Unraced since an unplaced effort in the June 11 Met Mile (G1), Stanford showed no rust dominating the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park. The 4-year-old colt sped forward at the break and comfortably led wire to wire in the 1 1/16-mile race, notching his third stakes victory with a three-length decision.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who won three straight races on Saturday’s card including the Rampart (G3) with Eskenformoney, Stanford was ridden by John Velazquez and is campaigned by Stonestreet Stables and the Coolmore connections of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.
“It looked pretty clear on paper that (Stanford) was the main speed of the race,” Pletcher said. “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.”
“He broke really well and got to the first turn easy,” Velazquez added. “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.”
Winner of the $1.25 million Charles Town Classic (G2) two starts previously and second in the Gulfstream Park H. (G2) and Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream last winter, Stanford has now earned $1,197,560 from a 13-5-4-0 record.
The son of Malibu Moon showed the way by a length through a moderate opening quarter-mile in :24.61 and continued to cruise along on a clear lead through splits of :48.94 and 1:12.46 before stopping the teletimer in 1:42.10.
Stanford was off as the 9-5 second choice among seven runners.
Keen Ice, the slight 8-5 favorite and one of three Pletcher trainees in the field, got up late for second, a neck better than 3-1 third choice Awesome Slew. It was another 2 ½ lengths back to fourth-placer Madefromlucky, who completed the Pletcher triumvirate.
“I thought (Keen Ice) ran pretty well to be second,” Pletcher said. “(Jockey) 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.”
Pletcher said Stanford will likely make his next start in the $12 million Pegasus Cup on January 28. Keen Ice also stamped his Pegasus ticket with the runner-up finish.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Stanford passed through the auction ring twice, selling for $100,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale before being pinhooked for $550,000 at the Barretts March 2-year-old sale. He is the first stakes winner from the Distorted Humor mare Rosy Humor and 2001 champion 2-year-old male Johannesburg is out of Stanford’s third maternal dam.