Florida Derby Likely Next for Holy Bull Hero White Abarrio
Saffie Joseph Jr. Trainee Exits Dominating Victory in Good Order Unlucky Simplification Headed to March 5 Fountain of Youth
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – C2 Racing Stable LLC and La Milagrosa Stable LLC’s White Abarrio, a thoroughly professional and dominating winner of Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) is likely to return on the Road to the Triple Crown in the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) April 2 at Gulfstream Park.
“We talked it out over at dinner [Saturday] night, and I’d say its not set in stone, but he’s going to straight to the Florida Derby. We don’t have to decide now, but everyone was kind of on the same page to go straight to the Florida Derby,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “The spacing works well. He runs well fresh, and hopefully, it will set him up for the Kentucky Derby (G1) to run his best.”
The Holy Bull, which headlined a program with five-graded stakes for 3-year-olds, was the first graded stakes on the Road to the Curlin Florida Derby. The $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) will be the final prep for Gulfstream’s premier Triple Crown prep March 5.
Making his first start since finishing third in the Nov. 27 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, White Abarrio was obviously ready for his return to action despite missing a pair of workouts in preparation for the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull.
“I’m very excited that he won as nicely as you could ask a horse to win a race, and it was the prep with the most depth so far. To be able to come out victorious, it was amazing,” Joseph said. “We had a little setback going into the race. We missed a couple works. You would think he should improve off that. He got a 97 Beyer [Speed Figure]. Just to think he could improve off of that – it’s a good feeling.”
The son of Race Day broke sharply to obtain ideal position outside pacesetter Galt into the first turn and rated nicely under Tyler Gaffalione as the longshot pacesetter set fractions of 23.93 and 47.31 seconds for the first half mile. White Abarrio took over on the turn and pulled away to score by 4 ½ lengths over Simplification, the 7-2 second choice who rallied gamely after missing the break and trailing the field early. Mo Donegal, the 8-5 favorite, made a late surge to finish third after breaking slowly and racing in traffic early.
“When you have speed like that and can stay well, you put yourself in a good spot,” Joseph said. “Speed kills in dirt racing. To have that and also have the stamina to go long, it’s a strong combo to have.”
After running 1 1/16-miles in 1:42/80, White Abarrio galloped out strongly under Gaffalione, who called on an outrider for assistance in pulling the winner up.
“That’s what you want to see when a horse goes two turns, because you’ve got to get a mile and a quarter. He’s done everything so far that it seems like its within his reach,” Joseph said.
White Abarrio was purchased privately by brothers Mark and Clint Cornett following his eye-catching Sept. 24 debut victory at Gulfstream, in which he scored by 6 ¾ lengths at 6 ½ furlongs.
“Mark Cornett called and said he bought a horse. I said, ‘Wow, you bought that horse? He was very impressive,’” Joseph recalled. “He said, ‘I bought him and vetted him already, just go pick him up when everything is cleared.’ He didn’t tell me he was going to buy him.”
The gray Kentucky-bred colt went on to win a mile optional claiming race by four lengths on the lead at Gulfstream before finishing third behind Smile Happy and Classic Causeway in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club.
“He’s an athletic horse. He’s very light on his feet. He’s a beautiful-moving horse. It carries over to race day, which is the main test. He saddles very professionally – cool, calm,” Joseph said. “He can get a little keen in the morning. When he gallops, he can get a little keen in the morning, but when you work him in company, he’ll relax. It’s a good attribute to have – to have speed but the ability to rate.”
Trainer Antonio Sano reported that Simplification had a ‘very good’ morning following his remarkable recovery from a horrible start, in which he broke last as he tossed his head as the gates opened. The son of Not This Time, a front-running winner of the Jan. 1 Mucho Macho Man, raced three and for wide to work his way up to second under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
“In the front or behind, he’s a good horse. The horse that won is an excellent horse. If my horse breaks good, the race could be different,” Sano said. “The good news after the race is that he is a good horse, on the front or from behind.”
Simplification will be pointed to the Fountain of Youth. Sano saddled Gunnevera for a second-place finish in the 2012 Holy Bull before his stretch-running winner of $5.5 million went on to win the Fountain of Youth.