War Story wins Harlan's Holiday for a Pegasus World Cup bid

December 14, 2019 04:51pm

A hot early pace Saturday in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3, $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes cost both pace-setting Bodexpress and Prince Lucky, who was pulled up and out of the race early.

But it also cleared the way for a veteran who's still got it after all these years.

War Story, running for the first time in trainer Elizabeth Dobles’ care, surged late under jockey Luis Saez to give the gelding his eighth win in his 38th start. The conditioner also notched her first graded stakes victory.

Campaigned by Imaginary Stables and Glenn Ellis, 7-year-old War Story transitioned straight from the Jorge Navarro barn to earn consideration for a spot in the Jan. 25 Pegasus World Cup (G1) back at Gulfstream.

"He doesn’t traditionally run well at this track, but after that...if we get an invite, we’ll go," said Imaginary Stables’ John Guarnere. 

"This will now be his third Pegasus," noted Ellis, after War Story finished fifth in the 2017 running and 10th in the 2018 renewal. "...This is the day I've been waiting for.

"It would be everything. We've definitely got our trainer and our jockey."

The fractions went in 22.82, 46.14 and 1:10.47 for the opening 3/4 of a mile after Bodexpress shot from the gate to duel outside of Prince Lucky.

Meanwhile, War Story saved ground early, well behind the leaders, and tipped out through the turn to begin a sustained drive to the front.

He’s a horse you have to keep busy all the way," Saez said. "At the half-mile pole, he responded to me. In the stretch, he switched leads and took off."

The 25-1 longshot Phat Man also rallied Saturday — just not quite as fast as the race winner — to be second by 1 1/2 lengths, while Bodexpress stuck around for third. 

Under jockey John Velazquez, the graded winner Prince Lucky was pulled up sharply along the back stretch as Bodexpress pressed on. Red Crescent headed the leader off the turn but was turned back. Bodexpress, a 3-year-old made famous for tossing Velazquez at the start of the Preakness Stakes, didn’t have enough to hold them all at bay.

This time, Bodexpress, who had won both his races since the Triple Crown series, had lost his rider before the start and acted more while loading into the gate. He broke on top but may have sacrificed some stamina before the break.

War Story, a son of Northern Afleet, went on to complete 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.45. He returned $27.20 after going off at 12-1.

Acacia Courtney, handicapper and host at Gulfstream, relayed that Prince Lucky walked onto an equine ambulance after the Harlan's Holiday. TVG's Gabby Gaudet later reported the nature of the industry as serious.


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