HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—D J Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades took a lot of betters and heavily favorite Fierceness by surprise with his 9-1 upset victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Holy Bull (Grade 3) at Gulfstream Park. Trainer Joe Orseno, however, was understandably ecstatic about the Florida-bred colt’s gutsy and decisive triumph in the important prep for the March 30 Curlin Floridia Derby (G1) but was hardly taken by surprise.

“I bought him with some high expectations, and he lived up to them,” Orseno said of Hades, who is undefeated in three starts.

The 3-year-old gelded son of Awesome Slew, who stands in Florida at Ocala Stud, took advantage of his rail post position for the mile-and-a-sixteenth Holy Bull to cut the corner on the first turn and take the lead into the backstretch. Meanwhile, Fierceness, the 2023 Eclipse Award-winning champion 2-year-old male who was sent to post at 1-5 odds, was floated three-wide on the turn after experiencing light bumping following the break. Hades showed the way along the backstretch under pressure from Inveigled before Fierceness advanced to engage the pacesetter going into the far turn. Fierceness poked his head in front on the turn, but Hades battled back under Paco Lopez in the stretch and drew clear to win by two lengths.

“At the top of the stretch, when he changes leads, he finds another gear. He galloped out really strong. I don’t think we got to the bottom of him yet,” Orseno said. “We’re real happy with him, especially the way he looked this morning.”

Fierceness, who won the Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by TAA by six-and-a-quarter lengths in his prior start, faded to third under Hall of Famer John Velazquez, a length-and-a-half behind a late-running Domestic Product.

Hades had overcome bumping at the start of his Dec. 9 debut at Gulfstream Park, closing from well back to get up in time to win a five-and-a-half-furlong maiden optional claiming at Gulfstream. The 3-year-old gelding, who was purchased by D.J. Stable for $130,000 from the Ocala Stud consignment at the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale, had a much easier time of things in his return in a first level allowance going seven furlongs, shaking off early pressure while setting the back and drawing away to an eight-length romp.

His next start on the road to the Curlin Florida Derby and the 2024 Triple Crown has not been decided. The $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) is scheduled for March 2.

“There’s no question it will be the Fountain of Youth or the Florida Derby. I think it will be only one, but I don’t know which one it will be yet,” Orseno said. “He’s lightly raced. He’s only run 5 ½ [furlongs] and 7, and [Saturday] two turns. I think that being said. We have the opportunity to have a fresh horse on the first Saturday in May.”

With the Holy Bull victory, Hades earned 20 points on the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve Leaderboard, ranking him fourth. Fierceness leads the Derby standings with 36 points while Grade 3 Lecomte-winner Track Phantom has 30 points. Grade 3 Southwest-winner Mystik Dan is third with 21 points. Grade 3 Withers-winner Uncle Heavy also has 20 points but has less non-restricted stakes earnings in the tie-breaker.

Hades is out of the unraced Florida-bred mare The Shady Lady, by Quality Road, and was bred in Florida by Ocala Stud, Joseph M. O’Farrell III, David O’Farrell, et. al. He has $225,000 in career earnings, of which $161,900 has been earned in non-restricted stakes.

Uncle Heavy has $137,500 in non-restricted stakes earnings.

Return to the Feb. 4 issue of Wire to Wire