Holy Bull lands on inside track

May 06, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Ulises might go down in history as the colt who spoiled Holy Bull's chances to win the Kentucky Derby.

At least that's what 13 of the 15 trainers at Churchill Downs probably are hoping when they chart strategy for tomorrow's 120th running of America's most famous horse race.

The only way to beat the favorite is to hope that someone challenges Holy Bull early and leaves him empty in the long stretch run, horsemen and many handicappers said yesterday at Churchill Downs.

That someone is expected to be Ulises.

"You know they are going to go barging out of there," said Cot Campbell, head of the syndicate that owns long shot Smilin Singin Sam. His comments came after Ulises drew the gate next to Holy Bull when post positions were assigned.

The obscure colt from Panama went to the front in his lone U.S. start in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland Race Course two weeks ago, but after leading for six furlongs, he stopped and finished third, beaten 7 1/2 lengths by the winner, Southern Rhythm. Ulises is in Gate 5 and Holy Bull in 4 in the 15-horse field.

"If he goes whoop-de-do, more power to him," said Jimmy Croll, trainer of Holy Bull. "But if anyone goes out strictly to beat my colt, then they are going to beat themselves."

Holy Bull has made his reputation by accelerating quickly to the lead in such races as the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes and then outdistancing his rivals.

But he was uncontested for the lead in those Derby preps and was able to reserve his energy for use later in the race.

Now, there is the possibility that Ulises will set a pace that wastes Holy Bull early. The Croll colt seems especially vulnerable because he has a sprinter's pedigree and never has been asked to run as far as the 1 1/4 -mile Derby distance.

The horse's jockey, Mike Smith, played down the chance of an early speed duel. "I know there's a lot of hype going around that he [Ulises] is going out of there," Smith said. "But as far as I'm concerned, it's all hear say. If that happens, then I'll just sit off of him. My horse is very kind and can take back. But I think the horses and riders are just going to place themselves. Everybody is going to ride their own race."

Said Dan Mearns, who is covering the Derby for the Blood-Horse Magazine: "If Holy Bull is three or four lengths in front heading into the backstretch and the time for the first half mile is 47 seconds, then I'd say he'll win.

"But if at that point, he's just a half-length in front and the time is 45, then I'd say there is a chance he'll lose. If that happens, they might want to freeze frame the race and everybody can go back to the [betting] windows."

So far, Robert Perez, owner of Ulises, and his trainer, Alfredo Callejas, have not commented about their strategy, but there seems little doubt that they would try to change their horse's front-running style, especially because he drew an inside post.

Even though Holy Bull is placed next to Ulises, Croll said he is happy with the 4 post, which favors a horse with speed. He had said ahead of time he wanted any post from the 7 or 8 gate into the rail.

When the post positions were drawn, all the inside posts had gone to other horses except No. 4. When Holy Bull drew that last inside spot, a sigh went up from the hundreds of people in attendance at Churchill Downs' Derby Museum.

Croll's Derby-week luck seems to be holding out. Earlier in the week, he and Holy Bull's granddam, Ta Wee, were voted into Racing's Hall of Fame, and there have been no setbacks in the horse's condition or training leading up to tomorrow's race.

Croll said he was especially pleased with the way the horse came back after a strong 2-mile gallop yesterday. "He was bucking and playing," Croll said.

Other horsemen are also content with their post positions. Randy Winick, trainer of second-choice Brocco, said Gate 10 suits his horse's style, which will be to run behind the leaders in the second flight.

Mike Battaglia, oddsmaker at Churchill Downs, said Holy Bull is listed at a fair price at 8-5 odds.

"His record [seven wins from eight starts] is unbelievable," Battaglia said. "He'd be an even shorter price, like 4-5, if he were sired by Danzig [a top sire] and owned by Claiborne Farm [the leading Kentucky breeder]. But people are worried about his Dosage [a mathematical formula listing the ratio of speed to endurance in a horse's pedigree]. If he had better bloodlines, people would be talking about him like the next Secretariat."

RACE DATA

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

When: Tomorrow, 5:32 p.m. post.

TV: Chs. 13, 7 (coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.)

Local betting outlets: The race will be simulcast at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Race Course Rosecroft Raceway and Delmarva Raceway as well as off-track betting outlets in Urbana, Elkton, Salisbury and Colonial Beach, Va.

POST POSITIONS

PP ...... Horse ..... ..... Odds

1 ... Soul of the Matter ... 8-1

2 ..... Valiant Nature ..... 8-1

3 ...... Powis Castle ..... 20-1

4 ........ Holy Bull ....... 8-5

5 ......... Ulises ........ 50-1

6 ...... Mahogany Hall .... 25-1

7 ...... Strodes Creek .... 12-1

8 ........ Go for Gin ..... 15-1

9 ....... Tabasco Cat ...... 5-1

10 ......... Brocco ........ 4-1

11 ... Smilin Singin Sam .. 35-1

12 .... Southern Rhythm ... 10-1

13 ..... Blumin Affair .... 20-1

14 ..... Meadow Flight .... 50-1

15 ........ Kandaly ....... 18-1

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