Sunday, February 23, 2003

Ohio-bred Holiday wins Grade I Donn Handicap

The Enquirer and wire reports

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Favorite Harlan's Holiday mounted a charge on the far turn under John Velazquez to beat Hero's Tribute by 2½ lengths Saturday in the $500,000 Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

"He overcame a lot," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Naturally, I was concerned about the (11) post position, but Johnny got him out of there in good order and was right where I hoped he'd be.

"When they came under the wire the first time, I was confident he was going to win it. It's great to have a horse with tactical speed who can finish as strong."

As expected, Keats took the lead from the start with Hero's Tribute second and Harlan's Holiday fourth. Harlan's Holiday caught the leaders at the 3/16ths pole before taking a short lead from Keats at the eighth pole.

Harlan's Holiday pulled away at the sixteenth pole, beating Hero's Tribute, who finished 1½ lengths in front of Puzzlement.

"We had a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "He broke well, and I was able to get good position right away. The post could have been a problem, but it didn't turn out to be. When I asked him at the quarter pole, he responded in a big way."

The Ohio-bred champion ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49 and paid $6.40, $4 and $3.20.

In addition to the Donn, Harlan's Holiday's other Grade 1 wins include the 2002 Florida Derby and the 2002 Blue Grass Stakes. He finished second by a nose to Booklet in the 2002 Fountain of Youth Stakes and was unplaced in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Breeders' Cup Classic.

• At Laurel, Md., Xtra Heat won the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes, establishing herself as the leading female winner of stakes races in North America.

TURFWAY PARK: The Florence track was forced to cancel its 12-race card Saturday because of track condition. This marks the eighth straight card and 10th overall lost since Jan. 1. Saturday's Valdale Stakes, has been rescheduled for March 1 on the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes card.

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