A combination of factors, including the possible start of Kentucky Derby troublemaker Ulises, has prompted Holy Bull's owner-trainer, Jimmy Croll, to bypass the Preakness.
Croll informed Pimlico/Laurel vice president of racing Lenny Hale yesterday of the decision after discussing results of post-Derby blood and urine tests with his stable veterinarian at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J.
Croll said the tests showed that Holy Bull, the Derby favorite who finished 12th, has a low red-blood cell count.
"It's nothing drastic," Croll said. "But we need to do a couple of things to work on the horse's blood."
Croll also said he didn't like Ulises, the last-place Derby finisher, joining the prospective Preakness field. Ulises held up the start of the Derby for about a minute when he reared and refused to load into the starting gate at Churchill Downs. He was in the 5-gate next to Holy Bull, and he may have contributed to the poor start by Croll's runner.
Croll did not blame Holy Bull's poor Derby performance on a low blood count.
"Not at all," he said. "He was beaten strictly due to the circumstances. He got off bad and then was behind a wall of five horses. It was one of those things. . . . a bad day."
The blood and urine tests were taken on Wednesday after Holy Bull was shipped to Monmouth Park, home of Croll's main thoroughbred string.
The next scheduled start for Holy Bull is the $500,000 Metropolitan Mile against older horses at Belmont Park on May 30. He then could run in the Belmont Stakes on June 11, the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Going into the Met Mile instead of the Preakness, which is a week from today, "will give us an extra eight days to get him ready to run," Croll said.
"It wasn't a hard decision to make once we got the tests back. My wife [Bobbi] is disappointed. She wanted to come down there [to Pimlico]. But we've got to do what's best."
Many 3-year-olds have used the Metropolitan Mile as a prep for the Belmont Stakes. The most notable example occurred in 1982 when Conquistador Cielo, trained by Woody Stephens, won the Met Mile and then won the Belmont five days later.
Croll finished second in the Met Mile with a 3-year-old, Housebuster, in 1990. The colt was beaten in the race by eventual Horse of the Year Criminal Type.
The defection of Holy Bull might mean that trainer Randy Winick will reconsider his decision not to run fourth-place Derby finisher, Brocco, in the Preakness. Winick had earlier told the Daily Racing Form that he would opt for the Belmont.
Winick told Pimlico/Laurel's Hale yesterday that he plans to work Brocco at Churchill Downs on Tuesday and then put him on a plane with Overbrook Farm and David P. Reynolds' Tabasco Cat (sixth in the Derby) on Wednesday.
"The plane is headed to New York, but it will stop in Baltimore and let off Tabasco Cat, who runs in the Preakness," Hale said. "There is a chance Winick also will unload Brocco in Baltimore and run in the Preakness. We won't know until next week."
In another Preakness development, trainer Charlie Whittingham has lined up Eddie Delahoussaye to ride Mrs. Howard B. Keck's Numerous in the race.
Delahoussaye rode Strodes Creek, another Whittingham 3-year-old, to a runner-up Derby finish. Strodes Creek is training at Pimlico, but is to skip the Preakness for the Belmont.
"He's the best money rider around," Whittingham said of Delahoussaye. Chris McCarron won the Derby Trial on Numerous, but is committed to ride Kentucky Derby winner, Go For Gin, in the Preakness.
Delahoussaye won the Preakness in 1988 with Risen Star.
In another jockey switch, trainer Rodney Rash announced that he has replaced Chris Antley with Brent Bartram as the rider on Preakness entry Powis Castle (eighth in the Derby).
Rash said he was displeased with Antley's ride on the colt in the Derby. Not only did the horse cause interference on the first turn, but Rash also said Antley didn't follow instructions. He stalked pacesetter Go For Gin instead of rating the horse farther back and making a late run.