Nobiz Like Shobiz Gives Hope in Holy Bull Stakes

By Andrew Beyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 4, 2007

HALLANDALE, Fla., Feb. 3 -- One year ago, Barbaro captured the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, launching a campaign that would make him the most celebrated racehorse in America. Saturday highly regarded colt Nobiz Like Shobiz won the same race, starting on a route that his trainer and owner hope will also lead to the Kentucky Derby.

Nobiz Like Shobiz scored a 1 1/2 -length victory that was everything trainer Barclay Tagg wanted: a solid, professional effort that wasn't too taxing on the colt. It was a good enough performance that the 3-year-old shared top billing Saturday with Invasor, the 2006 Horse of the Year, who won the $500,000 Donn Handicap.

At the end of the last season, Nobiz Like Shobiz was considered one of the nation's best and most promising 2-year-olds. Although Street Sense had been voted the champion of the generation after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Nobiz Like Shobiz had won many admirers by winning two of his three starts in New York. His lone defeat came after a troubled trip in the Grade I Champagne Stakes. His credentials were further enhanced by his association with Tagg, who won the Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide and whose subsequent work as a trainer has been consistently impressive.

In the Holy Bull, Nobiz Like Shobiz was facing Scat Daddy, the rival who had defeated him in the Champagne, and the crowd correctly made Tagg's colt the 7-to-10 favorite. Nobiz Like Shobiz displayed his natural speed and popped to the lead under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, but John Velazquez on Scat Daddy didn't want him to get an uncontested lead over the speed-favoring Gulfstream surface. So he urged Scat Daddy to duel with the favorite, and they raced head-and-head down the backstretch of the one-mile race. But by the time they reached the turn, Nobiz Like Shobiz had established his superiority. Scat Daddy couldn't keep up. Drums of Thunder, the 23-to-1 shot who had been stalking the duel, rallied for second place.

"It was exactly what I wanted," said Tagg. "I wanted to get a good race in him without undue stress to win the race. Maybe the Fountain of Youth [on March 3 at Gulfstream] will be next." Elizabeth Valando, the colt's owner, was looking further ahead. "On to Kentucky!" she said in the winner's circle.

Invasor had a considerably more eventful trip in winning the Donn. The champion, undefeated in the U. S. since coming from Uruguay, appeared to have little serious competition in the one-eighth-mile event. Accordingly, he was the 2-to-5 favorite.

But he hardly looked like an odds-on proposition as he turned into the Gulfstream Park stretch.

Jockey Fernando Jara had let Invasor drop toward the rear of the eight-horse field as a longshot set a sizzling early pace. After breaking from post position No. 1 he stayed on the rail, advanced quickly into contention-and found himself behind a wall of horses. Jara couldn't get through, and he was forced to take a hard hold of his mount, dropping back and losing his momentum. But when an opening finally appeared on the rail, Invasor exploded through it and drew away to score a two-length victory over Hesanoldsalt.

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