HALLANDALE BEACH, FL—After D. J. Stable LLC and Robert Cotran’s Hades pulled off a gutsy front-running victory in the Feb. 3 Holy Bull (Grade 3) at Gulfstream Park, trainer Joe Orseno had a decision to make.

Would he run the undefeated Florida-bred gelding back in the $400,000 Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2? Or would he wait for the $1 Curlin Florida Derby presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa (G1) four weeks later?

Orseno opted to give the son of Awesome Slew some extra time and passed on the Fountain of Youth and its 105 Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) qualifying points. The field for the mile-and-one-sixteenth Fountain of Youth would scratch down to only five horses, making it considerably easier for its participants to earn more Derby points.

Yet, Orseno hasn’t second-guessed his decision to point Hades to the Florida Derby after he earned 20 Derby points for his Holy Bull win.

“I’m happy with my decision. I never once sat back and said, ‘Uh oh, they scratched down to five and I should have been in there,’” Orseno said. “I did what was right for my horse, and I’m going to live with that.”

Hades is rated at 7-2 on the morning line, behind Todd Pletcher-trained Fierceness, the Holy Bull third-place finisher who has been installed as the 8-5 favorite, and Shug McGaughey-trained Conquest Warrior, who is rated second at 3-1. 

“They’re two very good horses,” Orseno said. “I’ve watched Shug’s horse run. I’m not sure what he beat that day, but he finished up with determination and galloped out strong. I know he’s a very good horse. When you give $2 million for a horse, you better be nice.

“Todd’s a great trainer. I think Todd had him ready that day. I respect that horse and I know he’s going to be ready. He may have needed the race. It happens,” he added. “A lot of good horses coming off the juvenile year—2 turning 3—maybe they’re not the same, maybe they are. The jury’s still out. Todd’s going to answer some questions coming up in the Florida Derby.”

Hades has demonstrated versatility during his flawless three-race career, rallying from off the pace in his five-and-a-half-length debut score and setting pressured paces in his seven-furlong optional claiming allowance and Holy Bull victories.

Hades’ success has been particularly rewarding being able to share it with his longtime clients, whom he brought together to buy Hades for $130,000 at the 2023 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale in April.

“We’ve been together for quite a while. We’ve had highs and lows, like most outfits, but we remain good friends,” Orseno said of D. J. Stable’s Leonard and Lois Green. “It’s so nice to have a horse with them and their partner Robert Cotran. He’s been a client since ’84 or ’85, so it’s kind of nice to put them together.”

Return to the March 29 issue of Wire to Wire