by Jeffry Cobb
This week I get the honor of bringing to you the Grade 2 Holy Bull from beautiful Gulfstream Park at Hallandale Beach, FL. It's raining today but it should be dry tomorrow and Saturday meaning we will most likely have a fast track to race on.
For a race that's intended for early Derby hopefuls, it's a little disappointing that GP could only attract 6 entries. I mean this is 350k purse, c'mon people. I'm really surprised trainer Barry Rose hasn't entered the race. I mean whatever he entered would be near hopeless, but if he could somehow manage to get up into fifth place, 3% of 350K wouldn't be so bad.
But let's look at the ones that are, at least as of now, planning to show up. In PP 1 is Perfect Saint trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Corey Lanerie. Perfect Saint is lined at 20/1 (aside, whoever is writing the morning lines at GP is full of it. The morning lines there are worthless). He has won once in 5 tries. One of those tries was at GP and not very inspiring finishing 8th of 8 16 lengths back. His Thorograph number was his worst on dirt. Maybe Romans is trying to pull a fast one here but I'm not buying it. A bullet workout, 1 of 4 is not very convincing when the ML favorite ran the same distance on a slower track a full 3 seconds faster.
So we segue to the ML favorite Mohaymen trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Junior Alvarado. So far the colt has done nothing wrong winning 3 of 3 including the G2 Nashua and Remsen at Aqueduct. He's been off since November 28, but McLaughlin can get them ready first out. Shadwell Stable paid a lot of cash for this one as a yearling, and its obvious there are Derby aspirations for this son of Tapit. Mohaymen likely won't be fully cranked for the 3yo debut, but he may not need to be as this is a rather lackluster field. He paired his first two Thorograph figures (usually not a good sign in my book as I expect a better effort 2nd time out), but then again, he won the race. Then improved almost 3 full points (5.25 to 2.5) in the Remsen. That last race is the best in the field, if there is a knock it is that he bore out in his last two races. Could just be a green two year old racing, or it could be more. Your guess is as good as mine
From PP 3 comes Fellowship for always dangerous GP trainer Stanley Gold and the Jacks or Better Farm. Fellowship has been busy racing 7 times as a 2yo and once already as a 3yo. In 8 starts he has finished first twice and placed thrice. He broke his maiden first out last May and has run in nothing but stakes races since winning the Florida Stallion Reality Stakes. Four of his seven stakes races were against restricted company. He stepped up in his 3yo debut, the 100k Mucho Macho Man and disappointed his backers at 3 to 1 with a fifth place finish. His second win did come at this distance, but he'd have to improve a lot off his last effort to take this one
Conquest Big E breaks from the 4 hole. Mark Casse, who is having a strong meet, is training and Mike Smith is making the trip from Cali for the ride. Maybe he is looking for a Derby prospect here. CBE has won two of 4 with a place finish to boot. I'll forgive his poor BC Juvi effort. Based on Thorograph figures he looks to be a colt which is steadily getting better although I note that his best figures are on sloppy tracks. If Conquest Big E can move forward off his last outing he could be a factor here. However, just because Mr. Smith is making the trip west doesn't mean CBE is a sure thing.
Probably the strongest competition for the ML favorite and the 8/5 ML on this one suggests so is the 5 horse Greenpointcrusader. The colt is another 4-2-1-0 runner, but one of his 2 wins is the G1 Champagne. The GPCrusader didn't show much in the BC Juvi finishing barely in the first division at 7th in a field of 14. Is there any significance that Johnny V. is getting the ride while is former jock Joe Bravo is on the premises? I don't know. I'm as bad at reading people as I am at reading horses. Greenpointcrusader regressed in terms of figures for his Breeder's Cup race. Devoted sheets players would tell you that he bounced out of his Champagne win. Sometimes, a big race will take a lot out of the animal and it takes a while for the horse to get back to that effort. As a sheets player, I would wait for GPCrusader to come back to that Champagne effort before taking him for the win. In addition the GP course favors the early runners and there is a distinct lack of pace in this race which will be unfavorable to the GPCrusader. Maybe that's the reason for jockey switch and we'll see GPCrusader show a little more early effort this time. A change in running style and a move forward from his last could put him in the hunt, but I don't think it will be good enough.
The 6 horse Frontier Ranger is trained by Ronald Pellegrini and ridden by Edgard Zayas who is one of the strongest and most promising young South Florida jocks. Frontier Ranger has thus far has been a productive runner, but not yet able to crack through non winners of two. He may be in a little over his head here. His first four races were on turf and he was moved to dirt for his last. On either surface his figures have been flat not showing any improvement or decline. I just don't think this is a stakes quality horse.
So it boils down to this. If you are a value player, in the traditional sense, you will find little in this race. The race is Mohaymen's to lose. If I had to try to beat him it would be with Conquest Big E. GPCrusader is also capable, but I don't think it will happen here. If I am playing this race it is all $100 Mohaymen to win except if the odds get ridiculous like 2/5 or something. I would play him at 4/5 and consider even money a bargain. Otherwise its El Paso.