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Holy Bull! Gulfstream’s Weekend is Jammed-Packed

EinsteinGulfstream Park in Florida is the place to be for newly-minted three-year-olds this Friday and Saturday. Not only is Friday the Grade II Hutcheson Stakes, and Saturday heralding the return of the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes, but it is also featuring the 2009 debuts of promising Well Positioned, Checklist, and the famous Nicanor. But don’t forget the old pros in the Donn Handicap on Saturday, where the agile Einstein hopes to clench his first Grade I victory on dirt.

It’s always tough to weed through the new young prospects in the search for the next Kentucky Derby hopefuls, but Gulfstream has produced several recent winners who went on to become champions, including Curlin and Barbaro. Not to say that the next superhorse will raise his head in Florida, but it’s as good as place as any to start looking.

In Friday’s Hutcheson, the seven-furlong race will feature notables such as Break Water Edison, Captain Candyman Can, and Hello Broadway. Of these three better-known starters, Break Water Edison has the most starts under his belt and is the only one to be coming off a first-place finish. This horse hasn’t got the most impressive of records, largely due to the fact he’s been racing the top in his crop. And even though many of the horses in the Hutcheson’s field haven’t made names for themselves like Vineyard Haven,  that doesn’t mean they’re about to let him have an easy victory. Two more lightly-raced challengers, Rocketing Returns, trained by Nick Zito, and Salo Jak, are both entering with two-race winning streaks. The Hutcheson will serve as either a step down for some or a means for progression for others.

Also worth watching on Friday is Race 7, where three-year-olds will be running a 6-furlong allowance race. I rarely mention allowance races, so know there must be good reason for me to be mentioning this one. Entered in this race is Checklist, a horse good enough to make Blood-Horse‘s top list of “Derby contenders,” even though he’s only got one start to his name. In this maiden race, Checklist’s victory was impressive enough to plant his name on the list above horses like Chocolate Candy, Danger to Society, Silver City, and Beethoven. If you’re like me and like to “find” the best horses before they become stars, then Checklist should be one to keep your eye on.

And while we’re speaking of allowance races, might as well check out the first race at Gulfstream on Saturday. Well Positioned is running in his first start since breaking his maiden by 14 ¼ lengths on November 22nd at Aqueduct. Has Big Brown’s first owner, Paul Pompa, Jr., struck gold a second time?

The Grade III Holy Bull Stakes will be featuring several Derby prospects, but there are no sure bets to be found here. Of the most interesting is Danger to Society, one of Kenny McPeek’s highly touted three-year-olds, who is entering graded stakes competition for the first time. With two wins in as many starts, Danger to Society has shown he still has plenty of gas after running 1 1/8th miles. One contender in the Holy Bull who has been tested and shown a lot of heart is Beethoven, the resilient winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. Even when he seemed to stumble rounding the final turn, Beethoven still found enough to hold back the relentless Captain Candyman Can and stick his neck out in front of the late-charging Giant Oak. And then there’s a horse seemingly on the improve by the name of Saratoga Sinner, who narrowly missed second place to Danger to Society when he rallied late in the stretch and was a hair’s breadth behind Final Judgement. Saratoga Sinner improved with his last start, a win in a 1 1/8th mile maiden special weight in January. Other notables running in the Holy Bull are West Side Bernie, Bruce N Autumn, and Rockland. 

NicanorWhether or not Nicanor will actually run in Race 8 is still up in the air. Trainer Michael Matz is probably waiting to see the condition of the track on Saturday. If it’s a fast track, Nicanor will most likely run, but if it rains, his first start may be rescheduled to a maiden turf the following Saturday. If this full-brother of Barbaro wins on Holy Bull day, what a bittersweet victory it will be. The late Barbaro won the Holy Bull in 2006

The headlining race on Saturday is the Grade I Donn Handicap, a dirt race going at 1 1/8th miles for horses four years old and up. Einstein is essentially running this race to improve his record for his stud career. Sad as this reasoning sounds, it would be a remarkable thing if this Grade I turf winner also won a Grade I on dirt. Few horses can claim to be Grade I winners on both natural surfaces. Nevertheless, Einstein has proven himself to be a special horse, winning against Commentator and Delightful Kiss in the Grade II Clark Handicap, so there will be no disgrace if this champion can’t get up to the wire first in the Donn. Formidable challengers to Einstein include Albertus Maximus, Arson Squad, A.P. Arrow, and Bullsbay.

Taking into consideration all of these races at Gulfstream, it would be a good idea to either get your butt down to Florida, pronto, or lock yourself in your house and call in sick for a couple days. The road to the roses is calling, and you don’t want to miss those who may be trekking along it soon.


Friday at Gulfstream:
Checklist will be running at approximately 4:12pm ET in Race 7.
The post time for the Grade II Hutcheson Stakes is set for 4:43pm ET.

On Saturday:
Well Positioned is one to watch in Race 1. Scheduled post time is 1:15pm ET.
The estimated post time for the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes is 4:12pm ET.
Nicanor will make his racing debut in Race 8, directly after the Holy Bull. Estimated post time is 4:43pm ET.
Race 9 is the Grade I Donn Handicap and is slated for 5:14pm ET.

All of these races will be broadcast on HRTV.

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