maybe Tiz the Law is fit enough to overcome this disadvantage, but realize that this is one stepping stone to the ultimate goal of the Kentucky Derby. I’m looking for Toledo to pull the upset.




#3 Tiz the Law

#1 Toledo

#7 Mayberry Deputy

#3 Tiz The Law

#4 Ete Indien

#4 Ete Indian

#1 Toledo

#2 Uncork The Bottle

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