Although the Florida Derby still is a little over three weeks away, it appears as if at least seven 3-year-olds are pointing for the $1 million, grade I event at Gulfstream Park on March 16. Booklet and Harlan's Holiday, who finished one-two in the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth Stakes, are expected to renew their budding rivalry, with a few new faces ready to join the fray.
A record $577,889 was wagered into pool one of the pari-mutuel Kentucky Derby future wager offered this weekend, with the mutuel field emerging as the first-round favorite for the fourth straight year.
Stop us if you've heard this one before. Booklet, a tiny colt trainer John Ward calls "a walk-on, non-scholarship type of player," spurts to an open lead, and when finally collared late by Harlan's Holiday, refuses to yield, holding off that rival by a desperate nose.
The blurry Kentucky Derby picture should begin clearing up Saturday, as a number of Triple Crown hopefuls meet to determine who makes that all-important leap forward. The grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes, which drew a field of eight, is split right down the middle, with four stakes winners facing off against four up-and-coming stars. And in supporting allowance races, two promising colts lock horns in a prep for the Florida Derby, and a former Coolmore colt makes his U.S. debut.
Harlan's Holiday turned in another sharp work for Saturday's grade I Fountain of Youth Stakes, drilling a half in :47 1/5 Wednesday with jockey Tony D'Amico aboard. In other Fountain of Youth developments, Elliott Walden has decided run Speed Hunter, and Shug McGaughey will run only Maybry's Boy, who worked a half Wednesday in :48 3/5.
Trainer Ken McPeek had Harlan's Holiday on the track for a half-mile workout Feb. 12 and was more than pleased with the stakes-winning juvenile colt's move. Harlan's Holiday was ridden by jockey Tony D'Amico and was clocked in :47 2/5 handily. He runs Saturday in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I).
With jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Graham Motion-trained Grey Beard worked five furlongs Monday in 1:02 4/5 over a Gulfstream Park track labeled "good."
With the Gulfstream surface doing a Jekyll & Hyde transformation, Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Repent blazed 5 furlongs Wednesday in :58 flat, working in company with stablemate Take Charge Lady. The Kentucky Jockey Club winner galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:11 4/5.
- By Steve Haskin
Saturday's seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes, recently more of a vehicle for non-Kentucky Derby horses, could provide a fascinating glimpse at the classic picture with the presence of the late-closing Maybry's Boy and the exciting prospect Axis.
Booklet and Harlan's Holiday, the respective first and second place finishers in Saturday's Holy Bull Stakes, are expected to meet again Feb. 16 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. I), the next step on the road to the Florida Derby (gr. I).
Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) winner Repent breezed a half-mile in :50 at Gulfstream Park on Saturday under regular rider Tony D'Amico.
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.
Trainer Ken McPeek sent out a pair of Kentucky Derby prospects for exercise at Gulfstream Park Sunday. Harlan's Holiday went five furlongs in :59 2/5, handily, while Repent breezed three furlongs in :36 1/5. Also working Sunday was Derby future-book favorite Siphonic, who went seven furlongs in 1:26 2/5, handily, at Hollywood Park.
Iroquois Stakes (gr. III) winner Harlan's Holiday was on the track at Gulfstream Park Monday morning, and the 3-year-old breezed five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 in preparation for the Jan. 19 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III). Another 3-year-old working at Gulfstream was Remsen Stakes (gr. II) Saarland, who breezed a half-mile in :51 3/5 Sunday.
Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos continued working toward the Feb. 9 Donn Handicap (gr. I) Sunday, working five furlongs at Gulfstream Park. The John Ward trainee, who won the Florida Derby (gr. I) at the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Donn, will likely have to face 2000 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Red Bullet in the $500,000 Donn.
While many are preparing to open their Christmas presents Tuesday morning, Kenny McPeek is already playing with his new toys. Even though the Kentucky Derby is still over four months away, McPeek is thinking more of mint juleps than egg nog.
Starlight Stable's Ohio-bred Harlan's Holiday kept close to a brisk pace and drew away in the stretch to win Sunday's $113,200 Iroquois Stakes for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.
Morton Fink's Stephen Foster Handicap winner Guided Tour breezed five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 in company over a muddy track at Churchill Downs on Monday.
This is the weekend that should clear up a very murky 2-year-old picture three weeks out from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Hopefully, and we do mean with fingers crossed, as injuries and illnesses continue to take their toll on the juvenile ranks, we will get to see The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Officer prep for racing's biggest day.
Racing in River Downs' feature on the Labor Day card, the aptly named Harlan's Holiday held off Request for Parole to post a neck victory in the Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes.
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