Question: What do Kentucky Derby champions Go for Gin (1994), Funny Cide (2003), and Barbaro (2006) all have in common?
Answer: They all used the Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park as a steppingstone toward career-defining victories in the “Run for the Roses.”
Inaugurated in 1990 as the Preview S., the race was renamed in 1996 to honor the recently-retired 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull, who counted the Florida Derby (G1) among his major stakes wins at Gulfstream.
Through the years, the conditions of the Holy Bull have shifted repeatedly; the distance has been changed seven times, and the purse has risen and fallen like the tides. But one element has never changed, and that is the Holy’s Bull status as a key prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Case in point? Between 1991 and 2018, a span of 28 years, the Holy Bull produced 41 Kentucky Derby starters while coming up empty only twice. Go for Gin and Barbaro managed to sweep both the Holy Bull and the Kentucky Derby during their productive winter/spring campaigns, while fan favorite Funny Cide finished fifth in the Holy Bull before peaking on the first Saturday in May.
Also noteworthy, Holy Bull participants Captain Bodgit (1997), Closing Argument (2005), Mucho Macho Man (2011), Wicked Strong (2014), Frosted (2015), Mohaymen (2016), Classic Empire (2017), and Audible (2018) all went on to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby.
The Holy Bull offers Kentucky Derby qualifications points to the top five finishers on a 20-8-6-4-2 basis. The race was held over 1 1⁄16 miles from 1991 through 2004 and returned to its signature distance in 2013. Quick times have been common in the Holy Bull, but through 2020 no one has run faster than Go for Gin, who clocked 1 1⁄16 miles in 1:41.62.
By J. Keeler Johnson