Harlan's Holiday, the winner of the 2002 $1 million Florida Derby (gr. I), will make his 2003 debut in a 1 1/16 miles allowance race on Sunday at Gulfstream Park. "My main objective with Harlan's Holiday this winter is the ($500,000) Donn Handicap," trainer Todd Pletcher said, referring to the 1 1/8-mile stakes on Feb. 22. "I wanted to run him in the Hal's Hope earlier in the meeting but he wasn't 100% for that race. This race on Sunday should serve as a good prep for the Donn." Besides the Florida Derby, Harlan's Holiday won the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and was seventh as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The bay colt then was fourth in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico. It was after the Maryland race that Pletcher took over training Harlan's Holiday from Ken McPeek.
Harlan's Holiday won at first asking under Pletcher's tutelage, taking the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. III) at Philadelphia Park by 4½ lengths on Sept. 2. He then was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28. Pletcher shipped him to Arlington Park where he finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) on Oct. 26. He ended the season by finishing fourth in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct on Nov. 30. Pletcher had been training Harlan's Holiday at the new Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach, but shipped him to Gulfstream last Sunday for a five furlong workout. Harlan's Holiday drilled in 1:00 handily, the best trial of 35 horses working that distance that day. "He worked well on Sunday," Pletcher said. "I kept him here at Gulfstream after that. John Velazquez has been riding him and will ride him again Sunday."