Shanghai Bobby carries the weight of a champion in Holy Bull

Courtesy of the Gulfstream Park publicity staff:

Shanghai Bobby is set to run at Gulfstream Park Saturday wearing the figurative crown of a champion. Honored as the country’s outstanding 2-year-old of 2012 at last weekend’s Eclipse Awards ceremony, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt will begin a quest for a more elusive crown in the Grade III, $400,000 Holy Bull, a major prep on the Road to the Kentucky Derby  and, ultimately, the Triple Crown.

The winter book favorite for this year’s Kentucky Derby in the aftermath of an undefeated five-race juvenile season, Shanghai Bobby will make one of the most anticipated 3-year-old debuts in recent years in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull. Pletcher is keenly aware that fans will venture to Gulfstream Saturday counting on the son of Harlan’s Holiday to produce yet another exciting performance.

“Expectations are pretty high, so we have to make sure we’ve done our job properly and put him in a position where he will perform to the best of his capabilities,” Pletcher said.

Shanghai Bobby drew the rail for Saturday’s race and was made the 4-5 morning-line favorite in the 10-horse field.

Shanghai Bobby has shown that he is capable of some pretty special things thus far in his career, including a thrilling and courageous triumph in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita that capped a brilliant 2012 campaign.

The Kentucky-bred colt had merely outclassed his competition in his first four starts, including commanding triumphs in the Grade II Hopeful and Grade I Champagne Stakes, but he was forced to dig deep to stage a winning rally in the Juvenile in his first race around two turns. After losing his focus when suddenly inheriting the lead at the top of the stretch, Shanghai Bobby eased himself up and was headed by He’s Had Enough. Despite losing his momentum, he met the challenge and fought back to maintain his undefeated record by a head.

“I’m impressed the way he’s been able to handle everything we’ve thrown at him,” Pletcher said. “He’s won at Aqueduct, Belmont, Saratoga, Santa Anita, and he seems to handle every surface we’ve put him on. He’s handled shipping cross-country; he’s handled two turns. So he’s been a real pleasure to train.”

Pletcher has been extremely pleased with Shanghai Bobby’s preparation for his 2013 debut.

“He’s doing great. He’s grown up, filling out, all the things you want to see from him going into his 3-year-old year,” the defending nine-time Gulfstream training champion said.

Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard for all five wins, will travel from Fair Grounds for the return mount on Shanghai Bobby.

“I think she’s an exceptional rider. Her record pretty much speaks for itself,” Pletcher said. “She rode him the first time at Aqueduct in April, and she’s had a perfect record on him. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Pletcher has been the most dominant trainer in racing for the past decade, but his lofty status doesn’t preclude a few pre-race jitters.

“Any time you have an undefeated champion, you want to make sure you have him properly prepared,” the five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer said. “So there’s always a little added anxiety when you’re running one that has a resume like his. But it’s a position you want to be in.”