Galt, the full brother to champion Songbird, is handicapper Ellis Starr’s pick to upset the G3 Holy Bull

This Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Holy Bull Stakes is the first of three significant stakes races for newly turned 3-year-olds in South Florida. Nine have signed on for this race and the best of them will likely run four weeks from now in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, hoping to go on to the Florida Derby in April and then onto the Kentucky Derby.

Leading the field in accomplishments is Mo Donegal, last seen two months ago when victorious in the G2 Remsen Stakes. Simplification is another stakes winner, having captured the Mucho Macho Man Stakes easily by four lengths on New Year’s Day. Tiz the Bomb finished fast from 12th to get second when last seen in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and won his only previous dirt route by a whopping 14 lengths. Cajun’s Magic returns from more than four months on the bench following a win in the FTBOA Florida Sire Dr. Fager Stakes then runner-up finishes in two other stakes races restricted to horses bred in Florida. Giant Game finished third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the same day Tiz the Bomb ran in the Juvenile Turf and appears to fit with these, as does G2 Kentucky Jockey Club third place finisher White Abarrio. Then there’s a pair of recent impressive maiden winners in Spin Wheel and Galt, the former having rallied from last of 12 to win by a nose and the latter having drawn off easily by four lengths when last seen. Eloquist rounds out the field. He finished a well-beaten fifth in the Remsen and then last of six in an allowance race last month at Gulfstream Park.

Main Win Contenders:

Although Galt just earned his first win in his most recent start, the third of his career, he will be my top pick, and a strong one at that, in this year’s Holy Bull Stakes. There are many reasons to think this son of Medaglia d’Oro can win, the first of which is that he is trained by Bill Mott, who has an uncanny ability to know when his recently turned 3-year-olds are the right caliber to compete in Road to the Derby stakes races. When taking blinkers off and running in a dirt route for the first time on Dec. 26, Galt ran tremendously better than he had in his two prior starts. Drawing the same rail position he gets for the Holy Bull, Galt saved ground then came around a pair of runners to rally into a very slow pace in the stretch before drawing off decisively.

Admittedly, the 84 ™ Equibase® Speed Figure isn’t nearly as fast as the 93 figure likely favorite Mo Donegal earned last December winning the Remsen Stakes, but it was a big improvement off his previous two races. As he’s making his second start following 2 1/2 months off, Galt is going to move up considerably off the effort. Back to Mott’s record 3-year-olds early in the year coming off maiden wins and running in stakes races, the Hall-of-Fame trainer saddled Tacitus to win the 2019 Tampa Bay Derby off a maiden win, saddled Modernist to win the 2020 Risen Star Stakes off a maiden win, saddled Candy Man Rocket to win the 2021 Sam F. Davis Stakes off a maiden win, and saddled Hofburg to a runner-up finish in the 2018 Florida Derby.

Another reason I expect Galt to run very well in a graded stakes race is he is a full brother to two-time Champion Songbird, winner of $4.6 million and nine consecutive graded stakes around two turns in her three year old campaign. As the reason for the big turnaround in form on Dec. 26 is easily identifiable (blinkers off) and as he won without Lasix so racing without the medication is not an issue here, I expect Galt to post the mild upset and throw his name in the ring as a strong contender on the Road to the Derby, staring in the Holy Bull Stakes.

However, in order to win, Galt is going to have to run down Simplification, who enters the race off a wire-to-wire win in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes on New Year’s Day with a field high 98 ™ figure. Two races before that, Simplification won a six furlong sprint by a whopping 16 and three-quarter lengths with a 99 figure. Javier Castellano rode the colt to his last win and will be in the saddle again in the Holy Bull. I have no concern about the fact that Simplification is trying two-turns for the first time as (per Race Lens) relatively new sire Not This Time has had six of 18 of his sons or daughters win two-turn races to date, including recent Lecomte Stakes runner-up Epicenter, who had won the Gun Runner Stakes prior to that. As such, Simplification has a big chance to get out on an easy lead and get very brave just as he did last month in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, and no matter how successful Galt might be in closing into a slow pace as he was in his victory at the end of December, it may be too tall of an order in this situation.

Although most of the others have credentials to be competitive, with the exception of Eloquist, who is overmatched, they are all giving away some physical edge to Galt and Simplification. For example, Mo Donegal has been away from the races since Dec. 4, and a Race Lens query reveals trainer Todd Pletcher possesses a four for 30 record with 3-year-olds in dirt route stakes over the last five years coming back from such a layoff. The same can be said for Tiz the Bomb, who needed a sprint prep race last spring before winning a route.

The rest of the field, all who have the ability to compete effectively in this race, with their best ™ Equibase Speed Figures, is Cajun’s Magic (94), Giant Game (90), Eloquist (74), Mo Donegal (93), Spin Wheel (86), Tiz the Bomb (109 on turf) and White Abarrio (94).

Win Contenders, with an equal probability to win at about 33 percent (2 to 1)

Holy Bull Stakes – Grade 3
Race 11 at Gulfstream Park
Saturday, February 5 – Post Time 5:10 PM E.T.
One and One Sixteenth Miles
Three Year Olds
Purse: $250,000

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