Kentucky Derby prep: Rocket Can wins slowly run Holy Bull

Kentucky Derby prep: Rocket Can wins slowly run Holy Bull
Photo: Liz Lamont / Eclipse Sportswire

One week after saddling Art Collector for a victory in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott made another visit to the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle after sending Rocket Can out for a triumphant run in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes.

Rocket Can ($7.20) went the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.97 to win his stakes debut. It was the slowest time for the race since it reverted to its current distance in 2012.

Rocket Can overcame an extremely wide trip in the 1 1/16-mile race to score by three-quarters of a length. The Frank Fletcher-owned son of Into Mischief was ridden by Junior Alvarado, who was aboard Art Collector for his Pegasus score.

The Holy Bull was a designated Kentucky Derby (G1) prep with the first five finishers eligible for qualifying points on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale.

Rocket Can broke from the far outside post position in a field of eight and was caught four wide around the first turn. Alvarado kept the gray colt in the clear on the outside, and Mr. Bob showed the way along the backstretch while posting fractions of 23.92 and 48.84 seconds for the first quarter- and half-mile.

Rocket Can was asked for run leaving the backstretch, made a three-wide move to the lead at the top of the stretch and continued on to withstand a stretch challenge from Shadow Dragon, another Mott trainee ridden by Jose Ortiz.

“The horse broke sharp, and I hustled out of there just to make sure I’m forwardly placed and he was there for me,” Alvarado said. “I couldn’t really save much ground the first part, because everybody had the same idea to get out of there running. I ended up being a little bit wide, but he was very kind. He was nice and relaxed the whole way around, so I was very pleased with what I had under me. By the three-eighths pole I started picking it up little by little knowing that it’s the first wire. I had a great feeling going all the way around.”

Peachtree Stable’s Shadow Dragon, a 30-1 long shot, finished second, 2 1/4 lengths clear of West Coast Cowboy, a 58-1 long shot ridden by Edgard Zayas.

Rocket Can finished off the board in a pair of sprints at Saratoga before stretching out around to two turns to graduate at Churchill Downs by two lengths Oct. 30. The Kentucky-bred colt finished his juvenile campaign with a close, second-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26.

“It was a little worrisome on the first turn,” Mott said. “He was four wide. It’s a short run to the first turn, and he had the outside post. He was four wide in the first turn and then three wide. The good part about all that is you have a clear trip. You’re running further than everyone else, but he got a nice clean trip, and maybe that’s what he needed today.”

Saturday’s effort strengthened Mott’s confidence in Rocket Can’s capability to run at longer distances.

“It seems like he can keep going,” Mott said. “Hopefully, another sixteenth is good, and another three-sixteenths is even better. Time will tell that.”

Mott also was very pleased with Shadow Dragon’s strong performance.

“It was a great race for him” said Mott, whose New York-bred son of Army Mule defeated state-breds in a six-furlong debut at Aqueduct on Sept. 29 before finishing off the board in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes. I’m very pleased with his effort for a horse that’s run only twice. He moved way forward today.”

The Holy Bull will be followed on the road to the Florida Derby by the Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 4 at Gulfstream.

“I think we’d want to do that with one of them, for sure,” Mott said.

Cyclone Mischief, the 6-5 favorite ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, raced in midpack before fading the seventh.

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