Stonestreet Stables and the Coolmore partners’ Stanford took the lead out of the gate and never looked back in Saturday’s G3 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes, holding off stablemate Keen Ice by a comfortable three lengths at the wire. Ridden by John Velazquez, the 4-year-old son of Malibu Moon covered 1 1/16 miles over Gulfstream’s fast main track in 1:42.16 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
“He broke really well and got to the first turn easy,” Velazquez said. “I just waited to see how he did on the lead. He did it really easy. He runs hard all the time. I see it the mornings, too. He was fresh and even when I asked him down the lane he wanted to run. He did start pricking his ears and I had to get into him a little bit to keep his mind focused. But when [Keen Ice] came to him galloping out, my horse galloped out really well.”
Having drawn the rail in the seven-horse field, the front-running Stanford had the advantage breaking from the gate and he’d built a one-length lead to enter the first turn. Velazquez rated him smartly through fractions of :24.61 and :48.94, with Awesome Slew trading blows with Applicator and Madefromlucky in mid-pack. Keen Ice was last of the seven early, but Javier Castellano forced him to join the fray down the backstretch, and he moved into fourth while four wide.
Turning for home, Stanford had a two-length lead after soft fractions, leaving Keen Ice with an insurmountable challenge; Stanford would draw away to win by three lengths. Nonetheless, Keen Ice ran on well through the stretch to best Awesome Slew for second place by about a half-length. Madefromlucky finished fourth.
“It looked pretty clear on paper that [Stanford] was the main speed of the race,” said Pletcher. “When he drew the rail, it was a pretty straightforward strategy. We wanted to come out running and hopefully, secure the lead going into the first turn. He was able to do that, and on top of that, the fractions were well within his comfort zone. So I thought it was terrific for him. It probably worked against Keen Ice a little bit, but despite that I thought he ran pretty well to be second. Javier (Castellano) tried to keep him closer because of the slow fractions and the way the track’s playing. I thought he ran pretty well considering that. I’m happy, and Madefromlucky I thought ran really well off the layoff.”
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Stanford was a $ 550,000 Barretts 2-year-old in training sale purchase. He has improved with age, earning his first graded stakes win this year in the Charles Town Classic, and won the Harlan’s Holiday off nearly a six-month layoff. Overall, Stanford boasts a record of five wins, four seconds from 13 starts, with earnings of nearly $ 1.2 million.
Pletcher said that both Stanford and Keen Ice will target the Pegasus, while Madefromlucky may target its undercard race, the Poseidon.
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