Racing Roundtable: Holy Bull and Robert B. Lewis

February 7th, 2023

James Scully, Kellie Reilly, and Vance Hanson look back at last weekend's classic preps and other three-year-old doings in this week's Racing Roundtable.

How do you rate Rocket Can's Kentucky Derby (G1) chances after the Holy Bull (G3)?

James Scully: Not favorably. The Holy Bull was slow (93 Brisnet Speed rating) and Rocket Can appeared to beat a soft bunch. He may keep developing for Bill Mott, but I can't take his Kentucky Derby chances seriously if his Speed ratings don't improve significantly. Shadow Dragon, who won a slow New York-bred maiden at six furlongs before running poorly against restricted stakes foes last fall, rallied from last to be a clear second at 34-1, lending further credence to it being a suspect prep race.

Kellie Reilly: Rocket Can deserves credit for winning despite circumnavigating the track out wide, and a well-bred colt with his profile has a license to improve. But he'll need to get better because the Holy Bull arguably didn't take much winning. This prep lacked a standout going in, and the result didn't alter that impression. With a modest pace, the flops of a couple of other logical contenders, and the surprisingly close second by longshot Shadow Dragon, the Holy Bull still wasn't a vintage edition.

Vance Hanson: Not good at present. The Holy Bull itself turned out as soft as it looked on paper beforehand, with Rocket Can overcoming a very wide trip in modest time, while hard-to-figure longshots rounded out the top three. Rocket Can had previously finished second in an allowance at Churchill Downs to Confidence Game, who was only a distant third in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds last month, so he has a lot more improving to do to give the impression of being a top tier Derby contender.

Will Newgate's breakthrough in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) have an impact on the trail?

JS: Newgate lacks the pizzazz of unbeaten stablemate Arabian Knight, but I like his progress as a three-year-old. His best two-year-old race came when he didn't break properly the first time out, allowing him to settle briefly before winning clear, and Newgate proved to be a head case in his remaining three juvenile appearances, going all out from the start before tiring. He's learned to be a racehorse under the tutelage of Bob Baffert and Frankie Dettori this year, settling beautifully in a pair of starts. After recording a neck second in the Jan. 8 Sham (G3), Newgate continued to move forward in Saturday's Robert B. Lewis, racing comfortably in last before being called upon, and he registered career-best Speed (100) and Late Pace (106) figures for the narrow win. Newgate is just figuring things out, so it's natural to assume he'll keep advancing, and his breakthrough in the Lewis is eligible to have an impact on the trail.

KR: A four-horse intramural battle in principle doesn't sound like an informative race. My first thought was the old line, "I've got a better one back at the barn." In Baffert's case, it's not just budding superstar Arabian Knight, but also stoutly-bred types like Reincarnate and Faustin on the upswing. They're all looking at other spots on the calendar, so the Lewis came up light. Newgate was the class of the quartet, and at the risk of being a bit unfair, he finally found stablemates that he could beat. Granted, he has been on a consistently upward curve, especially with the change in running style. Still, since Newgate was all out to get past Hard to Figure, is there a compelling reason to think that he could have turned the tables on Reincarnate? If I am badly misjudging him, we'll know from ensuing preps, not from the Lewis.

VH: It's still far too early to say what impact any of the Southern California preps will have on the Derby trail. With the exception of his performance in the Breeders' Futurity (G1), which perhaps might be a true barometer of his place in the pecking order nationally, Newgate's other stakes appearances have largely been intramural battles between himself and other Bob Baffert trainees, which is not a very enlightening gauge. On the flip side, back-to-back Brisnet Speed ratings of 98 and 100 are solid, compared to what others have earned on the Derby trail, so Newgate's overall stock appears to have risen some this season.

What other three-year-olds caught your eye over the weekend?

JS: Tapit Trice. He would have won the Holy Bull by open lengths, in my estimation. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt was exiting a fine maiden tally at Aqueduct where he overcame less-than-favorable circumstances to defeat a sharp next-out winner. Tapit Trice was more professional Saturday, easily reeling in the favored pacesetter to win going away by eight lengths. His allowance win came back fast (99 Speed rating), and I'm excited to see his stakes debut.

KR: Even on Saturday, James had commented that Tapit Trice would have had a "huge chance" in the Holy Bull. And that was barely after the Tapit colt crossed the wire in his Gulfstream allowance romp. At Oaklawn Park, Gun Pilot rolled to a convincing allowance score under good handling by Ricardo Santana Jr. On paper, he didn't need to run much better on Saturday than when he was a distant second in his prior allowance to Verifying, but the Gun Runner colt is going the right way for Steve Asmussen. At Fair Grounds on Sunday, Brad Cox's Demolition Duke delivered a strong rally from the back of the pack to win his six-furlong debut. That's an encouraging sign for a horse bred to route, as a son of Good Magic and an Empire Maker mare. On turf, Cairo Consort's amazing recovery from a botched start in the Sweetest Chant (G3) just underscores her ability, and Shug McGaughey has a potentially smart prospect in Talk of the Nation, a relative of Zenyatta who zoomed clear in his first turf try at Tampa Bay Downs.

VH: As noted by others, Tapit Trice was the most interesting colt performer on Saturday's card at Gulfstream, and would have won the Holy Bull convincingly if he had run there instead of an undercard allowance. He's one to keep an eye on for the Derby and Belmont (G1) going forward. I'll also give a shout-out to Forward Gal (G3) winner Red Carpet Ready, who remained undefeated from three starts after recovering from an early stumble in the seven-furlong test. She'll be stretched out now in order to pursue the Kentucky Oaks (G1), but if that doesn't pan out don't count her out of races like the Eight Belles (G2), Acorn (G1), and Test (G1) later this season.