Gary | Fri 03/02/2017 - 16:34 EST

Holy Bull Picks

Holy Bull Picks
The road to the 2017 Kentucky Derby goes through Florida this Saturday with the running of the G2 Holy Bull Stakes, featuring 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire, an overwhelming morning line favorite to win the race.

Holy Bull Stakes

By Brent Sedo

The Mark Casse-trained Classic Empire was a dominant force on the race track in his two-year-old season, winning his debut at Churchill Downs and then scoring three graded-stakes victories, including the G1 Claiborne Futurity and the G1 BC Juvenile. In fact, the only one of his five races that Classic Empire didn’t win was the G1 Hopeful, where he lost his rider at the gate, a race that he was favored to win.

Given his past success, it’s no surprise the oddsmakers have him down as the 3-5 morning line favorite for his three-year-old debut. His four wins have come at three different tracks, so he appears to be able to ship well and handle a variety of running surfaces, and his wins in the Claiborne and BC Juvenile were at the same 1 1/16 miles as the Holy Bull, so it’s clear he can get the distance going around two turns. Until someone beats him, he’s simply the one to beat.

Another in the field who has yet to be beaten is Fact Finding (6-1), three-for-three so far in his young career, including a win last time out in a minor stakes over the Gulfstream dirt. Unlike Classic Empire, however, the Holy Bull will be the first time he stretches out over a mile, and his first time trying two turns.    

The only horse in the field who has been racing at the same level as Classic Empire so far is Gunnavera, second choice in the ML at 9-2. He comes in off a win in the G3 Delta Jackpot, and three starts back captured the G2 Saratoga Special, but in between those he ran fifth in the Claiborne Futurity, where he made forward progress despite racing wide throughout, but flattened out in the stretch to finish six lengths back of Classic Empire.

Among those in double-digits for the ML, New Jersey-bred Irish War Cry (15-1) has won both his starts so far and put up fairly quick fractions last time out to go wire-to-wire to win the Marylander Stakes at Laurel Park by a nose. He’ll be getting first-time lasix for the Holy Bull. Another that rates some consideration is Fire For Effect (20-1) who showed a lot of improvement and a willingness to work his way through traffic and dig in late in winning his second lifetime start at Gulfstream in early January.

The Holy Bull Stakes goes Saturday, Feb. 4 from Gulfstream Park. Post time is 5:35 PM Eastern.

Entries w/ ML Odds

1) Gunnavera (9-2)

2) Perro Rojo (30-1)

3) Classic Empire (3-5)

4) Talk Logistics (12-1)

5) Irish War Cry (15-1)

6) Fact Finding (6-1)

7) Shamsaan (20-1)

8) Cavil (15-1)

9) Fire For Effect (20-1)

OSB Picks

#1 – Classic Empire

#2 – Fact Finding

#3 – Irish War Cry

#4 – Gunnavera 

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