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Holy Bull Stakes History

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 four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis. The race was held over 1 116 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 1 116 miles in 1:41.62.

By J. Keeler Johnson

Holy Bull Stakes Recap

White Abarrio maintained his unbeaten record on the Gulfstream Park dirt with a decisive victory in the Holy Bull S. (G3) Feb. 5.

Starting as the fifth choice in a field of nine, White Abarrio sat outside the pacesetter Galt for Tyler Gaffalione before driving to the front rounding the final turn. He had a 2 12-length lead at the top of the stretch and extended it to 4 12 lengths at the line.

The son of Race Day had won his first two starts, both at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Saffie Joseph then took White Abarrio to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2), where he finished third to Smile Happy, before returning to Gulfstream for the Holy Bull.

White Abarrio’s Holy Bull victory earned him 10 points in the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Added to the two points he earned in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he now sits in third place on the Derby Road table with 12 points.

Simplification put in a great performance to finish second, earning four points in the Derby Road series, after missing the start for the first time in his five-race career. It was his first race in the Derby Road series, and he should play a role in future Derby preps.

Remsen S. (G2) winner Mo Donegal put in a very good effort for third as he was late making his move because Simplification’s jockey Javier Castellano had him boxed in coming around the final turn. He rallied strongly and nearly got up for second, but had to be content with third. This earned him two points, moving him to 12 points overall. Mo Donegal sits in fourth place on the table, one spot behind White Abarrio, who has more non-restricted stakes earnings.

Front-running Galt stuck on solidly to finish fourth and earn one point on the Derby Road table.

By Alastair Bull