The Road to the Kentucky Derby is well underway and makes a stop Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. for the 26th running of the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. The race is one of 19 Kentucky Derby “prep” races under Churchill Downs’ new 36-race points system that will determine qualification to Kentucky Derby 139.
Under the new system, the top four finishers in the 19-race “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” schedule of races will be awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively. This “prep” portion of the schedule began in late September and concludes with the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18. The two-leg Kentucky Derby Championship Series begins Feb. 23 and awards the top four finishers in the listed races 50-20-10-5  points, respectively for the first leg of eight races and 100-40-20-10  points, respectively, for the second leg of seven races. A wild card, which includes the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland (Apr. 20) and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs (Apr. 27) awards points of 20-8-4-2, respectively.
Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes may be one of the most anticipated of the Kentucky Derby Prep Season races thus far. A field of 10 will compete in the 1 1/16 mile test on the dirt and will include Champion Two-Year-Old Shanghai Bobby, who will be making his three-year-old debut.
In previous years, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ would have been able to rely on his laurels and the $1 million paycheck he earned from the Breeders’ Cup, as his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. However, under the new points system, Shanghai Bobby will have to prove himself as a three-year-old, just the same as the rest of the crop. He is currently second in the Kentucky Derby points standing with 20 points, behind Goldencents with 24. Eight others sit below him with 10 or more points, so a loss Saturday may have more of an impact than it would have under the old graded earnings system.
Shanghai Bobby has been installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite with regular jockey, Rosie Napravnik, flying in from Louisiana for the mount. Although this undefeated Todd Pletcher runner is clearly the class of the field and the one to beat, he’ll have to take on some worthy foes to grab the win and keep his standings on the Kentucky Derby points list. Shanghai Bobby’s front-running style should help him overcome his poor post position when he breaks from the rail in post 1.
Owners Lori and George Hall have teamed with trainer Kelly Breen to send Sanford Stakes winner Bern Identity to challenge Shanghai Bobby, again. The pair met at Saratoga in the Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes last September in which Shanghai Bobby finished 4 ½ lengths in front of third-place finisher Bern Identity. Bern Identity went on to win the Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs in his next start and finished second to Goldencents in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot. He has never finished out of the money in his six lifetime starts.
Trainer Kenny McPeek’s Frac Daddy, who finished second, a neck to Uncaptured, in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club last November at Churchill Downs, appears poised for a big effort in Saturday’s Holy Bull. The son of Scat Daddy posted a five furlong work in a sharp :59.4 two weeks ago. He turned in a similar effort just before the Kentucky Jockey Club. He’ll likely be sitting just behind the leaders and be ready when called upon.
Itsmyluckyday, a son of Lawyer Ron, already has eight starts in his young career, six of them in stakes company. He has four wins and a second and third place finish. He won the Gulfstream Park Derby in his last start and boasts victories over rivals Sr. Quiquyano and Joshua's Comprise. However, when coming face-to-face with Bern Identity in the Delta Downs Jackpot, Itsmyluckyday was not so lucky, finishing in seventh.
A long shot worthy of a mention is Dewey Square. Trainer Dale Romans, who took home the Eclipse Award for Trainer of the Year last weekend, sends out this this son of Bernadini. In his last start, Dewey Square was third to Uncaptured and Frac Daddy in the Kentucky Jockey Cup Nov. 24.
The complete field from the rail out is: Shanghai Bobby 4-5, Frac Daddy 8-1, Clearly Now 12-1, Bern Identity 4-1, Sr. Quisqueyano 20-1, Dewey Square 12-1, Itsmyluckyday 6-1, Tulira Castle 30-1, Fredericksburg 30-1, and Joshua's Comprise 50-1.
The race is the 10th on the Gulfstream Park Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 5:05 p.m. and can be seen on HRTV.