Harlan's Holiday, the winner of the 2002 Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream will make his 2003 debut in Saturday's $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.The Hal's Hope is named after one of the most popular horses to race at Gulfstream. Owned, bred and trained by 91-year-old Harold Rose, Hal's Hope captured four stakes at Gulfstream Park during his career, including the 2000 Florida Derby and 2002 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II), becoming the first ever to win both events.Hal's Hope died in July 2002, and the former Crème Fraiche Handicap has been renamed in his honor. "My main objective with Harlan's Holiday this winter is the ($500,000) Donn Handicap (gr. I on Feb. 22 at Gulfstream)," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "The Hal's Hope should serve as a good prep for him."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 trainer Ken McPeek. The Ohio-bred son of Harlan won at first asking under Pletcher's tutelage, taking the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. III) at Philadelphia Park by 4½ lengths on Sept. 2. He was then was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Sept. 28. Pletcher then shipped him to Arlington Park where he finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. !) on Oct. 26 before ending the season with a fourth place finish in the Cigar Mile (gr. I) at Aqueduct on Nov. 30. The poor finish to the year left the 4-year-old with seven career wins in 16 starts and earnings of more than $1.9 million.
"He didn't like the track at Arlington and didn't run any step of the way," Pletcher said. "That's the good thing about Gulfstream. I know he likes the track and he's been training very well at Palm Meadows. I worked him five eighths on Sunday and he was clocked in 1:01 2/5."