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: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvzlIr2Vr5U
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
G3 FORWARD GAL — Race 9
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
G3 SWEETEST CHANT — Race 10
WORTHY FAVORITE: Con Lima (5-2)
VALUE PLAY: Domain Expertise (5-1) to win at 4-1 or greater
EXOTICA: Exacta and Trifecta Box 184.108.40.206; 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 // 220.127.116.11.9 and 6.7 // 18.104.22.168.9 // 6.7. Superfecta Wheel (repeat and extend trifecta sequences)
G3 SWALE STAKES — Race 6
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)
G3 ROBERT B LEWIS — Race 7
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