Audible turned what looked like a competitive edition of Saturday’s $350,000 Holy Bull (G2) into a laugher, drawing off by a widening 5 ½-length margin in the Kentucky Derby qualifier at Gulfstream Park.
A restricted maiden winner and open entry-level allowance scorer in his two previous starts at Aqueduct, the New York-bred son of Into Mischief netted 10 points while making his stakes bow for Todd Pletcher in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier.
And Audible humbled a trio of well-respected rivals: Grade 1-winning juvenile Free Drop Billy finished second, 7 ¾ lengths clear of 3-1 second choice Tiz Michief, who checked in 1 ½ lengths better than fourth-placer Enticed, the 9-5 favorite following a head score over Tiz Michief in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
A $500,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-old purchase, Audible is campaigned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and SF Racing. The bay colt was based in New York until late December and connections entered him in the one-mile Damon Runyon on December 30, but he was redirected to the Holy Bull after the Aqueduct card was canceled and the race postponed due to adverse weather.
“We actually brought him down a little bit later because we were entered in the New York-bred stake, and then all the bad weather hit in New York and it got delayed and carried over,” Pletcher said. “(WinStar’s) Elliott Walden said, ‘Why don’t we just take him down to Florida and see how he trains and go from there.’ Maybe it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The original plan was to run him in the New York-bred stake and then bring him down but when all the bad weather hit we came up with a different strategy and it seemed to work out well today.”
It worked out extremely well for Audible, who left the starting gate as the 3-1 third choice among nine runners in the 1 1/16-mile event.
With Javier Castellano up, Audible established a forward positioning as 32-1 outsider Money Manipulator advanced to show the way on a short lead, establishing an opening quarter-mile in :23.59. Audible was two lengths back in third after a half-mile in :47.14, with Free Drop Billy and Enticed also in close attendance as the field made its way down the backstretch.
Entering the far turn full of run, Audible moved to take the lead nearing the completion of the bend but Free Drop Billy was also accelerating and appeared poised to offer a serious challenge as he nearly drew alongside. Audible dismissed the idea with a sharp turn of foot into the stretch, drawing off impressively in the latter stages as he finished up in 1:41.92.
“We felt like he wanted more ground and he kind of showed that in his first race when he didn’t get away quickly and retreated when the dirt hit him in the face and then rallied with a pretty strong effort,” Pletcher said. “Then he came back and won two pretty impressive races after that, so we felt like more distance was definitely what he was looking for.
“He really kicked. Javier said he kept him to task because he was kind of looking around a little bit and saw the tire marks and he didn’t want him to make a mistake. He really accelerated. The final time was quite good.”
With the $208,320 payday, Audible has now earned 287,720 from a 4-3-0-1 record. Castellano has been up for the last two and liked what he felt Saturday.
“I love the way he did it today, compared to our last race, because his last race he was still developing and bit laid back,” Castellano said. “I really had to ride him last time out and he’d give it to you. Today he was sharp and had tactical speed in the race and we could move and he’d give me everything I asked of him. I love these kinds of horses, you don’t get in trouble with them, where you can move quick and can put them in a good position. I love the way he did it today. I think Todd did a great job developing this horse and to win the way he did today is very impressive.
“It’s only a mile and sixteenth today, but the way he galloped out was amazing. I look forward to the next race.”
Free Drop Billy, the 3-1 third choice, turned in a respectable performance after an unplaced effort as the 7-1 second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Luis Saez was up for Dale Romans.
“He ran hard. He tried hard. The winner was tough,” Saez said. “Maybe after the layoff he got a little tired, but he tried. I think he’ll be ready for his next start.”
Audible was bred by Oak Bluff Stables and hails from the mare Blue Devil Bel, a daughter of Gilded Time, the champion 2-year-old male of 1992 and close third-place finisher in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Blue Devil Bel is a half-sister to multiple New York-bred stakes winner Akilina, the dam of 2016 Jim Dandy (G2) runner-up Governor Malibu.
Pletcher was asked what’s next for the up-and-coming sophomore.
“I think the question now is do you run him two more times or one more time and we’ll let him tell us kind of how he bounces out of this,” said the trainer, who recorded his second Kentucky Derby victory via Always Dreaming in 2017. “He’s a very kind horse to train, very easy on himself in the morning. I love the way he came over here and handled everything. He was perfect in the paddock, post parade, gate – all those little intangibles that really help with horses that are pointing for big days.
“We felt like we had talent and we were trying to decide which direction to go. We knew we wanted to get him down here, especially when the weather got bad mainly to have a more reliable training schedule. All of that went smoothly. He shipped in great, he trained really well when he got here so it kind of made it an easy decision that this was an easy race to target.”