As Greatest Honour joined the front row of Kentucky Derby contenders, he helped carry Gulfstream Park to a record Holy Bull handle day Saturday.
The south Florida track rolled up total handle of $21.87 million. That not only surpassed last year’s total handle by 20%, it blew past 2017’s previous record of $19.775 million. This came on a day where Gulfstream played host to five graded stakes races offering $600,000 in purses.
Gulfstream blew past its previous Holy Bull record with the same ease Greatest Honour blew past his Holy Bull rivals. As the 5/2 second choice, the 3-year-old Tapit progeny rolled to a 5 ¾-length victory, picking up 10 Derby qualifying points as his Derby futures odds dropped off a cliff. Circa Sports knocked him from 40/1 to 18/1. He went from 45/1 to 16/1 at William Hill Nevada.
Showing the same closing ability as his California rival Medina Spirit did in the Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, Greatest Honour sling-shotted into the lead on the turn. From there, he opened up to that nearly six-length victory, giving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey his first Holy Bull title.
McGaughey Now Owns a Gulfstream Derby Trifecta
That completes the Gulfstream Derby prep trifecta for McGaughey, who earlier won the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby with eventual 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
It also proves once and for all Greatest Honour’s sprinting days are over. McGaughey sent him seven furlongs in his first two races, producing thirds to Olympiad and Speaker’s Corner. Caddo River, who destroyed the Smarty Jones field by 10 1/4 lengths at Oaklawn Park last weekend, finished second in both races.
McGaughey finally let Greatest Honour tackle two turns in November, when he finished second at Aqueduct by only a neck for 1 1/8 miles to Known Agenda.
Known Agenda went on to finish third in the Grade 2 Remsen in his next start. Greatest Honour, meanwhile, went on to break his maiden over 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Dec. 26. That victory came with a career-best 104 Equibase Speed Figure. He ran a 101 Equibase Saturday.
From ‘Big Clown’ to Graded Stakes Winner
“He was kind of a big clown and did what he wanted to do all summer,” McGaughey told Gulfstream Park after the Holy Bull. “We got him ready to run at Saratoga. Sprinting wasn’t going to be his bag, but I think those two sprint races sort of helped him to learn and learn how to finish. We took him to Aqueduct and he had a big race there and just got beat. He came here and his two races here have been very good. The distances helped too – two turns. I think the farther we go, the better.”
Apparently, Greatest Honour hasn’t purged the clown gene. Jose Ortiz, who piloted Greatest Honour Saturday and in those first two sprint starts, said he could tell Greatest Honour checked out in deep stretch.
No Prime Effort from Favorite Prime Factor
“When we got to the quarter pole, I knew I had it,” Ortiz said. “He took the lead and went on. I still had plenty of horse underneath me. He was playing. From the three-sixteenths (pole) to the wire, he didn’t give me his 100 percent. He was just playing around.”
Tarantino made his dirt debut a good one, finishing second at 26/1. Prime Factor, the 6/5 favorite, was a disappointing third – 9 ½ lengths behind Greatest Honour.
As for where Greatest Honour runs next, McGaughey didn’t hesitate. He said the Feb. 27 Grade 2 Fountain of Youth looms large.
“It’s what I’ve had on my mind. I’m not going to leave Florida unless I’m forced to,” he said. “I won’t have any trouble having him ready for the Florida Derby if I don’t want to run him there.”