While Mr Speaker is getting a lot of attention coming into the the Holy Bull Stakes, Shug McGaughey's 3-year-old Top Billing is one to watch in the fourth race at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Top Billing is scheduled to go to post in a strong entry-level allowance. The winner of his debut at Laurel by 5 1/4 lengths in November, the son of Curlin impressed at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3 when he encountered a less-than-ideal trip before missing by a neck to Commissioner.
“He’s been doing really well,” McGaughey said. “He’s had a couple of works since his race. Everything looks good.”
Asked about plans for the colt, the Kentucky Derby-winning trainer would not get ahead of himself.
“It would depend on how he ran. If he made the lead and just got beat or he came running and in trouble like he was the last time, I might (run in a stake). But if he gets beat, I still have the conditions, and he doesn’t necessarily have to run in a stake,” McGaughey said. “Of course, if he were to win, he’ll have to run in a stake.”
Top Billing and Mr Speaker schooled together in the Gulfstream paddock and walking ring during the first race on Thursday’s card.
Mr Speaker at Crossroads
Mr Speaker, who captured the Dania Beach on turf last time out, is set to make his debut on dirt in the Holy Bull. McGaughey is confident in his colt’s credentials for classic distances, whether his best surface turns out to be turf or dirt, or perhaps both.
“He’ll run as far as you want him to run, I think. He settles good. His female family is all stamina,” McGaughey said. “The one thing that is encouraging about him is that he’s such an athletic kind of horse.”
McGaughey said he learned an important lesson last year about the Kentucky Derby trail.
“The one thing I found out about last year is that everything has to go right. Last year, everything went right. When we wanted to work, we got to work. The work was right. Everything went right. When we shipped to Kentucky, it all went fine,” he said. “Whether that’s going to happen this year, who knows?”
Edited Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey