The $260,000 Holy Bull (G3) claimed another juvenile champion victim on Saturday at Gulfstream Park when Fierceness, the 1-5 favorite, was a well-beaten third to the stakes-debuting Hades.
Making his first start since a runaway victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in November and officially crowned the champion colt at last week’s Eclipse Awards, Fierceness is the fourth champion to lose his three-year-old debut in the Holy Bull in the past dozen years. Others that met defeat were Hansen (2012), Shanghai Bobby (2013), and Classic Empire (2017).
A slow, troubled start did not help Fierceness, who found himself racing three wide in third behind a slow pace set by Hades, who crawled through early splits of :25.03 and :50.53. Fierceness bid for the lead around the far turn, poking his head in front after six furlongs in 1:14.25, but never could shake off Hades.
“He didn’t get off to a very good start,” Pletcher said of Fierceness. “The inside horse bumped him pretty good and then he got sandwiched and kind of had to shove him into the race and try to get the position we wanted, which we eventually did. But, he had to overcome a pretty rough start to get there. It seemed like he got into a good rhythm and straightened away for home and just kind of flattened out a little bit.
“Disappointed in the outcome. I think if you watch the replay of the start, it was a pretty rough start, kind of similar to what happened in the Champagne (G1). If he doesn’t get away well, he doesn’t get into the flow of the race the same way.”
In upper stretch, Hades re-rallied to take command and Fierceness began dropping back. On the scene late was Domestic Product, but his rally fell short as Hades registered a 9-1 upset by two lengths under Paco Lopez.
Owned by D. J. Stable and Robert Cotran, Hades covered 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:46.07 and paid $20.40. Domestic Product had a 1 1/2-length margin on Fierceness, with Inveigled 2 1/2 lengths behind in fourth. Completing the order of finish were Dancing Groom, Otello, and Sea Streak.
Hades is trained by Joe Orseno, who has a history of upsetting heavily favored three-year-olds. Orseno saddled Red Bullet to a win in the 2000 Preakness (G1) over odds-on favorite Fusaichi Pegasus.
“I don’t think we’ve gotten to the bottom of him yet. If you know me, I didn’t have him peaked today,” Orseno said.
Hades earned 20 qualifying points toward Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility by winning the Holy Bull. Domestic Product earned 10 points, while Fierceness earned six points, boosting his total to 36. Inveigled earned four points and Dancing Groom increased his total from three to five.
A gelded Florida-bred son of Awesome Slew, Hades moves on undefeated from three starts. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream on Dec. 9, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden optional claimer by a half-length (he did not race for the optional $50,000 claiming price). He preceded this win with an eight-length score in a seven-furlong allowance restricted to Florida-breds on Dec. 31.
“When the horse accelerates, he’s just got another gear at the top of the stretch. He showed it to us last time,” Orseno said.
Hades was produced by The Shady Lady, a daughter of Quality Road who has also reared the stakes-winning juvenile Devious Dame. Hades descends from the Grade 1-winning producer Pretty Discreet.
A $130,000 OBS juvenile purchase, Hades was bred by Ocala Stud, Joseph O’Farrell III, David O’Farrell, et al.