(Fierceness / Photo Courtesy of Gulfstream Park)

From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:

Fresh off being named 2023 Champion 2-Year-old Male at last week’s Eclipse Awards in Palm Beach, Repole Stable’s Fierceness is entered to make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, a key prep for the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1), will be featured on a program that will also include the $175,000 Kitten’s Joy (G3), $175,000 Sweetest Chant and the $125,000 Claiborne Farm Swale. All four stakes are for newly turned 3-year-olds.

The 2-year-old champion has been installed as the 3-5 morning-line favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds.

Fierceness scored an 11 ¼-length debut score over a pair of next-out winners on a muddy Saratoga track Aug. 25 before finishing off the board following a troubled start in the Oct. 7 Champagne on a sloppy Aqueduct surface, was a dominant winner of the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita while making his first start around two turns and on a fast track. The homebred son of 2019 Pegasus World Cup (G1) winner City of Light captured the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile by 6 ¼ lengths over next-out San Vicente (G2) winner Muth.

“We were thrilled with his performance in the Breeders’ Cup and happy that he vindicated himself from the Champagne and delivered the performance that we thought he was capable of,” Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I think some people kind of questioned how good he might be after the disappointing Champagne, but he kind of sold us watching him train that that was a throw-out race, so it was very rewarding to see him do that.”

Fierceness is currently scheduled to go directly to the March 30 Curlin Florida Derby from the Holy Bull – the same schedule Pletcher set for Audible, who won the 2017 Holy Bull and Florida Derby before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

“He came out of the Breeders’ Cup really well so we brought him down here and were trying to come up with the best game plan of how we can get him ready hopefully for the Florida Derby and Churchill, and we felt like by using the Holy Bull as the stepping stone to the Florida Derby that we could give him a little bit of a freshening after the Breeders’ Cup but not have to let him completely down,” said Pletcher, who will bypass the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2 with Fierceness.

“By bringing him back in the Holy Bull we get good spacing to the Florida Derby and like the five weeks from the Florida Derby to the Kentucky Derby,” he added. “Knock on wood, everything’s gone according to plan so far and hopefully continues to go that way. He’s had some super breezes leading up to this, and we’re super excited about getting him started.”

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who rode Fierceness for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, has the return mount on the Repole homebred.

WinStar Farm LLC and Siena Farm LLC’s Otello will race around two turns for the first time Saturday after winning his first two races around one turn with stylish off-the-pace performances. The Christophe Clement-trained son of Curlin is coming off a half-length victory in the one-turn mile Mucho Macho Man Jan. 1 at Gulfstream Park. Otello had graduated in a one-turn mile at Aqueduct in his career debut.

“One of the reasons why we decided to go the longer route with him for his debut. He has speed but he’s also able to sustain his speed, which makes him more effective the longer we go,” said trainer Christophe Clement’s son and assistant Miguel Clement.

In the Mucho Macho Man, Otello shook free of traffic in the stretch to prevail by a half-length.

“I thought he was very impressive. As you know, he was only able to run in the later stages of the race. Nevertheless, he ran rather impressively,” Clement said. “We’re looking forward for him to take the next step, which is no easy task taking on last year’s champion. Nevertheless, the horse is doing well.”

Luis Saez has the return mount on Otello, who is rated second on the morning line at 9-2.

D J Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades will also start in the Holy Bull with an undefeated record in two races. The son of Awesome Slew won at first asking in a Dec. 9 at 5 ½ furlongs, closing from last to win by a half-length following a troubled start. He came back to capture a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance for Florida-breds Dec. 31, shaking off early pressure to draw off by nine lengths.

“His first start was 5 ½, and I knew he was a very talented horse, so I thought if anything gets him beat it’s the distance. He overcame it. Fortunately, Paco had a lot of faith in him. His second race was seven-eighths and Paco rode him pretty much the way he wanted to in there and had him in contention,” trainer Joe Orseno said. “But going long, I think he’s a horse that will sit still. He does just about anything you ask him to do. So, if he has a good mind and he doesn’t try to run off and he relaxes for the jock, I think he’ll get a distance all day long.”

Paco Lopez has the return call on Hades, who is eligible for a win-only bonus offered by the FTBOA to a registered Florida-bred winner.

Holly Crest Farm’s Sea Streak will also run in the Holy Bull off a strong effort in the Mucho Macho Man, in which he pressed the pace before taking the lead in mid-stretch, only to come up short of victory by three-quarters of a length while finishing third. The New Jersey-bred gelding has been first or second in all four of his career starts for trainer Eddie Owens Jr.

Luca Panici will return aboard the son of Sea Wizard.

Mark Grier’s Inveigled, who finished fourth in the Mucho Macho Man after impressively winning a Gulfstream optional claiming allowance; Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Domestic Product, who will race with ‘blinkers off’ following a disappointing off-the-board finish in the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct; and Alexandres LLC’s Dancing Groom, who finished a distant third in the Champagne prior to an off-the-board finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) round out a field that will be scratched down to seven with the announced withdrawal of No More Time, the fifth-place finisher in the Mucho Macho Man.