Valid finishes strong to win the Harlan's Holiday Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Valid finishes strong to win the Harlan's Holiday Stakes.
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Coglianese Photos/Lauren King

Horse for Course Valid Takes Harlan's Holiday

The 9-5 favorite did not disappoint Dec. 12 at Gulfstream, holding off Madefromlucky.

Valid returned from a trip to the Breeders' Cup and relished the chance to get back to his favorite track, winning the $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes Dec. 12 at Gulfstream Park.

Video: Harlan's Holiday S. (BT)

The 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro  gelding now has six wins from 12 starts at the South Florida oval for trainer Marcus Vitali and Crossed Sabres Farm. Earlier this season he took the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (gr. III) there, and he also won the Sept. 26 Groomstick Stakes as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), in which he finished fifth. The Harlan's Holiday was his fourth stakes score of the year, along with a victory in the Philip H. Iselin (gr. III) at Monmouth Park in August.

"He's a good horse," Vitali said. "He's back at home. He likes it here. 

"He was doing really good, and the Breeders' Cup I don't think took a lot out of him. He's a class horse and good horses make good trainers. He's been holding up really good and training good. I thank Crossed Sabres for the opportunity again. They've been very generous and trusting in me and that's why I'm here."

A 3/4-length victory over late-closing Madefromlucky  was earned via a ground-saving ride by jockey Javier Castellano, who kept Valid close to the pace on the inside spot while Mr. Jordan showed the way. An opening quarter was run in :23.78, while the half went in :46.70 for the 1 1/16-mile test. 

"We knew there was some speed in there," Vitali said. "I told Javier just be light in the mouth and keep him close. Javier decided to let two or three horses go and when it was time, he asked and as usual Valid responded."

Making up ground on the leader after three-quarters went in 1:10.82, Valid easily shifted outside headed home and ran past his rival through a 1:35.86 mile, then held safe as Madefromlucky rallied but could not catch him. Final time was 1:42.27 on a fast track.

"My horse wanted to go to the lead too; I had to take him back a little bit and the race set up perfect," Castellano said. "I waited for my time behind horses and got the jump on Madefromlucky. That was the horse we had to beat. It worked out great."

Favored at 9-5 in a field of 10, Valid returned $5.80, $3, and $2.60 while Madefromlucky brought $4 and $3. Mr. Jordan, making his first start since Aug. 2, paid $5.20. Completing the order of finish were Just Call Kenny, Mexikoma, Ami's Holiday , Encryption, Sr. Quisqueyano, Lynx, and Juan and Bina.

Castellano was a late replacement for Matthew Rispoli, Valid's regular rider.

"I just had some thoughts as a trainer," Vitali said of the decision to take Rispoli off. "I was mulling some things around in my head. I had talked to Matt yesterday or the day before. Nothing personal, it was a business decision. He's a great kid and he still rides for me, and we move forward."

The winner was bred in Virginia by Edward P. Evans out of the Grand Slam mare Grand Prayer, and was a $115,000 purchase from the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2013 fall mixed and horses of racing age sale, when he was consigned by Kiaran McLaughlin. He was a $500,000 yearling from the Keeneland September sale when consigned by Lane's End and purchased by John Ferguson, and made his first seven starts for Darley before selling to his current connections.

Valid improved his record to 11-7-6 from 33 starts, for earnings of $833,577.

The Harlan's Holiday, which will be run as a grade III stakes in 2016, was joined on Gulfstream's Saturday program by the Rampart (gr. III), as well as South Beach and El Prado on turf. Cali Star took the Rampart, while Tuttipaesi won the South Beach and Reporting Star took the El Prado