Rocket Fuel
Please provide a valid email address.
Close

ABRV - GAMBLING

Wicked Strong, shown above in the post parade for the Remsen Stakes, has a big shot in Saturday's $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

For a moment in November, it looked like there was about to be a new favorite in the discussion abut prospects for the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Indeed, Cairo Prince appeared to be pulling away from highly regarded Honor Code in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. But then, for any number of speculative reasons, Cairo Prince yielded the lead late and lost to Honor Code by a nose.

Cairo Prince was installed as a logical 3-to-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday's Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream and deservedly so. The Nashua Stakes winner still seemed to take a step forward in the Remsen, and I have no doubt that he'll make another strong late move Saturday and be in position to win the race. However, from a handicapping perspective, I can't bet him at a short price after what happened in the Remsen. 

The fact that it was Honor Code who beat him makes it somewhat forgivable, but it raises red flags about his stamina past a mile and a possible disinterest in running alone on the lead. We saw the closers make a significant dent in a large lead in the Nashua and we saw him give up a lead in the Remsen. I think he's going to need a perfectly timed ride and will have to avoid wandering late.

Can Cairo Prince still win? Absolutely. Will I bet on him winning given those concerns? Probably not. In my opinion, here are five horses who can pull the upset and provide good wagering value in the $400,000 Holy Bull.

1. Wicked Strong - Javier Castellano takes the mount here over highly regarded speedster Coup de Grace (we'll get to him in a moment). A couple of months could make a huge difference in the progression of a 3-year-old, and if Wicked Strong improves at all off of his game third-place effort in the Remsen he could be really tough here. I like that he showed as much kick as he did in that last race, despite having to make a slight middle move to get closer to an extremely slow pace. Assuming the pace will be a little hotter in this race (can't imagine it not being faster than a :52.72 half-mile followed by six furlongs in 1:17.56), I think he finds himself in a much better position to strike late. If possible, Castellano might try to keep Cairo Prince inside of him and not let him get the jump on Wicked Strong like he did in the Remsen.

2. Mr Speaker - This horse has shown ability on the lead, stalking and closing from way out of it, as he did last out to win the Dania Beach Stakes. The Holy Bull might seem like an unusual spot to make his dirt debut, but I'm not going to question Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. In fact, that McGaughey came up with this plan makes me like it even more - no need to elaborate on the trainer's success with 3-year-old's who race in Florida this time of year. Love this horse's versatility and tactical speed. He also breaks from an ideal post, which should afford jockey Jose Lezcano the ability to assess the speed early and decide whether he wants to be up with the pace or sit off of it. 

MR SPEAKER IN DANIA BEACH

Mr Speaker Coglinese Hero

Photo by Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

3. Coup de Grace – This Tapit colt has run consecutive strong races to start his career. He showed some good early speed and staying power at a mile last out. Coup de Grace must cover slightly more ground today but does draw the rail and figures to set the pace under John Velazquez, who is making a return after several months away due to injury. This horse also posted a pretty nice, best-of-52 bullet workout (fastest at the distance) last weekend. There's plenty to like here if you think Coup de Grace can establish an easy lead, but I'd be leery of settling for too short of a price on him.

4. Financial Mogul - This horse flew late when last seen in the Nashua. If nothing else, he should be well rested coming off of a 2 ½-month layoff. He'll get some added distance to try and run down Cairo Prince here, but that horse managed to still win by daylight in a race where he was close to an extremely hot pace. I don't see the pace scenario setting up quite as favorably for Financial Mogul in the Holy Bull, but jockey Jose Ortiz does make the trip down to the beach for the day to ride Financial Mogul for Richard Violette, for whom he wins at a solid 22% clip. 

5. Intense Holiday - If it weren't for the connections, this is a horse you might toss without thinking twice. While Intense Holiday has yet to hit the board since breaking his maiden, he hasn't been kept away from facing the big boys either. Champion trainer Todd Pletcher shows continued confidence in him and elite rider Joel Rosario stays aboard. I'm going to give Intense Holiday an outside shot in the event of an absolute pace meltdown and assuming Rosario can drop him down close to the rail early on. If he's five wide into the first turn, he's probably done.

INTENSE HOLIDAY

Intense Holiday Inside

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Wagering Strategy

My top selection in the Holy Bull is going to be Wicked Strong. Don't expect to get the 8-to-1 he's listed at on the morning line but if he's even half that price, he warrants a bold win bet. If you're playing with $100, I'd spread your tickets out in the following manner:

$25 Win on Wicked Strong

$10 Exacta - Wicked Strong over Cairo Prince, Coup de Grace, Mr Speaker, Financial Mogul and Intense Holiday.

$5 Exacta - Cairo Prince, Coup de Grace, Mr Speaker, Finacial Mogul and Intense Holiday over Wicked Strong. 

$400,000 Holy Bull Stakes

Saturday, Race 10, Gulfstream Park, 5:03 p.m. ET

1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

1

Coup de Grace 

John Velazquez

116

Chad Brown

2

Financial Mogul

Jose Ortiz

116

Rick Violette Jr.

3

Best Plan Yet

Edgard Zayas

120

Stanley Gold

4

Almost Famous

Calvin Borel

116

Pat Byrne

5

Our Caravan

Corey Lanerie

116

Michael Dilger

6

Mr Speaker

Jose Lezcano

120

Shug McGaughey

7

Cairo Prince

Luis Saez

122

Kiaran McLaughlin

8

Wicked Strong

Javier Castellano

116

Jimmy Jerkens

9

Conquest Titan 

Shaun Bridgmohan

116

Mark Casse

10

Big Bazinga

Joe Bravo

116

Katerina Vassilieva

11

Intense Holiday 

Joel Rosario

116

Todd Pletcher

 

Image Description

Dan Tordjman

Dan Tordjman is the founder of the horse racing website www.danonymousracing.com and is a freelance writer, blogger and handicapper. A Syracuse University graduate, Tordjman has spent much of the last decade traveling the country while working in the television industry and has worked tirelessly to promote Thoroughbred racing on his website.

Image Description

Dan Tordjman

Dan Tordjman is the founder of the horse racing website www.danonymousracing.com and is a freelance writer, blogger and handicapper. A Syracuse University graduate, Tordjman has spent much of the last decade traveling the country while working in the television industry and has worked tirelessly to promote Thoroughbred racing on his website.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Sponsors & Partners

  • FoxSports1
  • NBC Sports
  • Logo 6
  • Saratoga
  • Santa Anita
  • CBS Sports
  • Monmouth
  • Keeneland
  • Gulfstream Park
  • Del Mar
  • Belmont Park
  • Arlington Park
  • OwnerView