Kentucky Derby Update: Surprise in Holy Bull, No Surprise a Baffert Runner Dominates

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D.S. Williamson

February 5th, 2019

Saturday, Feb. 2, brought another round of Kentucky Derby prep action. One favorite dominated in his Derby prep. Mucho Gusto looked every bit like another Bob Baffert monster 3-year-old in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

The other two winners definitely earned their trophies. But both Harvey Wallbanger and Tax won under extenuating circumstances. Check out my analysis.

Harvey Wallbanger Takes Holy Bull, Tax, Mucho Gusto Win Withers and Robert B. Lewis

Grade 3 Withers Stakes

Winner: Tax

The gelded Arch sired 3-year-old had to wait for room along the rail, but once he got it, he squeezed through for the win. The extenuating circumstance in the Withers on Saturday was how Not That Brady ran about 7 wide around the first turn, managed a 1:11 and change three-quarters mile, and still hung on for second.

Heck, Not that Brady didn't just hang on for second. He actually kept fighting and might have caught Tax if the finish line hadn't come up when it did. Not That Brady and Our Brain Trust went wide, ran on the pace, and still almost won. That's not taking anything away from Tax. That's just to say that if these 3 meet each other in the Gotham and/or Wood Memorial, my money won't be on the Withers winner.

Most Disappointing: Moretti

He made the type of move that's sent plenty of Todd Pletcher 3-year-olds to the winners circle before they hit the turn. Then, he sort of got annoyed, bothered, or just tired. I could tell he wanted to run, but just didn't have it. Still, Todd's 3-year-olds almost always fire off the bench. Moretti didn't.

He might be a cut below the better 3-year-olds. Let's see how he works up to his next prep.

Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes

Winner: Harvey Wallbanger

Named after the classic cocktail, a screwdriver with the Italian liqueur galliano, Harvey Wallbanger impressed, no doubt, but he got the perfect setup. He ran right up the rail after Epic Dreamer and race favorite Maximus Mischief got the first-quarter in 23 flat, the half-mile in 46.76, and the three-quarters in 1:10.89. In other words, the Wallbanger got a dream trip up the rial.

Everfast closed like a beast on the outside to get up for second. He ran exceptionally well at 99/1. So did the fave, Maximus Mischief. I'm not ready to jump on the Harvey Wallbanger bandwagon just yet. He is trained by Ken McPeek, but things set up way too well for him.

I've got a different opinion about Everfast. Sure, he went off at 99/1, but he's a Calumet Farm horse trained by Dale Romans. He's got the breeding, sired by Take Charge Indy and from an Awesome Again broodmare. Everfast could improve enough to show up big time in his next prep.

Most Disappointing: Mihos

The race set up perfectly for him and he failed. The big question's whether he simply bounced after winning his last couple of races, or if he's not ready for graded stakes competition. We'll see. Right now, unless he just bounced, there's no other reason for the bad performance.

Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes

Winner: Mucho Gusto

The Bob Baffert trained Mucho Gusto skipped over a sloppy Santa Anita racetrack for an easy score in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

He won easily, yes, but he only faced 4 other horses. The 8/5 second choice, Mucho went off at 3/5, Gunmetal Gray is a closer, and Mucho had a rabbit to chase. Still, he accelerated in the stretch, which tells me this guy has that all important second gear that Baffert's two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah and Justify, had. How good could Mucho Gusto be? Hard to say. We'll know more in his next prep. Bob's excited about him. He should be after that performance.

Most Disappointing: None

It's hard to find fault with Gunmetal Gray's run. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee did all he could to catch Mucho Gusto. Only Silky Sullivan could catch quality runners like Mucho Gusto after they take the lead. With the right setup, Gunmetal Gray could be tough to beat. The others were in over their head, which is why they didn't disappoint when finishing behind the two chalks.