January 27, 2023

Mo Donegal, Tiz the Bomb lead Holy Bull field

Mo Dongal wins the Remsen Stakes (Photo by Susie Raisher/Coglianese Photos)

Holy Bull S. (G3) — Race 11 (5:10 p.m. ET)

Although not ready to compete in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup, in contrast to his main rivals in Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park, Mo Donegal signaled potential classic quality with a game stakes debut victory in the Remsen (G2) in early December. The son of Uncle Mo was installed the 5-2 early choice for the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, the first major South Florida prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

A distant third to stablemate Varatti sprinting first out at Belmont Park in September, Mo Donegal has since gone 2-for-2 beyond a mile. After breaking his maiden going 1 1/16 miles, Mo Donegal was all out to beat Zandon in the nine-furlong Remsen at Aqueduct, in which he received a controversial ride by Irad Ortiz Jr. Despite actions from Ortiz which might have resulted in a disqualification, the order of finish was allowed to stand.

“We were pretty focused on the Remsen right after he broke his maiden,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We locked in on that and after the race I got with [Donegal Racing’s] Jerry Crawford, and we talked about how we could go about getting on the Derby trail. We decided that the Holy Bull was the right starting point.” “It gives us plenty of options. If he were to run well, we still have the Fountain of Youth (G2) to come back in if we wanted to or we could train up to the Florida Derby (G1).”

Returning from Breeders’ Cup appearances are Tiz the Bomb and Giant Game. Tiz the Bomb crossed the wire second in the Juvenile Turf (G1) behind Modern Games, but was considered the winner for pari-mutuel purposes after Modern Games was prematurely scratched after breaking through the gate before the start. Tiz the Bomb had previously broken his maiden by 14 lengths in an off-the-turf race at Ellis Park, and then won two stakes on the grass, including the Bourbon (G2).

“There are limited opportunities for three-year-old grass horses in North America. He’s a really talented horse and we don’t want to lock him in as strictly a grass horse. There’s no sense pigeonholing him as a grass horse,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “Even last year we could have made a case for keeping him on dirt, but I chose to keep him separated from some of my other colts. At this stage, we’re going to give him the opportunity to play on the dirt.”

Giant Game, meanwhile, ran in the Juvenile (G1) on the dirt. Given his relative inexperience, coming off a three-length maiden win at Keeneland, he ran well to be third in the Juvenile, 3 1/4 lengths behind Corniche.

Other notables among the field of nine include White Abarrio, who won his first two starts at Gulfstream convincingly and then shipped to Churchill Downs in November, where he ran six lengths third to Smile Happy in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). Simplification sped away to a four-length victory in the Jan. 1 Mucho Macho Man S. over one mile, while the Bill Mott-trained Galt enters off a three-length maiden win over the Holy Bull track and distance. Galt is a full brother to two-time champion filly Songbird.

Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 will be distributed to the respective top four finishers in the Holy Bull.

Earlier in the card, the $100,000 Swale S. (G3) over seven furlongs will feature a field of six three-year-olds. Oaklawn shipper In Dreams will take on the stakes-placed My Prankster, Of a Revolution, and Dean Delivers.