Gulfstream Park-based trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. took the first of his home track’s series of Kentucky Derby preps thanks to White Abarrio.
The Race Day colt pressured pace-setter Galt and then took command coming into the stretch to win the Grade 3, $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes. White Abarrio covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.80, returning $14 at 6-1 odds.
White Abarrio earned 10 points on the road to the Derby, adding to the two he collected when third Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). Second-through-fourth place finishers Simplification (four), Mo Donegal (two) and Galt (one) also earned Derby points.
Simplification was projected as the early speed in the Holy Bull field but blew the break. The Bill Mott-trained Galt instead went to the lead from his rail draw, setting fractions of 23.93, 47.31 and 1:12.01 while White Abarrio sat just off and to the outside.
White Abarrio cleared Galt turning for home and opened a three-length lead into the final furlong. Simplification recovered from his slow start to pass the rest of his rivals but finished 4 1/2 lengths shy of the winner.
“It was an ideal trip,” Gaffalione said. “The horse broke sharply and put me where I wanted to be. He settled nicely on the backside and when I called on him, he gave me another gear and finished the job well.”
Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Mo Donegal went off as the 8-5 favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher but finished third. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Tiz the Bomb and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third-place finisher Giant Game both missed the board.
Gulfstream’s series of points-paying Kentucky Derby preps kicked off Saturday with the Holy Bull. Next up is the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2, 50-20-10-5) on March 5, followed by the $1 million Florida Derby (G1, 100-40-20-10) on April 2.
“I would say off this, the ball is in our court, why not go straight to the Florida Derby?” Joseph said. “It gives him good spacing, and… if he makes the Kentucky Derby it will be his third race (this year). That would be ideal right now, but we’ll talk it over whether to go to the Fountain of Youth or not.”
The Holy Bull Stakes has been a productive mid-winter Kentucky Derby prep, with three of its winners scoring on the first Saturday in May: Go for Gin (1994), Funny Cide (2003) and Barbaro (2006). Tiz the Law used a win in the 2020 Holy Bull as a springboard toward victories that season in the Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes (G1).