White Abarrio missed a few scheduled practices last month after falling ill while preparing for his debut at age 3, but he didn’t miss a beat on the tour on February 5.
Starting his year in the $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Parkarguably the strongest prep race on the Kentucky Derby road ever contested this year, the son of race day hurry the initial rhythm of Wrong , took over just after six furlongs running and cleared in practice. He took a 4 1/2 length win over Simplification and Mo Donegal .
Away alertly under Tyler Gaffalione, who shoved him away from post 8 with a short run into corner one, the gray colt was just wide with splits of :23.93, :47.31 and 1:12.01 before leave his enemies behind and complete 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in the Holy Bull in 1:42.80.
White Abbario, who paid $14 to win, races for Clint Cornett’s C2 Racing and Antonio Pagnano’s La Milagrosa.
“I was a bit hesitant about how fit he was,” said trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. “But quality horses overcome it. They overcome scripts. They overcome trainers. ideal.”
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Simplification tried its best to take on a different challenge on Saturday and more than did it, except for beating the winner. Expected by many to set the pace, Simplification broke badly and instead finished seventh out of nine in the quarter mile of the race under the patient guidance of Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano. The simplification started to eliminate opponents on the back straight and around the corner before flattening out somewhat on the straight.
Simplification (n°4) breaks late in the Holy Bull Stakes
Castellano said his mount leaned back at the start after some commotion in the starting grid.
“It was at the wrong time when they opened the door and he didn’t break clean,” he added. “But I don’t have anything negative with the horse. I’m very positive about the horse.”
The other favorites had no apparent excuses.
Favorite Mo Donegal, well positioned in the first corner by Irad Ortiz Jr. after a slight stumble leaving the gate, failed to keep pace with his rivals leaving the backstretch and at the second corner, but equalized once in the clear in the stretch. The eventual third place closed furiously to fall within a header of grabbing the spot.
The 1 1/16 mile dirt races at Gulfstream start just short of the usual finish line and finish at what is usually the sixteenth post due to the 1 1/8 mile track circumference.
“I was happy with the way it closed,” said Mo Donegal coach Todd Pletcher. “It actually hurt us a bit that (the simplification) didn’t break well because it kind of changed the fractions of the race and there wasn’t a lot of pace, and that’s still a disadvantage to Gulfstream.”
Two of the other horses that commanded mutual support, Tiz the bomb and giant game , lost by 20 or more lengths in their first races as 3-year-olds, finishing seventh and eighth respectively. The first, hot in the post parry, failed to cope with the transition from the turf surface to the dirt, while Giant Game weakened after keeping pace after starting from the post position outside.
Giant Game co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds tweeted that Giant Game moved his soft palate.
Galt retained fourth place, 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
The top four earned points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the Kentucky Derby Presente by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Falls. White Abarrio and Mo Donegal both have 12 points in total counting points earned as juveniles.
Bred in Kentucky by Spendthrift Farm, White Abarrio is the only starter of three foals produced from the in mischief big catch diamonds . His other foals are a Gormley 2 year old colt named cage game and an unnamed one-year-old colt by Lord Nelson .
Catching Diamonds is a half-sister to the Group 3 winner cool cowboy .
White Abarrio has been sold twice at Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company auctions, first purchased by Jose Ordonez for $7,500 from Summerfield’s consignment as a little yearling in the 2020 Winter Mixed Sale. Fourteen months older later, trainer Carlos Perez bought him for $40,000 from the Nice & Easy Thoroughbreds consignment at the March 2021 2-year-old in-training sale there.
Perez trained him for owner Clap Embroidery for his first race, a September 24 victory at Gulfstream, before his current owners purchased him privately and handed him over to Joseph.
He then won an optional allowance claim race at Gulfstream before finishing third with a bumpy trip behind Smile Happy at the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) from Nov. 27 to Churchill Falls.
Joseph indicated he was inclined for White Abarrio to wait out the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) on April 2, rather than starting March 5 in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) of $400,000. He said he would consult with his owners before making a final decision.
“He trains like a horse that can handle distance, but until they do, you never know for sure,” Joseph said. “I thought the (Kentucky) Jockey Club was a great education. He showed he could get two rounds and today he responded emphatically to that.”
Gaffalione said the winner had “another gear” when asked to finish and was pleased with how strong White Abarrio felt as he passed the wire. His mount improved to 3 for 4 with winnings of $240,850.
“I don’t think distance will be a problem,” he said. “He was just doing his best stride in the lane and galloping, I had a really hard time picking him up. I was calling the outrider.”
Saturday’s card at Gulfstream produced a record total handle on Holy Bull Day of more than $24.6 million, surpassing the previous mark set last year of more than $21.8 million.