In just three races, Tarantino has shown the promise of a future turf star, but his connections are hoping that the Triple Crown will be in the future of the son of Pioneerof the Nile following Saturday’s $200,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Tarantino, who is a nose away from being undefeated, is scheduled to make his debut on dirt in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds on the Road to the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n Dale at Xalapa.
“He’s been breezing well enough on the dirt. He’s not a show-er in the morning, but I’m lucky enough where I can get on him myself. We felt that his works are good enough where we can give him a try,” trainer Rodolphe Brisset said. “Like I say, he’s not a show-er but he does enough where we feel comfortable giving him a try and finding out, sooner than later, if he wants the dirt or not.”
Tarantino began his career for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert in Southern California, where he captured his career debut Sept. 20 at Del Mar and came back to finish second by a nose in the Oct 4 Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita – both races at a mile on turf – before being transferred to Brisset.
“It took him a couple weeks to get used to our routine. It’s a little bit different than what Bob Baffert had,” said Brisset, whose trainee has had a series of four workouts at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, for his dirt debut. “He was breezing pretty well for a while and then in his last work before we ran him at Gulfstream, he went a half on dirt in 48 (seconds) out in 1:12-and-change.”
A decision was made that Tarantino would run in a Dec. 11 optional claiming allowance scheduled for a mile on turf at Gulfstream, rain or shine. The Kentucky-bred colt closely stalked the pace before drawing away to victory.
“We did want to find out if he can run on the dirt, but the rain stopped and the race stayed on the grass,” Brisset said. “He won pretty nicely. He won by two, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t go to the bottom of the horse.”
Tarantino’s dam, Without Delay, registered her only victory on turf, but the daughter of Seeking the Gold did produce Before You Know It, a daughter of Hard Spun who earned more than $300,000 and was a stakes winner and a graded-stakes runner-up on dirt.
“It’s better to find out now if we have a horse for the big one,” Brisset said. “If it doesn’t work out, we know we have a horse for the grass. We know he has a lot of talent.”
Tarantino is owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Racing LLC, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm LLC and Robert Masterson.
Edgard Zayas, who was aboard for Tarantino’s victory at Gulfstream, has the return mount.
WinStar Farm LLC and CHC Inc.’s Prime Factor and Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Amount are scheduled to bring a combined total of two races of experience into Saturday’s $200,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park.
Jumping from maiden special weight company into a graded-stakes may be a lot to ask of lightly raced 3-year-olds, but their trainer, Todd Pletcher, has a history of success with late-developing colts during the winter months at Gulfstream.
The 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, the first graded stakes for 3-year-olds on the Road to the Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n Dale at Xalapa Farm, will headline a 12-race program with five graded stakes worth $600,000 in purses.
“It’s kind of that time of year where you have to see where you are,” Pletcher said.
The 16-time Championship Meet training champion visited the Florida Derby winner’s circle with a pair of lightly raced 3-year-olds in 2014 and 2015. Constitution (2014) and Materiality (2015) both won their career debuts at Gulfstream on Jan. 11, captured their second starts against more experienced and established 3-year-olds, and won the Florida Derby within 11 weeks.
Prime Factor debuted at Gulfstream Dec. 12 with a stunning 8 ¼-length victory, running six furlongs in 1:10.38 while drawing away powerfully after closely stalking the early pace.
“He was brilliant in his debut and has trained sharply since then. We kind of considered going into an allowance race but that never materialized,” said Pletcher, who has saddled the two winners of the Holy Bull, Algorithms (2012) and Audible (2018). “It’s always a big step to go from maiden race against winners, giving up experience, but he can hopefully overcome it.”
Defending two-time Championship Meet titlist Irad Ortiz Jr. has the return mount on the son of Quality Road, who was purchased for $900,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September sale.
Amount overcame bumping at the starts of his Dec. 26 debut, rallying from off the pace to score by 5 ¾ lengths, completing seven furlongs in 1:24.68 under Ortiz Jr.
“His debut was very professional. Again, we were limited in options,” said Pletcher, who has saddled five Florida Derby winners. “I think, ultimately, he’s a horse that will appreciate more distance,”
Luis Saez has the call aboard the son of Curlin, who was purchased at the 2020 OPS July 2-year-olds-in-training sale for $110,000.
Courtlandt Farms’ Greatest Honour brings four-race experience into the Holy Bull. The Shug McGaughey-trained son of Tapit finished a late-closing third in his first two starts at sprint distances before showing marked improvement when stretching out around two turns in his two most recent starts. He was beaten by a neck while finishing second behind Known Agenda at Aqueduct at 1 1/8 miles, before graduating Dec. 26 at Gulfstream. He overcame bumping at the start and some traffic on the first turn before closing to graduate by 1 ½ lengths.
The homebred colt schooled in the paddock and walking ring during the second race at Gulfstream Wednesday.
“I’m very pleased with what I saw today, very pleased. He’s developed a lot,” McGaughey said. “I was just sitting there thinking if, through the winter and spring, he keeps going in that direction, he’ll be good.”
Jose Ortiz has the mount aboard Greatest Honour.
Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Sittin On Go, who launched his career with a debut victory and an impressive score in the Iroquois (G3), will seek to improve on off-the-board finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs.
“He’s ready for another big race,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He’s sitting on go. He’s had two good works. He’s ready. If he’s good enough, he’ll run big.”
Corey Lanerie has the mount aboard the son of Brody’s Cause.
Tarantino, who is a nose short of being undefeated in his three starts on turf, is slated to make his dirt debut in the Holy Bull. The son of Pioneerof the Nile broke his maiden at Del Mar before finishing second by a nose in the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. After being transferred to trainer Rodolphe Brissett, he captured a mile optional claiming allowance Dec. 11 at Gulfstream Park.
Edgard Zayas has the return call aboard Tarantino, who is owned by SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC and partners.
Magic Stables LLC’s Papetu and John Fanelli and partners’ Awesome Gerry, who finished second and third in the Jan. 2 Mucho Macho Man; OMGA Investments LLC and Off the Hook LLC’s Jirafales, a 4 ¾-length debut winner at Gulfstream Park West; and Lea Farms LLC’s Willy Boi, who is undefeated in two starts against Florida-bred opposition at Gulfstream, round out the field.
Greatest Honour ‘Good’ to Go in Florida Derby Prep
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was dreaming of a bright future for Greatest Honour as he watched the 3-year-old son of Tapit school in the Gulfstream Park paddock and walking ring without turning a hair between races on Wednesday.
“He’s developed a lot. I was just sitting there thinking if he goes through the winter and spring and keep going in that direction, he can be good,” McGaughey said.
Saturday’s $200,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park is in Greatest Honour’s immediate future.
Greatest Honour finished a late-closing third while sprinting in his first two starts, before stretching out two turns at Aqueduct Nov. 8 to finish second, beaten by just a head by Known Agenda, who went on to finish third in the Remsen (G2). The Courtlandt Farms homebred broke through to graduate, closing from seventh to win going away in a 1 1/16-mile maiden test at Gulfstream Dec. 26.
“The farther, the better for him. I think he can run all day,” McGaughey said. “He’s got enough of a kick that if he gets a little pace, he can challenge here.”
McGaughey’s also confident that the more experience he gets, the better Greatest Honour will be.
“He’s a Tapit, so we had to work around some things, but he’s really good now,” said McGaughey, who named Jose Ortiz to ride Greatest Honour.
McGaughey will seek to add the Holy Bull to the extensive list of achievements on his Hall of Fame resume that includes victories in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) with Orb in 2014. Orb went on to give McGaughey his first Kentucky Derby success.
“Their running styles are similar – they both come from behind, but pedigree and looks-wise they’re different. This horse is taller, while Orb was more compact,” McGaughey said.
Awesome Gerry Gets Two-Turn Test in Holy Bull
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. views Saturday’s $200,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park as the ideal test of Awesome Jerry’s qualifications for continuing on the Road to the Florida Derby (G1).
“If he’s ever going to get two turns it will be here,” said Joseph of the 1 1/16-mile headliner on Saturday’s 12-race program with five graded stakes. “It’s kind to horses with speed like himself and there’s a short wire. I think it’s a good spot to try.”
The Holy Bull will be Awesome Gerry’s first try around two turns…on a conventional one-mile track. The son of Liam’s Map wrapped up his juvenile campaign with a close second in the seven-furlong Jean Lafitte Stakes around the two turns of the ‘bullring’ at Delta Downs.
Racing with blinkers for the first time, Awesome Gerry showed the way into the stretch before finishing third, 2 ¾ lengths behind victorious Mutasaabeq and 8 ½ lengths ahead of the fourth-place finisher.
“The last time he ran a mile I thought he handled the distance. He stayed on after he was passed,” Joseph said. “We’re going to give him another go at it. He’s training very well. I think he’s going to run a bang-up race.”
Awesome Gerry won the first two races of his career at Gulfstream and Gulfstream West before hitting the road to finish fourth in the Nyquist at Keeneland and second in the Jean Lafitte.
Awesome Gerry is scheduled to wear blinkers again Saturday.
“I worked him with blinkers again, and he relaxed much better. I think he’s going to run a good race,” said Joseph, who named Tyler Gaffalione to ride the colt owned by John Fanelli, Cash is King LLC and LC Racing LLC.