Eclipse Champion Shanghai Bobby headlines Holy Bull

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The Road to the Kentucky Derby is well underway and makes a stop Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. for the 26th running of the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. The race is one of 19 Kentucky Derby “prep” races under Churchill Downs’ new 36-race points system that will determine qualification to Kentucky Derby 139.

Under the new system, the top four finishers in the 19-race “Kentucky Derby Prep Season” schedule of races will be awarded 10-4-2-1 points, respectively. This “prep” portion of the schedule began in late September and concludes with the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes on Feb. 18. The two-leg Kentucky Derby Championship Series begins Feb. 23 and awards the top four finishers in the listed races 50-20-10-5 points, respectively for the first leg of eight races and 100-40-20-10 points, respectively, for the second leg of seven races. A wild card, which includes the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland (Apr. 20) and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs (Apr. 27) awards points of 20-8-4-2, respectively.

Saturday’s Holy Bull Stakes may be one of the most anticipated of the Kentucky Derby Prep Season races thus far. A field of 10 will compete in the 1 1/16 mile test on the dirt and will include Champion Two-Year-Old Shanghai Bobby, who will be making his three-year-old debut.

In previous years, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champ would have been able to rely on his laurels and the $1 million paycheck he earned from the Breeders’ Cup, as his ticket to the Kentucky Derby. However, under the new points system, Shanghai Bobby will have to prove himself as a three-year-old, just the same as the rest of the crop. He is currently second in the Kentucky Derby points standing with 20 points, behind Goldencents with 24. Eight others sit below him with 10 or more points, so a loss Saturday may have more of an impact than it would have under the old graded earnings system.