Sunday's Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park marks the seasonal debut for Hansen, who secured champion two-year-old male divisional honors and remained unbeaten with a gutsy score in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The gray son of Tapit tops a short field of six in the one-turn mile race.
Gulfstream will offer an interesting optional claiming event for three-year-olds. Carded as the 7TH race, the 1 1/16-mile test has attracted a nice field of nine that includes Kentucky Derby hopefuls Casual Trick, El Padrino and Take Charge Indy.
Hansen utilized his speed while taking an unconventional route to the Eclipse Award. He made his first two career starts over the Polytrack at Turfway Park, easily running away from his rivals both times, including a 13 1/4-length tally in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, and stepped up to make his dirt debut in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Mike Maker-trained colt once again led all the way at Churchill Downs, but not before repulsing a stiff late bid from Grade 1 Champagne Stakes winner Union Rags, who is overwhelmingly regarded as the early favorite for this year's Kentucky Derby.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez, who picked up the mount on the front runner in the Breeders' Cup, retains the assignment and Hansen will face a couple of promising rivals, Algorithms and Consortium, who are making their stakes debuts in the Holy Bull.
Algorithms rolled to a 5 1/4-length score when making his first start in a June 3 maiden special weight at Belmont Park, but wasn't seen again under silks until December 16, returning with a good-looking victory in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming event at Gulfstream. Javier Castellano rides for Todd Pletcher. Consortium easily won at first asking for Kiaran McLaughlin on November 12, posting a 4 3/4-length decision at Aqueduct, and then finished second as the favorite to Algorithms in the aforementioned optional claimer. He will keep John Velazquez in the irons.
Algorithms and Consortium are both by Bernardini.
Rounding out the Holy Bull field is Fort Loudon, who swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series before finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile; listed stakes victor My Adonis, who will be looking to rebound from a ninth in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot; and recent turf maiden winner Silver Max.
The optional claiming event for three-year-old males could have a major impact upon stakes races down the road.
Take Charge Indy is definitely on the Kentucky Derby trail, recording a second in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity and a fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity before concluding his juvenile campaign with a credible fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Out multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, the son of A.P. Indy has banked nearly $100,000 in graded earnings and will make his second dirt start on Saturday. Trainer Pat Byrne will give a leg up to Calvin Borel.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has high hopes for Casual Trick, who exits a half-length second in the Gulfstream Park Derby. A smart maiden winner at Churchill Downs two back, the bay ridgling has recorded a couple of bullet works at Palm Meadows this winter and Zito opted for this spot over the Holy Bull because of the two-turn distance. Velazquez will stick with Casual Trick.
El Padrino rolled to a 12 3/4-length maiden win as the odds-on favorite at Belmont Park two starts back and was beaten less than a length when third in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last out. The Pletcher charge loses Velazquez, who had been up for all three starts, and picks up Castellano.