Looking for an Upset in the Holy Bull Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 1st, 2018

It’s an oft-stated fact that outside post positions are a disadvantage in 8.5-furlong and 9-furlong races at Gulfstream Park. With a very short run to the first turn, horses drawn outside are in danger of getting hung wide early in the race.

That could certainly be the case in the $350,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) on Saturday, the first of Gulfstream’s three official prep races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. But just last week, we saw what can happen when a good horses catches a good break from an outside post—Horse of the Year Gun Runner won the $16 million Pegasus World Cup while starting from post ten, breaking quickly enough from the starting get to secure a perfect position heading into the first turn. He hardly gave up any ground at all.

That’s why I’m not going to worry about the wide draw for #11 Mississippi in the Holy Bull. Trained by Mark Casse, the promising son of Pioneerof the Nile has run three times so far and has been fast out of the gate every time. Following a fourth-place finish in his debut at Keeneland, Mississippi stepped up to a mile at Churchill Downs and tracked a fast pace before taking command and winning by 1 ¾ lengths over a quality field that included the next-out maiden winners Sourdough and Cove Blue.

But it was Mississippi’s most recent run that really caught my eye. Breaking from post two in an 8.5-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream, Mississippi got caught up in an intense battle for the lead with the well-regarded Todd Pletcher-trainee Noble Indy, and the two colts pulled well clear of their rivals leaving the far turn. Mississippi may have been at a disadvantage racing in tight quarters along the rail, but battled on gamely to be beaten less than a length in a fast time that yielded a solid 94 BRIS speed figure.

Mississippi’s recent run and experience over the track could give him an advantage over some of his key Holy Bull rivals, such as #1 Enticed and #7 Tiz Mischief, who have not run since finishing 1-2 in the November 25th Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II). I’ll take a chance that Mississippi will work out a good trip and key him in my wagers with some of the logical contenders and also longshot #9 Tip Sheet, who ran third behind Noble Indy and Mississippi last time out despite stumbling at the start and losing a lot of ground early on.

Update: With the news that Mississippi will scratch, I am upgrading the chances of a different horse with early speed, #4 Audible. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Audible has won back-to-back races going a mile at Aqueduct, including a 9 3/4-length romp in an allowance optional claiming race that yielded a 94 BRIS speed figure. The absence of Mississippi takes even more speed out of the Holy Bull, which should help Audible work out a favorable trip coming from a few lengths off the pace. He looks live and I'll take a shot with him as my key horse.

$5 exacta: 4 with 1,7 ($10) $5 exacta: 1,7 with 4 ($10) $1 trifecta: 4 with 1,7 with 1,2,7,9 ($6) $1 trifecta: 1,7 with 4 with 1,2,7,9 ($6)

Good luck!