Preakness Stakes Profile: Hull
by Trevor Whenham - 05/11/2009
Last race: Hull made his stakes debut last time out in the Derby Trial on the opening day of the Churchill Downs spring meet. It was impressive. He settled off of a very fast pace, made an aggressive three-wide move around the final turn, and took over to win convincingly by four lengths. His stakes debut was supposed to be a week earlier in the Coolmore Lexington, but he drew the outside post position and was scratched.
Career highlights: Hull has had a limited career, but he has made the most of it. He didn't make his racing debut until Feb. 7. He won an allowance race by more than four lengths that day while posting a very solid time for six furlongs. His ownership group was pleased enough with that performance to make the horse a late Triple Crown nominee. His second outing, at Turfway Park on April 2, was jaw-dropping. He destroyed another allowance field by almost eight lengths. He'll head into the Preakness as an undefeated runner, but one with a number of questions - this is a step up in class, and he's never run as far as a mile before.
Jockey: Miguel Mena. Robby Albarado was originally on this horse, but Mena took over for the Derby Trial and was obviously good enough to keep the mount. Mena, from Peru, is just 22, but he's quickly making a name for himself. He has won meet titles in Pennsylvania and Kentucky and is definitely on the rise. This will be the highest-profile race of his career, so nerves could certainly be a factor. An inexperienced horse and an inexperienced rider should contribute to a slightly inflated post time price.
Trainer: Dale Romans. Romans is a Kentucky-based trainer that has had some international success, most notably winning the Dubai World Cup with Roses in May in 2005. His only Derby starter was Sharp Humor in 2006. He was injured in the race and finished 19th. He has never had a horse in the Preakness, but he has proven more than capable of effectively handling top horses when they land in his barn.
Breeding: Hull is a son of Holy Bull. That horse was the solid betting favorite in the 1994 Kentucky Derby, but wound up a disappointing and inexplicable 12th. He skipped the other two legs of the Triple Crown, but went on to be named Horse of the Year for his performances later in the season. The grandsire of Hull's dam is Dixieland Band, a horse that was the damsire of two Derby winners - Monarchos and Street Sense.
Running style: It's hard to establish a pattern after just three starts, but the horse has excelled so far by settling just off the pace and then unleashing a massive move at the top of the stretch to take the lead and pull away. That's a running style that will be very common in the Preakness, and it remains to be seen how this horse will deal with a crowd of classier horses, and whether he is willing and able to adjust if his preferred spot isn't available. To his credit, he hasn't given us any reason to believe he won't.
Preakness prognosis: Hull presents a real puzzle for us. On one hand it is hard to discredit a horse that has never lost, and who keeps winning in increasingly impressive ways. On the other hand, the extra distance, the big jump in class, and the size of the field mean that this is a much bigger challenge than he is used to. Though I am not committed to anything yet, I suspect that I will discard the horse - you can't bet on all of them - and hope for the best.