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Kentucky Derby 2014 - Handicapping the Holy Bull Stakes

Cairo Prince Nashua 615 X 400
Photo: NYRA / Coglianese Photos
A wide-open field of eleven colts take their first major step on the Triple Crown trail in Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Since 2000, only three favorites have won the Holy Bull; the last one was Hey Byrn in 2008.  Ashley Tamulonis a/k/a Florida Filly and I review the field.
Coup de Grace—Undefeated in two starts, Coup de Grace has been training nicely at Palm Meadows. A win over the Gulfstream course benefits him, as does he racing style. He looks to be fine for the 8.5 furlongs here, but being a Tapit baby makes me seriously question him for the upcoming Classic distances. Another facing an acid test.
Financial Mogul—He ran his eyeballs out to get the place against Cairo Prince in the G2 Nashua in November. He looked strong turning for home but finished up rather evenly while grittily holding off Noble Moon, who finished 3rd that day. Sire Street Boss was a Grade 1 winning sprinter in his day, and his dam Trav n’ Kris was also a sprinter. This one looks to be a sprinter himself as well, and I believe the Holy Bull distance will be too much for him.
Best Plan Yet—I really liked this one up until his disaster of a running in the Gulfstream Derby. One race does not make or break a colt, but I was left wondering if this bay son of Hear No Evil just had an off day or is yet another Calder Monster. With no recent works over the Gulfstream track, I am still wondering just that. As good a group as he faced last out, he’s facing better in this spot and will really have to step up his game if he doesn’t want to finish up the track…again.
Almost Famous—I like that this Patrick Byrne trainee has already been successful both at the Holy Bull distance and at the track where the Big Show will take place in a few months. Of the three colts he finished behind in his stakes debut, two went on to win next out in allowance ranks. Though he gets stamina influence from his sire, Almost Famous’ dam was a graded stakes winning sprinter. He has already out done his dam in terms of distance, but he will be facing a steep class test here.
Our Caravan—With only his maiden win to his name, Our Caravan is the least experienced of the bunch, and against the class he is facing here, that is a bad thing. He was a long shot winner here at Gulfstream last month and is a perfect one-for-one at 8.5 furlongs. His dam is an unraced daughter of Elusive Quality, and his sire was a graded stakes winning miler. Second dam Jersey Girl is the dam of the Grade 1 winning sprinter/miler Jersey Town. I’m not sure how far this one will want to go, though he has already proved capable of winning at an extended sprint distance. I think he’ll be outclassed by his more experienced rivals.
Mr Speaker—Without a doubt, he is the single most intriguing entrant in the field. With all four of his career starts coming on the lawn, the Holy Bull will be his dirt debut. As good as he has been on the turf, his pedigree screams dirt, and I look forward to seeing if his dirt form reflects his pedigree. His morning works on the dirt at Payson Park have looked good. I haven’t seen any times that have really wowed me, but he hasn’t shown any speed tendencies in the afternoons either. Shug knows how to train for the big ones, though, so I doubt Mr. Speaker will be out of his class here.
Cairo Prince—So far this handsome gray son of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile has done nothing but impress. He gave highly touted Honor Code everything he could handle and then some back in November in the G2 Remsen.  He’s had two months to rest up since that huge effort and has put in two very strong consecutive bullet works signaling his readiness for this spot. He retains jockey Luis Saez who has been aboard for all three of his career starts and would be a deserving favorite in this field.
Wicked Strong—You can’t say this Hard Spun colt’s name without affecting a New England accent, if you don’t already have one. He ran one helluva a race in the Remsen while racing greenly the entire circuit. He was a bit further off that dawdling pace than Honor Code and Cairo Prince, but he still showed a strong enough kick to get within ½ length of those two at the finish while gobbling up ground rather rapidly. If he puts his mind to business, he has the potential to be dangerous. Second dam Classic Approval produced black type runners Highest Class, Gulch Approval, and Approval Rating, but only Highest Class earned her black type on the dirt. I like the potential here, though, and look forward to seeing a rematch between him and Cairo Prince. Another think I really like with Wicked Strong is the mile workout given to him by trainer Jerkens. You don’t often see that, but I always like it when I do.
Conquest Titan—This one intrigues me. His first two dirt efforts were nothing to write home about, but in his last start, he beat Gulfstream Park Derby winner General A Rod in a $75,000 NW1X at Churchill Downs. The most impressive thing about that win was that he lost his footing at the start and was dead last at the ½ mile call and still only sixth with a quarter mile left to run. He pulled away to win by almost 2 lengths at the wire. He should get plenty of stamina influence from both his sire Birdstone and damsire Mineshaft, and Madam Lagonza, his second dam, produced a graded stakes classic winner on the turf in Woodlander. He won the Swynford on the lead at Woodbine but made one run in his allowance win, and I think that latter style may suit him better. He should relish the increasing distances as we move forward to the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
Big Bazinga—The Holy Bull will be the gelded son of Bluegrass Cat’s second try on conventional dirt after beginning his career on Woodbine’s all weather track. In his dirt debut, he finished 12 ¼ lengths behind the winner that day. He stalked a fairly brisk pace last out and maybe pace had as much to do with his 7th place finish as the surface did, but I’m still looking for more here.

Intense Holiday—He exits three straight 4th or 5th place finishes in graded stakes company against some of the same foes he’ll see here. He has yet to show that he is in the same class as them, and I doubt that is likely to change here.
Coup de Grace (Tapit - Home Court, by Storm Cat)has won both of his starts fairly easily on the lead, yet not in a speed crazy fashion.  His dam won or placed in all four starts and his second dam is the champion Jewel Princess.  I agree that his pedigree is borderline for Classic distances, but the right running style and mental fortitude can make up for that. Coup de Grace’s Brisnet speed figures show a nice progression and he owns a last out bullet breeze. His forward running style suits the track and he’ll likely shoot for the lead from the #1 post.   Dangerous.
Financial Mogul (Street Boss - Trav n' Kris, by Snow Chief) is a half to four stakes placed sprinters. His pedigree indicates that he’ll be best as a sprinter/miler.  I agree with Ashley that 1 1/16 miles may be a furlong too far.  Toss.
Best Plan Yet (Hear No Evil - Bayou Plans, by Bayou Hebert) is this year’s Calder stakes horse taking on the shippers. He’s owned and trained by the same connections who brought us Jackson Bend, Fort Loudon and champion Awesome Feather. Best Plan Yet is a half brother to Forego (G-1) hero Midas Eyes, multiple G-3 winner Bayou Lassie, multiple stakes winner Awesome Belle and Group 3 placed Al Zir. Yes, Best Plan Yet tossed in a clunker in the Gulfstream Park Derby, but it was his first race since October.  He has the class, but as Ashley remarked, he has to step up his game to be competitive here.  Consider for exotics.
Almost Famous (Unbridled's Song - Wild Gams, by Forest Wildcat) may vie for the lead with Coup de Grace. The son of multiple G-3 winning sprinter Wild Gams,  Almost Famous has won twice without pressure on the lead. He was eyeballed in the Street Sense and faded to fourth.  He’s had three so-so works at Palm Meadows and will have to step up his game to be competitive here.  If something untoward happens, maybe he’ll hang on for a piece. Toss.
Our Caravan (Daaher - Alwaan, by Elusive Quality) benefited from a quick early pace, but he was very professional in his debut.  After sitting sixth early on, the son of Cigar Miler winner Daaher made a sweeping move around the far turn and cruised past the tiring pace setters to win by an easy three lengths.  His dam is an unraced half sister to Cigar Mile winner Jersey Town and the second dam won the Mother Goose and Test Stakes.  Our Caravan hails from a small but proficient barn. Trainer Dilger is winning at a 47% clip and his horses have won two out of three in stakes races.  Our Caravan may be overlooked in the betting, making him a tempting longshot play.
Mr Speaker (Pulpit - Salute, by Unbridled) is the most royally bred colt in the field. I agree, Ashley, that he’s an interesting addition to the Holy Bull field. The usual issue with turf horses switching to dirt isn’t the change in surface; it’s the unexpected kickback that gets to them. Mr. Speaker schooled behind horses on the dirt at Payson Park and handled it just fine, so he’ll know what to expect on race day.   Mr Speaker is out of a stakes placed daughter of the Champion mare and blue hen Personal Ensign.  His dam is a half sister to Champion My Flag, plus sires Miner’s Mark, Our Emblem and Traditionally.  Champion Storm Flag Flying, graded stakes veteran Interactif  and second crop sire Parading are all part of this immediate family.  Mr Speaker has been working phenomenally  well  at Payson and I expect him to run a winning race.
The Holy Bull is the highly anticipated three year old debut of Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile - Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull).  The son of second crop sire Pioneerof The Nile is a short nose away from being undefeated. I agree with Ashley that his work pattern at Palm Meadows is strong, but he doesn’t have to win here.  This is just the first step and Cairo Prince may not be geared for a top effort. He’s the likely favorite, but it’s rare for favorites to win this race. I think he’s beatable for the win, but will finish in the money.
In the Remsen, Wicked Strong (Hard Spun - Moyne Abbey, by Charismatic)  looked like a drunk New England college kid weaving down the Ft. Lauderdale Strip.  Each of the Remsen quarters was faster than the previous one, which is rare, so this guy wasn’t closing like a freight train into slow fractions, he was legitimately making up ground. Two steps past the wire he was long gone.  Yeah, he’s talented, but the $64 Thousand Dollar question is -  has he matured enough to play in the deep end of the kiddie pool? Definitely one to consider for the win.
Conquest Titan (Birdstone - Miner's Secret, by Mineshaft) has the lung power to run all day. Yes, he won the Swynford against a lightly raced group, but he was outclassed at Keeneland and had no business being entered in the BC Juvenile. His win against optional claimers at Churchill was a very good race. However, the second place finisher General A Rod was all out to win the Gulfstream Park Derby by a head, getting the last ¼ mile in a pokey :13.13.  Conquest Titan worked a bullet five furlongs in an average 1:00 4/5 , but each subsequent work has been slower.  I don’t think Conquest Titan is in the same class level as some of these and he has the added burden of breaking from an outside post. Toss.
Big Bazinga (Bluegrass Cat - Darling Daughter, by Maria's Mon) zipped four furlongs in  :47 ¼  at Palm Meadows and has really stepped it up in his last two works.  Bluegrass Cat is an average (15%) polysire and Big Bazinga should improve with the switch to dirt.  He has some class in his distaff family, as he’s a half brother to stakes winner Holiday Mischief and his dam is G-3 placed. The drawback here is his wide post and his 7% winning trainer. Pass here, but if he comes back in a softer spot, consider.
Intense Holiday (Harlan's Holiday - Intensify, by Unbridled's Song) has no speed and was beaten like a rented mule in all starts against graded stakes company. Why, Todd, why?
Track bias:  Pace setters/pressers win 75% of the races held at 1 1/16 miles.  Due to the track configuration, the starting gate is about ten strides from the first turn, so anybody in posts 8+ are at a disadvantage.
LAURIE: I’ll take a super box with Mr. Speaker, Wicked Strong, Caro Prince, and Coup de Grace as my longshot. Depending on the odds, you might want to toss a few bucks on Our Caravan. I think he has real potential to spoil the exotics.
ASHLEY:  Cairo Prince and Wicked Strong are my top 2 picks followed by Mr. Speaker and Conquest Titan.


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014 - Handicapping the Holy Bull Stakes...

Cairo Prince will win, he has the determination and the stength to do so.
I like Wicked Strong's ancestry with that Charismatic in there!
Conquest Titan. Last race was sensational; a son of Birdstone, same mechanical, machine-like finishing kick.
a PRESSER will win it
Surfing USA ( Roman Ruler - Cape Hope, by Cape Town) might become a nice sprinter/miler. Keep an eye on Top Billing ( Curlin - Parade Queen, by A.P. Indy) in the same race. That one is a half to Untouched Talent, the dam of Bodemeister.
Thanks for the analysis ladies. Here's one that will make your head spin... Surfing U S A (GP R4) will look more impressive on Saturday than any in the Holy Bull.
Looks like Jimmy Jerkens has a budding star in Wicked Strong....one that will relish the Derby 10 furlong distance. Doesn't have to win this 1 1/6 mile race, but if he don't he will be flying at the end. Is still maturing. Watch out!
J.Velazquez- B. Borel- L. Saez- J.Bravo-
I love him too sully has an AWESOME turn of foot
Sully's Holy Bull lock is Conquest Titan. Find a way to use him on your tix, and you might be a winner. 12/1 morning line, but if he goes off more, it's a gift. He will move up on many derby polls after this. He's already in my top 5!
I think Intense Holiday's race in the Remsen was better than it looked. If he moves forward just a bit off of it, he may be a contender. I will place a backup bet keying him on top of Wicked Strong, Cairo Prince, and Financial Mogul.
Wicked Strong, Cairo Prince, Intense Holiday, Financial Mogul.
Wicked Strong, Cairo Prince, Intense Holiday, Financial Mogul.
Wicked Strong, Cairo Prince, Intense Holiday, Financial Mogul.
I am all in with Wicked Strong
I think the distance might be within Financial Mogul's wheel house. His damsire won the Preakness and was successful on the Derby trail (similar in appearance as well), and Street Cry can produce runners at any distance or surface.
Mr. Speaker, Cairo Prince and Wicked Strong...stone cold tri-box w/Intense Holiday rounding out the super plays!
Wicked Strong- Cairo Prince- Intense Holiday...the 3 out of the strangly run Remsen
Wicked Strong- Cairo Prince- Intense Holiday...the 3 out of the strangly run Remsen

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Meet Laurie Ross


I've been around horses for most of my life, working in racing stables as a hot walker and exercise rider in my teenage years, and later as a volunteer with rescued and retired racehorses. I became interested in pedigree when the sons and daughters of my favorite horses started their racing careers.   


For more than a decade, I've passionately studied pedigree, how it applies to handicapping and breeding theories. In 2010, I joined Horse Racing Nation as their Pedigree Analyst, focusing on juvenile stakes winners, Triple Crown contenders and first crop sires from a handicapping perspective.   


In 2011, I accepted the role of South Florida Coordinator and Advisory Board Member for the national non-profit Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association (ThoroFan). Working closely with Gulfstream Park management and other race fans, we created a ThoroFan Chapter at Gulfstream Race Track. Our main project is assisting Thoroughbred rescue and re-training groups.


I continue to maintain my website Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds and blog of the same name. As a pedigree consultant, I specialize in assisting small to mid-size breeding/training operations with broodmare breeding reports, sales catalog analysis and recommendations on claims and private sales. 10 - 20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue and retraining groups.
I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic please contact me at lross@horseracingnation.com.

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