Shanghai Bobby, the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1), kicks off his 2013 campaign in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
A week after being named 2012 Eclipse champion 2-year-old in ceremonies at Gulfstream Park, the undefeated runner is expected to be a solid favorite against a solid field of 10 in the $400,000 event.
Shanghai Bobby drew the rail for Saturday’s race. He was made the 4-5 morning-line favorite.
After posting his final workout for the Holy Bull at Palm Meadows on Sunday morning Pletcher said, “It went great. It looks like he’s right on schedule.
“He’s grown up, filling out, all the things you want to see from him going into his 3-year-old year,” added the nine-time defending Gulfstream training champion.
Purchased for $105,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sales by Starlight Racing, the son of Harlan’s Holiday is now co-owned by the Coolmore team of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.
Prior to the Breeders’ Cup Shanghai Bobby posted major stakes victories in the Hopeful Stakes (G2) at Saratoga by 3 ¾ lengths and Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park by five lengths. Starlight Racing raced Harlan’s Holiday, winner of the 2002 Florida Derby (G1).
The presence of Shanghai Bobby in the field obviously didn’t discourage the connections of other owners and trainers that hope to have a prospect for the $1 million Florida Derby on March 30 later in the meet and Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Prominent among the challengers are Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy, David Cohen; Sienna Farm’s Dewey Square, Corey Lanarie; Lori and George Hall’s Bern Identity, Paco Lopez; Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday, Paco Lopez; and Curtis Green’s Tulira Castle, Javier Castellano.
A son of 2007 Florida Derby hero Scat Daddy, Frac Daddy is trained by Ken McPeek and makes his first start since losing a neck decision when second to Uncaptured in the 1 1/16 miles Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24.
In two previous starts Frac Daddy finished third in his debut going a mile on a ‘muddy’ track at Belmont in early October and broke his maiden by nearly 10 lengths stretching out to 1 1/16 miles at Churchill on Nov. 3.
McPeek echoed the sentiments of several other trainers in Saturday’s race when he said: “At some point, we’ve got to figure out whether we can or we can’t run with him (Shanghai Bobby). I’d rather find out now than find out later. He’s (Frac Daddy) a horse that will run all day. Even if he didn’t win at this particular distance, I wouldn’t be discouraged.”
Dewey Square also comes into the Holy Bull after three starts as a 2-year-old for trainer Dale Romans, who collected his own Eclipse Award last Saturday evening. A son of Bernardini, Dewey Square won his first two starts, the first at Hoosier Park in September going 7 ½ furlongs and a 1 1/16 miles allowance at Churchill Downs in October before rallying to a good third-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club, beaten 1 ½ lengths for it all.
Trained by Kelly Breen, Bern Identity will get his share of support. The son of Bernstein had three wins, two seconds and a third in as many starts last year, winning the Sanford Stakes (G2) and finishing third in the Hopeful behind Shanghai Bobby at Saratoga. He makes his first start since finishing second in the rich Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs on Nov. 17.
Itsmyluckyday has the advantage of a stakes victory over the Gulfstream track and Holy Bull distance as he drew off to capture the $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby by 6 ¾ lengths on New Year’s Day for trainer Eddie Plesa, Jr. The victory was his fourth in eight starts after racing at Monmouth Park, Calder and Delta Downs last year. The son of the late Lawyer Ron was purchased for $110,000 at the OBS March 2-year-old sales.
Tulira Square also has a win over the Gulfstream track at the meet as he was very impressive in a 2 ¼ lengths allowance score going a mile on Dec. 8 in his first start on dirt for trainer Jim DiVito. The Kentucky homebred by War Pass finished second and first in two starts at Arlington Park to begin his career before a good runner-up effort in a Keeneland allowance in mid-October, all three races run on Polytrack surfaces.
“It is what it is,” said Divito when asked about facing Shanghai Bobby. “At least we’ll know where we fit in the 3-year-old program. That’s the thing I want to see. There are races at other places for him and other races here. We’ll give it a shot and go for it. We’re here; he’s training good and he’s in good shape.”
Shanghai Bobby/Benoit photo