2022 Holy Bull Is Ripe With Competition — Top Horses, Jockeys And Trainers Vie For Derby Qualifying Points

Written By Fairway Jay on February 3, 2022 - Last Updated on February 27, 2022
Gulfstream Park racing

The Grade III Holy Bull Stakes on Saturday, Feb. 5, at Gulfstream Park is this week’s featured event on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. The $250,000 event has drawn a field of nine 3-year-olds, and the top 4 finishers receive qualifying points (10-4-2-1) toward the 2022 Kentucky Derby on May 7.

The Holy Bull is race 11 of a 12-race card that features five graded stakes. It follows the biggest early-season race weekend, which featured the Pegasus World Cup and seven graded stakes races in which race favorites dominated.

The five Grade III stakes on Feb. 5 at Gulfstream Park are all restricted to 3-year-olds.

  • Race 5 – $100,000 Claiborne Swale at seven furlongs
  • Race 7 – $100,000 Kitten’s Joy at 1 1/6 miles on the turf
  • Race 8 – $100,000 Forward Gal for fillies at seven furlongs
  • Race 10 – $100,000 Sweetest Chant for fillies at 1 1/16 miles on the turf
  • Race 11 – $250,000 Holy Bull at 1 1/16 miles

The 1 1/16 mile Holy Bull is race 11 at 5:10 p.m. EST. The race features five leading contenders, Mo Donegal, Giant Game, Simplification, Tiz the Bomb and White Abarrio.

1Galt10-1Junior Alvarado Bill Mott
2Mo Donegal3-1Irad Ortiz Jr.Todd Pletcher
3Eloquest20-1Frankie PenningtonRobert Reid Jr.
4Simplification4-1Javier CastellanoAntonio Sano
5Cajun's Magic10-1Jesus RiosMichael Yates
6Tiz the Bomb5-1Brian Hernandez Jr.Kenny McPeek
7Spin Wheel20-1Julien LeparouxGeorge "Rusty" Arnold II
8White Abarrio6-1Tyler Gaffalione Saffie Joseph Jr.
9Giant Game7-2Luis SaezDale Romans

2022 Holy Bull Top Contenders

Mo Donegal (3-1) is 2-for-3, with his last race win on the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep 1 1/8 mile Remsen Stakes on Dec. 4 at Aqueduct. This son of Uncle Mo has shown a stalking style and is expected to get stronger and prove his stamina. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. rides again and will try for his first Holy Bull win, having finished second in 2015 and third in the past two editions. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won the race twice (2012, 2018).

Giant Game (7-2) is ridden by Luis Saez, Gulfstream’s winningest jockey at the winter meet. Saez won the 2014 Holy Bull, and trainer Dale Romans has finished second twice, in 2018 and 2019. Giant Game is 1-for-3 and finished third as a long shot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, his last race, Nov. 6 at Del Mar. However, he’s expected to make a significant move forward, with a string of bullet workouts in place at Gulfstream the past month. Giant Game is the son of leading sire Giant’s Causeway, and he’ll be settling off the pace with a strong closing run anticipated.

Simplification (4-1) is 2-for-4, with all his races at Gulfstream. He won his sophomore debut in a minor stakes race on New Year’s Day, going 1 mile in wire-to-wire fashion. Jockey Javier Castellano is a two-time Holy Bull winner (2012, 2018), and he’ll push Simplification to the front.

Tiz the Bomb (5-1) is already a three-time winner, with his last two over the turf, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. He looks to be the fastest horse in the race and will now try to prove it on dirt. The jockey/trainer combo of Brian Hernandez Jr. and Kenny McPeek won the 2019 Holy Bull.

White Abarrio (6-1) won both his starts at Gulfstream and then finished a distant third behind the early Kentucky Derby favorite in his stakes debut in November at Churchill Downs. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione rides White Abarrio for the first time.

Notable Holy Bull Champions

The race gets its name from the 1994 Horse of the Year. Holy Bull won 13-of-16 career races, including the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, before a bad start in the Kentucky Derby ended in a 12th-place finish as the Derby betting favorite. Holy Bull went on to win the Haskell and Travers in 1994 to earn Horse of the Year honors. Unfortunately, Holy Bull’s career ended early in 1995 with a race injury in the Donn Handicap while he was battling Cigar on the lead.

The Holy Bull Stakes has produced some impressive winners. As prep for both Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, the race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby. In the past 30 years,  two Holy Bull winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby:

  • 1994: Go for Gin
  • 2006: Barbaro

Barbaro also won the Florida Derby, then made it 6-for-6 in his starts with an impressive 6-length win in the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, Barbaro’s career tragically ended with a hind leg injury shortly into the race at the Preakness Stakes, and he was euthanized eight months later.

The most recent impressive Holy Bull winner was Tiz the Law in 2020. He went on to win the Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes but finished second in the rescheduled fall Kentucky Derby.

Also, 2017 Holy Bull winner Audible won the Florida Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby. In 2013, Itsmyluckyday was the winner and finished second in the Preakness Stakes. In 2000, Hal’s Hope won at 40-1 odds and won the Florida Derby, but he never factored in the Kentucky Derby.

Photo by AP | Wilfredo Lee
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