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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 27, 2021 — Unabashedly, this is our favorite time of the three-year-old season. And everyone knows what the end game is, of course. If not, here’s a hint: It’s a big race every May.

But we love the playoffs to it because the horses are still young. They develop—or not—right before your eyes. Have last year’s juveniles grown? Have they gotten smarter? Are players and fans as smart as they think they are?

In time, all will be revealed, but I will share this much. The mile and one-sixteenth Holy Bull Stakes here on Saturday jump starts the eastern route to the Triple Crown in earnest, short stretch and all.

The meet’s leading trainer, Todd Pletcher, in search of a 17th title and sixth Florida Derby, agrees: “It’s that time of year when you have to see where you are.” In his case, that observation could not be more apt.

Pletcher has entered two colts in the Grade 3 two-turner, each coming off impressive debut wins; one at six furlongs, the other at seven. But if handicappers are looking to cash a bet, know that there will be plenty of video work to do.

And we’re not just talking about the Pletcher pair: 5-3/4 length victor Amount at seven furlongs, or Prime Factor, who won off by 8-3/4 lengths 1:10.38 for the three-quarters..

We’re also thing about Willy Boi, who is 2-for-2 in life on this surface and Greatest Honor, a winner at today’s trip in a style that doesn’t usually work in Hallandale Beach.

And then there’s Sittin On Go, a no-chance tripster in the BC Juvenile then never left the wood back home at Churchill 22 days later, but had a close enough view of stablemate Smiley Sabotka finishing second in the G2 Jockey Club Stakes, five lengths in arrears.

Some video observations:

Sittin On Go may be the type that doesn’t like running inside of horses, though he showed no signs of being intimidated by rivals as he battled on the fence throughout in the Jockey Club after having swooped the group when he won the pre-Juvenile Iroquois.

Willy Boi probably deserves more attention than he will get as he beat only restricted company in both starts at six furlongs. But his last-out allowance win was deceptively good.

Yes, he was a perfect 3-path stalker, but he did it on his own while attacking a sub-45 half mile. He distributed his energy well and galloped out not strongly, but with something left. His sprint pedigree likely will but doesn’t necessarily have to trip him up.

Papetu was a good second as a Mucho Macho Man pace contender throughout, also with good energy distribution, but Pletcher’s Mutasaabeq was too strong in the final furlong. That

Mutasaabeq was an expected starter in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs on Super Bowl weekend but was injured Thursday morning and is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Greatest Honour broke maiden coming from far back after getting jammed up at the gate and lower first turn going 1-1/16 miles here which, as stated, is not a dynamic you see succeed every day, and Shug McGaughey likes him:

“I’m very pleased with what I saw today, very pleased,” said McGaughey as he watched his horse paddock school yesterday. “…If he keeps going in that direction, he’ll be good. He’s developed a lot.”  

However, the Holy Bull is Pletcher’s to lose. He was spot on when he called Amount’s maiden score “very professional,” and Prime Factor’s “brilliant,” equivocating with the obligatory “big-step-to-go-from-maiden-race-to-winners” modifier.

Video confirms Pletcher’s description of both runners, adding that Amount is a horse that “ultimately will benefit from more distance,” and that he’s “hopeful” that Prime Factor will be able to overcome his inexperience.

The replay of Prime Factor’s 8-3/4 lengths score on DEC 12 says a lot more about the colt than his trainer did. See for yourself:

The Holy Bull is one of four graded stakes on Gulfstream’s Saturday program, along with G3s Kitten’s Joy, Forward Gal and Sweetest Chant.


G3 KITTEN’S JOY — Race 4

WORTHY FAVORITE: Never Surprised (9-5) to win, no price restrictions

VALUE PLAY: Exacta key- box 6 with 2.7 and 6 over 2.7 straight

EXOTICA: Trifecta wheel 6 // 2.7 // 2.3.7


WORTHY FAVORITE: Zaajel (7-5) to win, no price restrictions

VALUE PLAY: Quinella Zaajel and Competitive Speed (8-1)

EXOTICA: Exacta wheel 7 with 2.3 straight and Trifecta wheel 7 // 2.3 // 2.3. Pick 3: 7 // 2.4.6 // 6.7



VALUE PLAY: Domain Expertise (5-1) to win at 4-1 or greater

EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta Box; Con Lima, Domain Expertise, White Frost (9-2) and Honey Pants (3-1)

G3 HOLY BULL — Race 11

WORTHY FAVORITE: Greatest Honour (5-2)

VALUE PLAY: Prime Factor (3-1) to win, no price restrictions

EXOTICA: Exacta box 6.7. Trifecta Wheel 6.7 // 6.7 // and 6.7 // // 6.7. Superfecta Wheel (repeat and extend trifecta sequences)


WORTHY FAVORITE: Drain the Clock (5-2)

VALUE BET: By George (2-1) to win at early line odds or greater and exacta box with Drain the Clock

EXOTICA: Trifecta Key By George first and second with Drain the Clock and Poppy’s Pride (4-1)



WORTHY FAVORITE: Medina Spirit (5-2)

VALUE PLAY: Hot Rod Charlie (3-1) to win at early line odds or greater

EXOTICA: Trifecta Key Hot Rod Charlie first and second with Medina Spirit, Spielberg (7-2) and Wipe the Slate (4-1)

Back Saturday with a look at the Swale and Santa Anita’s G3 Robert B. Lewis Memorial with betting template

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8 Responses

  1. Watched parts of the industry ‘ s “Oscars” ,a fragmented presentation which I think that it should have included at least half of all winners races or at least the last four furlongs of each voted winner in its best race. The rest of the schedule was lousy anyway !! Winners thanked breeders and trainers,trainers thanked owners and associates and nobody thanked the riding jockeys which it might be a reminder that those small athletes do not have much to do with horses winning or not. Is that what many trainers/ owners think of the various Rosarios,,Ortizes,Santanas and JVs ? I wonder what is
    Irad Ortiz thinking about this subject, as the winner of the jockey competition ,since he is one of most sought after riders in most high stakes races in the Usa, if not in the world. That ” 10 % ” seems to be big enough to make a difference to ,at least, be mentioned as a (minor) reason why XYZ won by a nose or a neck. Ps: As the best Wonder Horse of all time,was Secretariat ever whipped on his way to destroy his competitors? Whitmore won. Gutty !

  2. JGR, a hellacious day as you can mark the time of this response and have been going at it since 7:45 am. Not complaining but giving a reason for having no time to watch the awards show but have seen enough of them to know what you’re talking about.

    If it is as bad as you say vis a vis the riders being shown no love, however unintentional, that would be terrible! I know they are well paid but as we all know, ambulances chase them around the track while doing their jobs.

    And how about those jocks in-demand who must do all that traveling and quarantining during these perilous times. More difficult. Have 3YOs this weekend but will try to have a take on the Eclipses at some point…

  3. On jockey changes I’m more likely to deduct points rather than add them to some of my probable choices in a race,usually not more than a couple of them. So,horse A gets a ( positive,ie preferable) jockey change,which usually lowers it’s $ odds but does that sway the choice(s) ? Not likely But , if the switch is with a second date jock,I put it behind x the gimmicks. Allen Jerkens drove me crazy with his several jockey choices,maybe overusing inexperienced bugs . Trainer’s move,jockey’s choice ? We rarely knew it then and esp. now with simulcasting and simultaneous races while we rarely try to absorb one track at a time. My maximum stays at two Major tracks. Sorry, tiny tracks from “parts unknown” and others whose glory days are long gone like G.Gate,Delmar,S.Anita and several more from all over the country. Most jocks remain anonymously ignored while the top five-six get the most attention. It seems to happen in every sport. Everyone can drive a Ferrari but can they handle curves,traffic at that speed?

  4. Great question at the end; curves and traffic at high speed, indeed. Could say like flying without a net. Jocks are the most underappreciated of all athletes, no question.

  5. Saturday January 30, 2021, Gulfstream Park

    9th-If someone can beat #7 Zaajel please let me know. Play with the 3,2. Done.

    10th- Another chalky race with the #4 Con Lima looking best. Play the 2,5,6 in your exotics

    11th-The Holy Bull. There are so many ways to look at this race. Hopefully it unfolds correctly and maybe we can get a break or two or. three. There is an abundance of speed in this race which should bode well for Greatest Honor but with a short stretch and short price I can see him just missing and running well. Prime factor’s last was impressive yet still one 6F race and right into a graded stake at 3-1 offers no value.Willie Boi has done nothing wrong albeit against lesser. Papetu finally put it all together getting a very nice figure and could pair on 4 weeks rest and no Jackies Warrior. Amount won his debut at 7F and takes a step up to face these. Sittin on go has tailed off since he was 2 and Romans is ice cold (1/23). The pick here is #9 Awesome Gerry. He’s paired his last 2, looks to stay a good trip behind the speed of Prime Factor who should be on the lead and Willie Boi. He will be 3rd or 4th in the 2 path and should get the jump on Greatest Honour. 8-1 is square. Bet the #9 and box with the 3,6,7 to get the exotic cash. Good luck to all and more importantly “Let’s go get the bad guys”

    Vinnie O’

    1. Good analysis, Vino. Prime Factor was extremely disappointing, he was a bad third. The winner was sensational; we’ll have some observations in Sunday column…

      1. Shug said that Greatest Honour was a “big clown” during the summer and they had to work with him. Seems to have done the trick as this win was so easy looking. I asked a friend who has been playing for almost 50 years if Shug was a great trainer and he said that he had owners like the Phipps who made his job much easier (Easy Goer). I told him I thought he was wrong and that he was an excellent trainer regardless of who his “owners” are/were. What say you? This GH looks like a real DY threat as you commented above.

  6. C,

    I would say that Shug McGaughey is in the Hall of Fame and is most deserving of that honor. He started as a local trainer in Louisville, starting building his stable from the Midwest out and people at Claiborne and the Phipps family didn’t achieve their success by making bad decisions. They recognized talent and they rewarded it.

    Any trainer will tell you he would be little without great horses and that’s so true. Shug made his bones before the term super-trainer was even conceived. Tell your friend, respectfully, he is wrong.

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