One week after being officially awarded the 2012 juvenile colt championship, Shanghai Bobby will put his undefeated record on the line and kick off his classic prep season in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park over 1 1/16 miles.
A comfortable winner of his first four starts, including the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 2 Hopeful, Shanghai Bobby clinched the Eclipse Award with a victory in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. However, it was far from an easy race for the son of Harlan's Holiday, who had to dig deep to repel a stretch-long challenge from He's Had Enough to win by a head. The Juvenile was his first start beyond one mile and around two turns.
Shanghai Bobby, who breaks from post 1 and retains Rosie Napravnik in the saddle, will seek to avoid some of the bad luck that has befallen some recent juvenile champions in their three-year-old debuts. Hansen, the two-year-old champion of 2011, was beaten five lengths when making his sophomore bow in last year's Holy Bull, while newly-crowned juvenile filly champion Beholder was upset in Monday's Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita.
Bern Identity, who captured the Grade 2 Sanford before running third to Shanghai Bobby in the Hopeful, bypassed the Breeders' Cup entirely to concentrate on Delta Downs' lucrative juvenile features last fall. A three-length winner of the Jean Laffitte over a mile at the Louisiana course, the Bernstein colt was closing fast when 1 3/4 lengths second to Goldencents in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot on November 17.
Farther up the track in the Delta Jackpot was Itsmyluckyday, who had previously captured the Fasig-Tipton Dash and the Foolish Pleasure at Calder by a combined margin of seven lengths. After dropping his first post-Jackpot start, in the Dania Beach on turf, Itsmyluckyday was a dynamite winner of the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year's Day, completing the one-turn mile in a swift 1:34 1/5.
Kentucky-based horsemen Kenny McPeek and Dale Romans both have solid Holy Bull contenders in Frac Daddy and Dewey Square, respectively. Frac Daddy has finished in the top two in all three career starts, following up a decisive 9 3/4-length maiden score at Churchill Downs with a neck second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club over the same track three weeks later.
Dewey Square also competed in the Kentucky Jockey Club, finishing third by 1 1/2 lengths after chasing a soft pace. The Bernardini colt blew away his competition in two prior starts, taking his Hoosier Park debut by 11 3/4 lengths and a Churchill Downs allowance by four lengths.
Sr. Quisqueyano, who captured his first three starts at two by a combined margin of 28 3/4 lengths, enters the Holy Bull off four consecutive runner-up finishes against stakes company. Hero of last August's Seacliff at Calder, Sr. Quisqueyano finished behind Itsmyluckyday in two of them, in the Foolish Pleasure and the Gulfstream Park Derby.
Expected to show some early foot Saturday is Clearly Now, a Canadian invader who met defeat for the first time in his two-turn debut in the Display at Woodbine on December 1. The son of Horse Greeley will be racing on dirt for the first time in the Holy Bull.
The Holy Bull field is completed by Tulira Castle and Freericksburg, one-two finishers in a one-mile Gulfstream allowance on December 8, and Joshua's Comprise, an outsider trained by Barry Rose.