Gulfstream Park: The Grade II, $400,000 Holy Bull at 1 1/16 miles
by Brian Nadeau
#1 Frosted (5-2): The first of two heavy hitters for Godolphin tipped his hand with a rousing win at Aqueduct to break his maiden in October then followed that up with a game second-place finish going two turns when Lasix was added in the GII Remsen to close out his 3yo campaign, and he gives the boys in blue one of their best Kentucky Derby hopefuls in recent memory. Homebred son of Tapit has done little wrong in four starts for McLaughlin and should save all the ground from this cozy rail draw as he looks to embark on a path that will land him in Louisville the first Saturday in May. And while that’s fine and dandy, that’s also the issue here, as you have to wonder just how cranked he is with likely two more preps this winter and the ultimate goal Churchill Downs this spring. Even though he’s the most likely winner on paper, the gut says this is just the start of something special down the road; trying to beat him, today.
#2 Keen Ice (6-1): Stretch-running son of Curlin hasn’t been out since finishing third, but some 8 lengths behind Frosted, in the Remsen. He does get a few bonus points as the track was a conveyer belt that day, but he went from ninth to third in the last half-mile. Of course, he was still beaten plenty and probably just passed some tired soldiers, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder. On the plus side, he did draw well and is in expert hand with Romans, who has done some good things with closing Donegal 3yos in the past (think the ill-fated Dullahan, as well as Paddy O’Prado), so there are some things to like in this corner. But this is just not the type of racetrack where horses drop out the back and make up ground, so unless the pace becomes suicidal and contested, it’s tough to think he can plug along for anything more than a minor award; underneath, if at all.
#3 High Noon Rider (15-1): Remington Park invader will like this inside draw after being marooned in the 11-hole when he shipped to Oklahoma for the two-turn Remington Mile, though he did make a nice middle move before flattening out to be third that day. Son of Distorted Humor dueled the entire way around the main track at Aqueduct in November to break his maiden going a one-turn mile for Weaver and figures to be on or pressing the lead with an alert beginning today. There’s little doubt this track has been known to carry these types a lot longer than people think, and he showed two back that he can run fast, but with speed to his outside, he has the “pop and stop” look to him; know him early, not too sure about late.
#4 Bluegrass Singer (4-1): Game and determined winner of the local Mucho Macho Man last time going a one-turn mile for Vitali is also entered in the GIII Hutcheson sprinting on the undercard, so it will be interesting to see where he lands. If it’s here, then the rest—especially those who want to mix it up early—better have their running shoes on as this guy is going to the front and making them come and get him. Experienced Bluegrass Cat colt looks eerily similar to last year’s GII Fountain of Youth winner Wildcat Red, who was thought of as a sprinter but never wanted to stop over this speed-favoring oval, so if he’s in the gate, don’t think he’s just going to flash speed and come back to them when the real running starts. Of course, we’ve already mentioned that there’s speed to his inside and outside, which means that even if he clears, nothing is being handed to him, and that makes lasting over some serious Triple Crown candidates a mighty dicey proposition; taking a strong stand against if he plays.
#5 Juan and Bina (20-1): Well-bred son of Indian Charlie is out of Caressing, who upset the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies way back when at nearly 50-1, which will give his backers some hope as he’s lining up to be the longest shot on the board in here. Delgado charge exits a well beaten fifth-place run behind ‘Singer in the Mucho Macho Man in his first local start and will try to get back to the distant second-place finish in Gulfstream Park West’s (think Calder) two-turn Smooth Air two back. There’s seemingly some speed and versatility in this corner, which means he’s eligible to trip out nicely just off the speed, but not only does he have to rebound from a real dud, he also has to do it against what is by far the best crew he’s ever seen; easy toss.
#6 First Down (12-1): The “other” Godolphin runner sure looked good breaking his maiden over Frosted in his debut at Belmont in September, which is rare for an Albertrani firster, so right away you know there’s talent here. Homebred son of Street Sense stubbed his toe in his next start when fourth in a muddy renewal of Aqueduct’s GII Nashua in November, but ahead of him were heavyweights Blofeld and El Kabeir, so it’s not like he was meeting duds, not to mention he likely didn’t handle the wet track either. Plus, he returns with Lasix added for this and gets to go two turns for the first time as well, so with a lot of positives, not to mention a big price and a stablemate who probably doesn’t want this as much as he does, you have to think it’s all systems go today; look out.
#7 Frammento (12-1): Zito charge was a distant second to Bluegrass Singer in a one-turn optional claimer here in December and not only has to bridge the gap on that rival, but on a few other bigwigs as well, so the hurdles are pretty significant. Midshipman colt did break his maiden going two turns at Keeneland in October, at this trip, too, so you know this is within his scope, but yikes, he sure does pick a mighty ambitious spot to make his graded stakes debut. Zito fans will get their guy at a nice price, but beyond that, this colt is tough to endorse; needs softer to threaten.
#8 Upstart (2-1): ML favorite completed a fine juvenile campaign with a very solid third in the BC Juvenile at Santa Anita and kicks off his sophomore season as one of more highly regarded sophomores in South Florida this winter. Son of Flatter gives Violette another extremely talented Empire-bred just one year after Samraat did some good things on the Triple Crown trail in New York last winter. There’s some cause for concern here, though, as even though this colt is twice GI-placed, he’s also yet to win a race outside the NYB ranks or past 6 ½ furlongs, which means you’re going to have to take a mighty short price on a horse being asked to do something for the first time. He’s also a lot like Frosted, in that he’s kicking off a campaign with much bigger goals down the road, so just how primed he is to win this is anyone’s guess. His talent is unquestioned, and if they go too fast early on, he’ll be the one to fear in the lane, but let’s take a wait-and-see approach before backing; taking a strong stand against on top.
#9 Dom the Bomb (30-1): Not quite sure why this Illinois-bred son of Bring the Heat is 30-1 on the ML as he’s won his last two by a combined 17 lengths and Rivelli doesn’t run them where they don’t belong, so while he’s hardly one of the ones, he’s also not to be dismissed as some rank outsider (he’s also cross-entered in the Hutcheson). Streaking runner brings some versatility, too, as he stalked and pounced in winning a minor state-bred stakes when last seen at Hawthorne in December, so it’s not like he’s a need-the-lead type either. Sure, on the face of it, he’s overmatched against some of the best bred 3-year-olds in training, but he’s got the right kind of running style over this track and could catch a few of these with their line out of the water while they wait for bigger fish; could spice up the bottom of your exotics.
#10 Decision Day (30-1): Woodbine invader was doing the Polytrack thing in the Great White North, but the son of Macho Uno out of an Unbridled’s Song mare is sure bred for the real stuff. Donver homebred starts for Carroll, and these are the same connections who invaded Saratoga to win the GI Alabama a few years back with Careless Jewel, so don’t think they are bringing a water pistol to a gunfight today, not to mention they reached out and got JV to ride too. Versatile runner closed going two turns two-back, then won the Coronation by pressing the pace when last seen in November, but with a wide draw and some speed entered, you’d have to think he’ll take the former approach. On paper he’s looking up at most of these, but you’ve got pedigree and connections here, so at a big price you could do a lot worse than sliding him in the bottom rung of your exotics; may outrun his odds.
#6 First Down