Harlan’s Holiday 2017: Odds and Analysis

December 17, 2016 10:12am

Whether you want to call it a Pegasus World Cup semifinal, or maybe the Todd Pletcher Invitational, Saturday’s Grade 3 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park brings together an interesting group of horses all looking to finish off 2016 with a bang. Classy horses off the layoff, Pegasus World Cup preppers, a talented three-year-old facing older for the first time, and local longshots, the compact field of seven going 1 1/16 miles has a bit of everything. Here is my analysis, including projected odds ...


1) Stanford (5-2) – When last seen, my top selection of the Pletcher trio was finishing a disappointing eighth behind Frosted in the Grade 1 Met Mile. Before that, though, he had a good pair of second place finishes in graded stakes at Gulfstream Park, before winning the rich Charles Town Classic in impressive front-running fashion. He’s fresh after a six-month layoff, and has been working well in South Florida for this return. He will be right there early, which is never a bad thing at Gulfstream Park, and should sit a favorable trip without too much other speed to work about. The horse just below him is the one he needs to beat as they turn for home, and it well could come down to these two all the way to the wire. My Top Pick


4) Awesome Slew (3-1) – Though still officially three, it’s time for him to step up against older horses if he is going to be a top older horse himself moving forward. Bred to be a good one (Awesome Again – Slewfoundmoney, by Seeking the Gold), the Eddie Plesa-trained speedster would still seem to have plenty of room for improvement. He’s only run seven times lifetime, and his last two at Parx are very good. He dominated the Grade 3 Smarty Jones gate to wire, winning like a good thing, before running hard on the lead in the $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby. He faded to fifth of twelve in the excellent field, but was very game all the way to the wire. If the top pick does not bring his best, the sophomore could well go all the way. Talented Speed


6) Keen Ice (3-2) – Looked more like his old self, the Travers Stakes winning old self, when he finished well to claim third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Those two performances alone earn him top billing in here, but keep in mind, Keen Ice has never been a horse to excel at 8 ½-furlongs. Nor has he ever found much success at Gulfstream Park, having finished off the board in both starts there. While this race sets up better for others, it likely is more of strictly a prep for the Donegal runner, with sights on the Pegasus World Cup. It’s a race the stretch runner does not need to win to move forward, and I don’t think he will win. Only a Prep


2) Madefromlucky (4-1) – Has been away from the races since a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Excelsior in April, but like Stanford, the son of Lookin at Lucky has a series of works at Palm Beach Downs for trainer Todd Pletcher in preparation for his return to the races. He’s likely to be ready to roll in his first race back, which then begs the question whether he is good enough. Wins in the Peter Pan and West Virginia Derby in 2015 give an indication that the answer may be yes. He actually finished off a solid three-year-old season with a good second to Valid in this race last year, and has two wins at Gulfstream Park. If you are looking for more attractive odds than a few above him, a mature Madefromlucky is quite interesting. Dangerous on the Return


5) Hy Riverside (15-1) – Well, of the local longshots, he is the one I much prefer. He had two nice come from behind wins at Gulfstream in August, but when moved up to stakes company last time, he could do no better than fourth in the Sunshine Millions Classic Preview. I cannot expect anything better this time, as he moves up into even tougher company. In Tough

7) Applicator (30-1) - Since winning a minor stakes race on the turf in May, the three-year-old son of Henrynavigator has been a big longshot in three subsequent turf races against better competition. I don't suspect switching to dirt will improve his outlook any in this one. Turfer Up Against It


3) Joshua’s Comprise (50-1) – While I can understand why the connections of Hy Riverside are taking a shot in here, I cannot see why this winner of 2-of-53 lifetime is in the race. This poor horse does not belong. Impossible to Recommend


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Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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