By Gene Kershner
On Saturday afternoon, the newly crowned 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby will begin his quest on the Derby trail in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season schedule and is worth 10 points to the eventual winner in the new Derby points qualifying system.
The undefeated colt has entered is taking the Florida route to the Derby, one that’s been successful for such 3-year olds such as Barbaro and Big Brown in recent years and looks to extend his five race winning streak. He drew the rail (which is winning at a 20 percent clip) for the first test of his sophomore season and has been training well for Todd Pletcher.
He’ll be part of a respectable field of 10 horses looking to accumulate valuable points in the 8-1/2 furlong race going two turns at the Hallandale Beach strip.
Let’s take a look at the field (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 – Shanghai Bobby (Pletcher, Napravnik, 4/5). Rosie has been in the irons for all five of the Juvenile champion’s victories and is looking to become the first female jockey to win the Derby, so there will be added pressure as this colt progresses down the trail. By class alone it’s hard to dismiss him, but this is the race where last year’s Juvenile champ, Hansen, was upended and exposed. The rail has been hot so it’s unlikely that the champ will finish out of the exacta.
2 – Frac Daddy (McPeek, Cohen, 8-1). Best name in the field, but that usually doesn’t win the race. Won impressively breaking his maiden at Churchill and was headed in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club by the talented Uncaptured, so he has the talent to win this one. Both the jock and trainer have been ice cold at Gulfstream which is the only signal to wait one out.
3- Clearly Now (Lynch, Saez, 12-1). Woodbine shipper will be trying dirt for the first time. He had a solid 4-furlong work at Palm Meadows, but the transition to dirt is enough to keep me away in this talented field.
4 – Bern Identity (Breen, Lopez, 4-1). Has the class to compete, winning the G2 Sanford at Saratoga and finishing second to Goldencents (the current leader in Derby points) in the Delta Jackpot. Connections won the 2011 Belmont with Ruler On Ice, so they are no stranger to the Triple Crown trail. Workout tab suggests he’s ready to run and Breen is a 29 percent winner after being beaten as the favorite.
5 – Sr. Quisqueyano (Olivares, Rosario, 20-1). The Exclusive Quality colt faded in the non-graded Gulfstream Park Derby to Itsmyluckyday. He finished over six lengths behind in second in the one mile affair. Breeding indicates he’s more of a sprinting sort and I don’t favor him to challenge in
6 - Dewey Square (Romans, Lanerie, 12-1). Eclipse award winning trainer Dale Romans will try and be a figure on this year’s Triple Crown trail with this Bernardini colt that finished behind Frac Daddy in the Kentucky Jockey Club race. He has an impressive work tab and posted a bullet on Jan. 20, so he could be a dangerous foe on race day.
7 – Itsmyluckyday (Plesa Jr., Trujillo, 6-1). Freaked on New Year’s Day with Paco Lopez aboard who will ride Bern Identity instead. Usually a signal as to who is the better horse, but the Lawyer Ron colt looks to be the real deal and could see him hitting the board.
8 – Tulira Castle (DiVito, Castellano, 30-1). The War Pass colt steps into deeper waters after winning in the allowance ranks. May be over his head in here, but like that the connections are taking a shot.
9 – Fredericksburg (Matz, Velazquez, 30-1). Finished behind the 8 horse in the last race after a bobble at the start. The connections scream potential upset play and may be worth throwing a few bucks on a possible long shot play
10 – Joshua’s Comprise (Rose, Desormeaux, 50-1). Stranger things have happened on the Derby trail, but this one doesn’t seem likely. Probably should have been running last weekend with the other Florida-breds.
It’s hard to go against the class of the champion, Shanghai Bobby, who has done no wrong in his five career races and if the rail is golden on Saturday he should prevail.
Post Time Outlook: 1-Shanghai Bobby; 2-Itsmyluckyday; and 3-Bern Identity
Long shot Play: Fredericksburg
Good luck this weekend and let’s go cash some tickets!