Harlan's Holiday and Nokoma lead the seven-horse field entering Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/16- mile Holy Bull is a major prep for the $1-million Florida Derby (gr. 1) on March 16. In the past four seasons, Hal's Hope (2000) and Cape Town (1998) have used the event as a springboard to victory in the Florida Derby.
Harlan's Holiday and Nokoma will top the betting in the Holy Bull, with Harlan's Holiday the 8-5 favorite in the morning line and Nokoma a close second choice at 9-5.
Ken McPeek trains Harlan's Holiday, an Ohio-bred son of Harlan who won three minor stakes at Thistledown and River Downs before he was sent to Kentucky.
The colt showed promise in his first graded stakes effort when he pressed a solid pace set by Siphonic and tired late to be second in the Lane's End Breeders Futurity (gr. II) going 1 1/16 miles.
In his final start as a 2-year-old, Harlan's Holiday dropped back to one mile in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs (gr. II) and proved best by nearly three lengths after pressing the pace from the outside for most of the way.
Tony D'Amico, who's been aboard in all the colt's six starts, has the mount again as Harlan's Holiday carries 122 pounds under the conditions of the Holy Bull.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Nokoma had an impressive outing in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) as he rallied to get within a neck of the favorite, Saarland. The son of Pulpit broke his maiden one race prior to the Remsen, going 1 1/16 miles.
John Velazquez, who rode the colt in his first two career starts, is back aboard as Nokoma carries 118.
The field for the Holy Bull includes: O'Rocky(122, Cornelio Velasquez, 8-1); Booklet (122, Eibar Coa, 4-1); This Cannonsloaded (116, Jorge Chavez, 10-1); Nokoma (118, John Velazquez, 9-5); Speedy Leon (116, Roger Velez 15-1); Harlan's Holiday (122, Tony Damico, 8-5); and Thatsallmon (116, Pat Day, 15-1).