While neither prevailed in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last November, the connections of race runner-up Frac Daddy and third-place finisher Dewey Square each departed that evening with an abundance of optimism over what their respective charges would be capable of during their 3-year-old seasons.
Such is the confidence trainers Kenny McPeek and Dale Romans each have in the colts that neither blinked at facing the unabashed divisional leader head on right out of the gate in 2013.
The storyline for Saturday’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park rightfully centers around whether newly-crowned juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby can show the same brilliance in his 3-year-old debut as he did during his unblemished 5-for-5 2-year-old campaign.
If there are any early stumbling blocks for Shanghai Bobby as he transitions to his sophomore form, fellow Holy Bull entrants Frac Daddy and Dewey Square could be among the likely candidates to pounce given the previous flashes of talent each has shown.
Owned by Magic City Thoroughbreds and trained by McPeek, Frac Daddy battled Kentucky Jockey Club winner Uncaptured for the better part of the final three furlongs in that race before falling a neck short. The son of Scat Daddy had already earned McPeek’s raves when he broke his maiden by 9 3/4 lengths second time out going 1 1/16-miles at Churchill on November 3. When the gray colt proved he had some fight in his heart during the Kentucky Jockey Club, McPeek’s opinion of his Kentucky Derby hopeful soared.
“The horse just seems to have a lot of presence, he is quite talented and he’s shown it early on here,” McPeek said. “It’s just a matter of we have to hope that everything goes smoothly in the next couple of preps but he acts like he’ll run all day. He somewhat reminds me of (1995 Kentucky Derby runner up) Tejano Run…but I do think he’s going to be a horse that is going to require some pace in front of him at some point.
“He’s doing well at this point and I’m excited about what the year has in store for him.”
Dewey Square was 1 1/4 lengths behind Frac Daddy and Uncaptured at the wire in the Kentucky Jockey Club. But the way the son of Bernardini kept coming after being hung wide on both turns was just what Romans – who was just honored with his first Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer – wanted to see from a potential classic contender.
Owned and bred by Siena Farms, Dewey Square broke his maiden first time out at Hoosier Park on September 21 and won a 1 1/16-miles allowance race over the main track at Churchill in October before stepping up to stakes company in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
“He’s one that really hasn’t shown a weakness yet,” Romans said of Dewey Square. “He has all the moving parts and his potential to me is unlimited. It’s just a matter of how good he can be.
“All the good young horses I’ve had have made that turn after that 2-year-old year into the 3-year-old year, from boys to men and it seems like he’s doing that right now. He’s gotten a little bit more confident in himself I believe.”
If Shanghai Bobby is everything his prior form suggests, no 3-year-old is going to taste Kentucky Derby glory without going through him first. With that in mind, McPeek and Romans figure better to find out now where their charges stack up against the colt who is currently the benchmark.
“I’m thinking more that we need to get a nice race out of our colt. If it sets up for him great and if it doesn’t, we’ll go onto the next one,” McPeek said. “But at least we’ll know how we pair up.”