One week after Gun Runner dazzled the crowd, winning the world’s richest race before heading into retirement, Gulfstream Park is turning the track back over to the types of horses that put the place on the map.
Triple Crown prospects.
A field of 11 is set to square off Saturday in the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes, the first major prep for East Coast 3-year-olds taking aim at the Florida Derby in March and, ultimately, the May 5 Kentucky Derby.
“This is a key race for us to see how they stack up,” said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who is sending out Enticed, the 3-1 program favorite, in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull.
McLaughlin has won the race before, with Cairo Prince in 2014 and the dazzling Mohaymen in 2016. But an injury derailed Cairo Prince before he could even get to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, and Mohaymen finished a disappointing fourth in the 2016 Run for the Roses.
Enticed could put McLaughlin back on the march for Kentucky.
The colt won the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill in November after finishing third to Firenze Fire and Good Magic in the Champagne Stakes. Good Magic would go on to be named the nation’s 2-year-old Eclipse Award champion after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Enticed has been running in strong company, in other words.
“He’s done everything right and he won a nice race last time out,” McLaughlin said. “He’s doing great and we’re happy, but it’s hard to compare him to Cairo Prince and Mohaymen and other horses to him.”
Enticed’s top challenge in the Holy Bull could come from Tiz Mischief, the horse he nosed out to win the Kentucky Jockey Club. Tiz Mischief is one of four horses trainer Dale Romans has entered in the Holy Bull, along with Bandito, Free Drop Billy and Hollywood Star
Trainer Dale Romans entered four horses in the Holy Bull, intending to run as many as three in the two turn prep, including Frank L. Jones Jr.’s Tiz Mischief and Calumet Farm’s Bandito. Romans is planning to run one of the Albaugh Family Stables’ duo of Free Drop Billy and Hollywood Star.
“It’s to get them all started, but it also fits for all the horses,” Romans said. “If I run three, it’ll be for three different owners. It might be better for me to keep them all separated, but I think this is the best race for all these horses to start back this year.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the 2017 Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming, has entered Audible and Pony Up in the Holy Bull.
The Holy Bull is carded as the finale on Saturday’s 12-race program, which also includes four other stakes.