5 Fast Facts about the Holy Bull Stakes, a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race

1. The Holy Bull is named for the 1994 Horse of the Year and 2001 Hall of Fame inductee who won 13 of 16 career starts, including the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Despite running 12th as the 2-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and skipping the remaining Triple Crown races, Holy Bull won divisional honors as champion three-year-old and Horse of the Year on the basis of eight stakes wins, among them dominating scores against older horses in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and Woodward (G1). Holy Bull died at the age of 26 on June 7, 2017.

2. Inaugurated in 1990 as the Preview Stakes, the race was renamed after Holy Bull in 1996. Ironically, the first future Kentucky Derby winner to win the race was Go for Gin, who captured the 1994 edition of the Derby that Holy Bull lost. The only other colt to turn the Holy Bull-Kentucky Derby double was the ill-fated Barbaro in 2006. Funny Cide ran fifth in the Holy Bull before taking the 2003 Derby.

3. After the Gulfstream main track was expanded from one mile to 1 1/8 miles in 2005, the Holy Bull underwent several distance changes before reverting back to its traditional 1 1/16-mile trip in 2013. The Holy Bull was run at 1 1/8 miles in 2005-06 and 2009, at one mile in 2007 and from 2010-12, and at 1 3/16 miles in 2008.

4. Earlier in the century, the Holy Bull supplanted the seven-furlong Hutcheson (G3) as Gulfstream's leading prelude to its most important Kentucky Derby preps, the Fountain of Youth (G2) and the Florida Derby. The change was in response to shifting attitudes of horsemen who preferred keeping their leading Derby contenders running at a mile or longer rather than shortening them up to a sprint to start their three-year-old campaigns.

5. The Holy Bull has the been the stage of notable upsets this decade involving the previous year's two-year-old champion. Both Hansen (2012) and Shanghai Bobby (2013) finished second in the Holy Bull at odds of 9-10 and 1-1, respectively. In 2017, Classic Empire was a well-beaten third as an even stronger 1-2 favorite.

(2017 Holy Bull photo: Adam Coglianese Photography)