Triple Crown Weekend Prep Report Card: A Tale Of Two Pedigrees

Two Grade 3 races on each coast, the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in South Florida and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in Southern California, were run on Saturday, offering 17 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers (10-4-2-1).

The last time the Holy Bull Stakes winner went on to victory in the G1 Kentucky Derby was in 2006 when Barbaro, making his dirt track debut after winning his first three career starts on turf, scored by three-quarters of a length on a sloppy track. Before that, when the race was known as the Preview Stakes, Go for Gin was victorious en route to capturing the 1994 Kentucky Derby. Some very good horses have won the Holy Bull, including the 2020 winner Tiz the Law, who opened last year’s disjointed Triple Crown with a win in the Belmont Stakes.

Prior to 2007, the Robert B. Lewis was known as the Santa Catalina Stakes, which was first run in 1935. It’s had different conditions over the years but in recent decades has been restricted to 3-year-olds. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another won the Lewis in 2012 and Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand won it in 1986. Like the Holy Bull, many winners of this early season race for 3-year-olds have gone on to bigger and better things.

Here’s a brief look at each race, with my Report Card grade for the winner. The A to F grading system is subjective and based on my personal “eyeball test,” Beyer Speed Figures from Daily Racing Form, historical signifidance of the race and perceived quality of field.

Jan 30 Holy Bull Stakes 1 1/16 miles, Gulfstream

The 11-10 favorite in the Holy Bull was Prime Factor, a $900,000 yearling purchase and winner by 8 ¾ lengths for Todd Pletcher in his only career start while sprinting six furlongs at Gulfstream on Dec. 12. Greatest Honour, bred and owned by Courtlandt Farm and trained by Shug McGaughey, needed four starts to break his maiden, doing so in his Gulfstream debut Dec. 26 at 1-2 odds, coming from off the pace to win by 1 ½ lengths. He was the 5-2 second choice in the betting in the Holy Bull.

Jose Ortiz and Greatest Honour at the wire in the Holy Bull Stakes

Gulfstream Park is not the kind of racetrack where I expect a horse to come from far off the pace to win, and that made Greatest Honour’s powerful 5 3/4-length victory that much more impressive.

Rated in seventh of nine runners early by Jose Ortiz, the Tapit colt gained ground in the run down the backstretch, made a bold move on the outside rounding the far turn, took command with a quarter mile to run and ran straight as a string down the stretch as he drew off under mild encouragement.

Final time of the Holy Bull was 1:43.19 after fractions of :23.28, :46.97, 1:11.36 and 1:36.58. The winner was given an 89 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort, an improvement from his maiden-breaking 83.

While some of the Holy Bull runners may go on to bigger and better things (Prime Factor ran a decent third in his first try around two turns), the field as a whole had not accomplished much going into the race. The lone stakes winner was Sittin On Go, who won the G3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs in his second start but then was off the board in two subsequent starts. The late-running horse from the Dale Romans barn ran sixth.

There is a lot to like about Greatest Honour’s pedigree beyond him being a son of Tapit. The colt was produced from the Street Cry mare Tiffany’s Honour, a half sister to back-to-back Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches. Those successes led to their dam, G2 Demoiselle Stakes winner Better Than Honour, being named Broodmare of the Year by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders. Better Than Honour was produced by G1 Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride, whose dam, Best in Show, was also named Broodmare of the Year.  When two of a horse’s first four dams were Broodmare of the Year, that is a strong female family.

The year she foaled Greatest Honour, Tiffany’s Honour was sold to leading Japanese breeder Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale for $2.2 million while believed in foal to Medaglia d’Oro.

Grade: A-

Jan. 30 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita

With a barn full of royally bred and expensive yearling and 2-year-old in training purchases, is it possible that trainer Bob Baffert’s best prospect for the 2021 Triple Crown is a Florida-bred who changed hands for $1,000 as a yearling at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s 2019 Winter Mixed Sale?

That horse, Medina Spirit, a son of the Giant’s Causeway stallion Protonico, increased in value but was still a bargain at $35,000 when clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young bought him from Whitman Sales for $35,000 on behalf of Zedan Racing Stables at the 2020 OBS July Sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age.

Medina Spirit has been the “other Baffert” twice. The first time came in his debut when stablemate Democrat fizzled as the favorite and Medina Spririt won by three lengths going 5 ½ furlongs at Los Alamitos. Next out, in the G3 Sham on Jan. 2, some thought Medina Spirit (sent off at 9-1) was entered by Baffert to make sure the race would fill (only four others entered). The hotshot 1-5 Sham favorite was Life Is Good, who made a dazzling impression in his debut, getting a 91 Beyer Speed Figure (Medina Spirit got a 76 Beyer in his debut). Life Is Good looked well on his way to living up to his top billing in the Sham until Medina Spirit, racing in second throughout, gained 3 ¼ lengths on his stablemate in the final furlong, cutting the winning margin to just three-quarters of a length.

Medina Spirit (inside) fought off Roman Centurian and Hot Rod Charlie the length of the stretch to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes

For the Lewis, Medina Spirit was the even-money favorite, with his stablemate, the $1-million yearling purchase and G2 Los Alamitos Futurity winner Spielberg, playing second fiddle in the Baffert barn. The latter was a non-factor in a race where Medina Spirit was pushed early by Wipe the Slate and Parnelli through fast fractions of :22.89 and :46.61. The third quarter was a dawdling :25.75 for six furlongs in 1:12.36 and the fourth quarter of 26.98 made the mile time 1:39.34. The times are slow on paper, but Santa Anita’s main track was listed as good after heavy rains hit the previous two days.

Medina Spirit put away the chasers (they finished about 20 lengths behind him at the wire), but was under attack down the stretch from Hot Rod Charlie and Roman Centurian. The former, an Oxbow colt trained by Doug O’Neill, was making his first start since finishing second at 94-1 odds in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, beaten three-quarters of a length by champion Essential Quality. The latter, an Empire Maker colt trained by Simon Callaghan, graduated from the maiden ranks in his second start and first around two turns at Santa Anita on Jan. 3.

Both Hot Rod Charlie, racing between horses, and Roman Centurian to the outside, appeared to have all the momentum as they hooked up with Medina Spirit at the top of the stretch. But Medina Spirit never yielded, holding his two rivals at bay at the wire and then continuing to gallop out ahead of them. Roman Centurian, at 11-1, finished second by a neck, just a nose ahead of 5-2 second choice Hot Rod Charlie.

Final time for the Lewis was 1:46.26, and the top three finishers all received Beyer Speed Figures of 91.

Medina Spirit is from the first crop of foals by Protonico, who certainly has stamina in his pedigree, being by Giant’s Causeway and out of an A.P. Indy mare. There’s not much black type on  Medina Spirit’s catalogue page (until you get to the fourth dam), but his dam, Mongolian Changa, is a daughter of the Dynaformer stallion Brilliant Speed, who won the G1 Blue Grass Stakes when Keeneland had a Polytrack synthetic surface.

Once a horse is a proven runner, pedigree doesn’t matter nearly as much. I’m reminded of that when I look at the remarkable racing career and the relatively obscure pedigree of Holy Bull, a son of the Minnesota Mac stallion Great Above out of a mare by Al Hattab.

Grade B

Previously: Jan 26 Triple Crown Weekend Prep Report Card

Jan. 18 Triple Crown Weekend Prep Report Card

Jan. 3 Triple Crown Weekend Prep Report Card

The post Triple Crown Weekend Prep Report Card: A Tale Of Two Pedigrees appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

DYFD Winter - 300x90

Comments are closed.