July 20, 2024

Audible a heavy favorite in Harlan’s Holiday; wide-open Ft. Lauderdale attracts star power

Audible burst onto the scene at Gulfstream Park (c) Coglianese Photography

Audible made a successful return to the races Breeders’ Cup weekend at Churchill Downs, and on Saturday the Florida Derby (G1) hero returns to the site of his biggest score for the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3), his tune-up for next month’s Pegasus World Cup (G1). The son of Into Mischief is one of two three-year-olds lining up in the six-horse Harlan’s Holiday, a 1 1/16-mile event that is one of five graded stakes on the Gulfstream Park program.

Preceding his three-length Florida Derby win a romp in the Holy Bull (G2), Audible entered the Kentucky Derby (G1) a prime contender, but wound up third to eventual Triple Crown winner Justify, with whom he shared mostly common ownership. Sidelined for six months afterward, Audible made a winning return on November 3 in the $200,000 Cherokee Run, scoring by two lengths going seven furlongs.

“He’s been excellent since he shipped down to Florida. Everything has gone according to plan so far, and we’re looking forward to the next step toward the Pegasus,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We’re pleased with the way he’s training, the way he looks and we hope that he likes what I would consider to be a little bit of a different Gulfstream surface maybe than what he ran on earlier this year, but it seems like he relished it.

“We were looking for the correct spot to bring him back and in the fall of the year. There’s limited opportunities against straight three-year-olds so we felt like maybe giving up a little bit in terms of the distance was the right way to go. I was proud of him for being able to show enough tactical speed to win impressively at a distance that is probably a little bit shorter than is his ideal distance.”

Audible’s primary rival appears to be stablemate Village King, who prevailed in a tight photo in the off-the-turf Red Smith at Aqueduct last month. It was the first win in three U.S. appearances for the Argentinean, who was a Group 1 winner on turf in his homeland and placed in the prestigious Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (G1).

A strong group of older turf runners will square off later in the card over nine furlongs in the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2), a prelude to next month’s $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).

Glorious Empire, gate-to-wire winner of the Bowling Green (G2) and Sword Dancer (G1) last summer, looks to rebound off a disappointing last-place run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). The salty opposition includes Man o’ War (G1) and Pan American (G2) winner Hi Happy; Bernard Baruch H. (G2) winner and Shadwell Turf Mile (G1) third Qurbaan; Arlington Million (G1) runner-up Almanaar; and Grade 1 veteran Divisidero, a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1).

A handful of other contenders make it an outstanding betting affair. Projected, Blacktype, Zulu Alpha, Doctor Mounty, and Inspector Lynley are all capable of a share or more with their best effort.

Here’s a look at the other stakes action at Gulfstream on Saturday:

*The regally-bred Dream Pauline will face Princess Rooney (G2) heroine Stormy Embrace in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3), a six-furlong dash for fillies and mares.

*The $100,000 My Charmer (G3), for fillies and mares at one mile the turf, includes Grade 1 veteran Capla Temptress, multiple stakes winner I’m Betty G, multiple graded-placed Special Event, and New York-bred star La Moneda.

*The $100,000 Rampart (G3) for fillies and mares at one mile features a cast of seven, including stakes debuter Electric Forest for trainer Chad Brown, Grade 3 winner Tequilita, and multiple stakes winner Tapa Tapa Tapa.