Csaba, given a dream run through at the rail by Luis Saez, left Delegation behind in the stretch to win the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes Dec. 16 impressively for his third consecutive victory in Florida (VIDEO).
A 3-year-old son of Kitten's Joy trained by Phil Gleaves for owners Bruce Hollander and Cary Shapoff, 9-2 shot Csaba came into the race after back-to-back victories at Calder Casino & Race Course in the Tropical Park Derby and the Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III). The latter victory Nov. 14 came in a dead heat with the late-runing Ducduc, who finished fourth in the Harlan's Holiday.
Csaba, now 3-for-3 against older horses, defeated Delegation by 3 3/4 lengths while completing the 1 1/16-mile event in a sharp 1:43.51 on a fast track. Delegation, the second choice in the field of eight, was a clear second under John Velazquez by 3 1/2 lengths over Cash Rules and Javier Castellano.
"He ran a great race and sat off a decent pace," Gleaves said. "One thing I noticed is that he didn't change leads in the stretch, so I'm going to have to work at that. But he ran a good race."
Scatman, the 8-5 choice off back-to-back wins in Kentucky for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, weakened in the stretch to finish fifth.
Csaba, who was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won for the fifth time in 12 starts this year. The bay colt is the first stakes winner out of the winning War Chant mare High Chant. Csaba's third dam, Constant Change, is a half sister to 1987 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Very Subtle.
Forwardly placed by Saez, Csaba stalked pacesetter I'm Steppin' It Up with Delegation and Scatman both prominently positioned as well. Scatman led through solid fractions of :23.40, :46.61, and 1:11.02. Csaba, drawing closer on the final turn, squeezed through at the rail and took the lead into the stretch as Delegation challenged.
Those two drew away from the field in the lane, but Delegation could not match strides with Csaba, who opened up by two lengths mid-stretch and kicked away in the final furlong.
"I liked this horse as a baby and I knew he'd win this race," Saez said. "In the stretch I had a little trouble with horses in front of me and I had to go to the rail, but he won easy. He continues to improve with each race."
Improving his career record to 7-1-3 in 16 races with earnings of $312,525, Csaba comes under early consideration for the Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 9 at Gulfstream.
"I wouldn't mind turning him back and run him in the Hal's Hope (gr. III at Gulfstream Jan. 13), but we'll see," Gleaves said.
Sent off as the third choice, Csaba paid $11.20, $5, and $3.20 while carrying 120 pounds. The Mark Casse-trained Delegation, dropping from a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park, returned $4.20 and $3. The exacta was worth $41.60. Cash Rules, who had won his past four starts, all in stakes at Calder, paid $3.20 to show.
Ducduc was followed by Scatman, I'm Steppin' It Up, Decaf Again, and Duke of Mischief, a lifetime winner of more than $1.9 million making his first start since April 14.
Citrus Kid scratched.