Harlan's Holiday Expected for Hollywood Gold Cup

(form Hollywood Park notes)
Harlan's Holiday, scratched Saturday from the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, will be flown from New York to California on Thursday to compete in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher informed the racing office.

"I thought it would be a slightly easier race, and I like the two turns better," said Pletcher of the decision Sunday from New York. "The Suburban is one turn and starts on the middle of a turn. Mineshaft is a tough horse to take on right now, and the way he won yesterday, I think I made the right decision."

Harlan's Holiday, one of the leading handicap horses in the nation, has won nine of 20 starts and earned $3,482,664. Regular rider John Velazquez will be aboard the 4-year-old colt.

This year Harlan's Holiday won the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park and finished second to Moon Ballad in the $6-million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) before finishing a distant fifth as the favorite in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) on a sloppy Belmont surface June 14.

"He turned his head right when they opened the gate and gave the others a five-length lead," said Pletcher of the Brooklyn. "We had a downpour earlier, and everybody was winning on the front end. It was the wrong set-up for us."

Pletcher said that Harlan's Holiday breezed five furlongs in 1:01 at Belmont Sunday and will gallop up to the race. Assistant Michael McCarthy will accompany the horse on the flight. Pletcher will arrive to saddle him for the Gold Cup.

Pletcher and Velazquez teamed to win the Hollywood Turf Express last autumn with Texas Glitter. Velazquez also won the 1998 Hollywood Derby on Vergennes, the 1998 Generous Stakes on Incurable Optimist and the 2001 Matriarch aboard Starine.

Golden Ticket, track record-holder of 2:13.42 for 1 3/8 miles at Hollywood Park and a 10-length winner of the Greenwood Cup Handicap at Philadelphia Park in his last start June 7, is also scheduled to be flown west this week by trainer Cliff Sise.

Western Pride earned the green light for the 1 1/4-mile test after working six furlongs in 1:13 here Sunday under Jose Valdivia, Jr., who has the call for the first time on the 5-year-old millionaire for trainer James Chapman.

A field of six or seven is shaping up. Probable are Harlan's Holiday (Velazquez), Congaree (Jerry Bailey), Kudos (Alex Solis), Piensa Sonando (Gary Stevens), Western Pride (Valdivia) and Golden Ticket (probably Patrick Valenzuela). Argentine-bred Rodion is also a strong possibility to be entered, according to trainer Darrell Vienna.

Congaree is expected to work Tuesday at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert.