Enticing’ Bunch Assembled for Holy Bull

An intriguing group of 3-year-olds take their respective first steps along the Triple Crown trail in Saturday’s GII Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream Park. Well-bred Godolphin colorbearer Enticed (Medaglia d’Oro–It’s Tricky) breaks from the fence in the field of 11 as he looks to pick up where he left off. A debut winner in the Saratoga slop in early September, he was third behind Firenze Fire (Poseidon’s Warrior) and subsequent GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse champion Good Magic (Curlin) in Belmont’s GI Champagne S. Oct. 7. The dark bay resurfaced in Churchill’s GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. Nov. 25, and held off Tiz Mischief (Into Mischief) by a head as the narrow favorite.

“This is a key race for us to see how they stack up,” said Enticed’s conditioner Kiaran McLaughlin, who has saddled two of the last four winners of this event (Cairo Prince in 2014 and Mohaymen in 2016) as well as Closing Argument in 2005. “He’s done everything right and he won a nice race last time out. The colt that he beat a nose at Churchill is probably the horse to beat for us, one of the ones to beat. He’s doing great and we’re happy, but it’s hard to compare him to Cairo Prince and Mohaymen and other horses to him.”

Tiz Mischief’s trainer Dale Romans has entered four in the Holy Bull. He’s also got two for Albaugh Family Stables in GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity winner Free Drop Billy (Union Rags) and two-time graded stakes-placed Hollywood Star (Malibu Moon), as well as Calumet’s likely longshot Bandito (Creative Cause). Of the Albaugh duo, it’s likely that only one will race.

“It’s to get them all started, but it also fits for all the horses,” Romans said. “If I run three, it’ll be for three different owners. I might be better for me to keep them all separated, but I think this is the best race for all these horses to start back this year.”

The meet’s perennial leading trainer Todd Pletcher only has one Holy Bull trophy on his mantle, but has two live chances to add to his collection. Audible (Into Mischief), a $500,000 Fasig-Tipton buy at the Gulfstream 2-year-old sale last season, defeated a pair of next-out graduates while stretching out in New York-bred company in November. He then dusted open optional claimers in a rained off affair back at the Big A Dec. 6. Pony Up (Aikenite) just missed first up over this strip back in July, but has competed exclusively on turf since then. He was second in both the Dec. 9 Pulpit S. and Jan. 6 Kitten’s Joy S.

Mississippi (Pioneerof the Nile), a $700,000 pick-up out of the same Fasig sale as Audible, gave that one’s stablemate Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy) a hard fight when a close second in a track-and-trip optional claimer Jan. 11. Noble Indy garnered the ‘TDN Rising Star’ distinction for the win, while Mississippi received a field’s best Beyer Speed Figure of 88.