Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s undefeated Hull ran his winning streak to three with a four-length victory over Kensei in the 85th running of the $112,000 Derby Trial (Grade III) on opening day of the 52-day Churchill Downs Spring Meet.
Trained by Dale Romans, who posted his 20th career stakes victory at Churchill Downs, Hull swept past dueling leaders Silver City and Checklist at the head of the lane and then repulsed a late bid by Kensei, who was ridden by Robby Albarado.
Ridden by Miguel Mena, who scored his second career Churchill Downs stakes victory, Hull returned mutuels of $8.80, $5.40 and $4.40. Kensei, owned by Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Racing, paid $13.80 and $7.40 in finishing 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Starlight Partners’ Checklist, who held third over Rendezvous by a half-length under Shaun Bridgmohan, paying $9 to show.
Silver City and Checklist dueled through fractions of :21.78 and :44.29 with Hull racing three-wide just off the pace. Mena pulled even with the leading duo midway around the final turn and began opening daylight on Checklist as the field straightened for the wire.
Completing the field in order were favored Silver City, Gato Go Win, Santana Six and Tintim Por Tintim. Time for the 7 ½ furlongs over a track rated “fast” was 1:30.21.
A Kentucky-bred son of Holy Bull out of the Chimes Band mare Band Queen, Hull’s victory was worth $67,357 and increased his career earnings to $107,800.
DERBY TRIAL STAKES QUOTES
DALE ROMANS (trainer of first-place finisher Hull) – “I loved what I saw out there today. He relaxed off the pace, and when the rider asked him to run, he really exploded. He’s as good as anybody around right now. He’s opened up in all three of his races. We entered in the Lexington but we had this race as our backup. Everything had to be perfect if he ran in that race (Lexington), because he was coming back so soon after the Turfway race (on April 2), and when he drew post 12, we didn’t hesitate to scratch him and point for this. We’ll take a look and see what happens in the Derby, who goes on from there and who doesn’t. The Preakness is a possibility for him right now.”
MIGUEL MENA (rider of first-place finisher Hull) – “It went great. There were really fast fractions, but he broke good and was in the bridle happy. I didn’t take to take him back and break his momentum.”
On handling the fast fractions and finishing:
“It’s just unbelievable. Not any horse can do it – only special horses.”
On how far Hull might be able to run:
“I breeze him in the morning and think he can run any distance.”
ROBBY ALBARADO (jockey of second-place finisher Kensei) – “I had a good trip. I was right in there behind the horse who was the eventual winner. We both kicked at the same time. He kicked away from me. The winner is a nice horse, but I like my horse, too.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX (jockey of fifth-place finisher and favored Silver City) – “He came away good and he ran hard early. He just got tired. That’s all.”