Updated on 09/16/2011 8:10AM

Harlan's Holiday makes successful return

Harlan's Holiday and Edgar Prado win the Pennsylvania Derby by 4 1/2 lengths on Monday.

BENSALEM, Pa. - Harlan's Holiday, the beaten Kentucky Derby favorite who hadn't been out since finishing fourth in the Preakness, made a triumphant return to the races Monday by romping to a 4 1/2-length victory in the $500,000 Grade 3 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park.

Essence of Dubai finished second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Make the Bend, who finished a head in front of Wiseman's Ferry. Matzsayo finished last.

The field was reduced to five - the shortest in the 24-year history of the race - with the scratches of Magic Weisner and Iron Deputy. Magic Weisner was scratched Saturday with a fever. Iron Deputy was scratched Monday with a problem in his left front foot, according to trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

As the lone speed under Jorge Chavez, Wiseman's Ferry appeared to have a tactical advantage in the Pennsylvania Derby. Knowing that, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Edgar Prado decided to have Harlan's Holiday come out running and force Chavez to use his horse to make the lead.

Prado guided Harlan's Holiday to the outside of a slow-starting Wiseman's Ferry, and stalked that rival through moderate fractions of 23.72 seconds, 47.39, and 1:11.63.

"Had we let Wiseman's Ferry lope on the lead in 48 and change - which was probably going to happen if we didn't press him a little bit - then, yeah, we were going to be in trouble," said Pletcher, who received Harlan's Holiday from owner Jack Wolf in June.

Leaving the five-sixteenths pole, Harlan's Holiday made the lead as Wiseman's Ferry couldn't keep up. Essence of Dubai was sitting just behind the top two while racing on the inside under Jose Flores. He altered course in the stretch but was no match for the winner.

Harlan's Holiday covered the nine furlongs in 1:51.10 over a wet-fast track and returned $4 to win. He was favored by $1,050 over Wiseman's Ferry. A late plunge of $80,000 on Wiseman's Ferry in the show pool resulted in show payoffs of $5.60, $17, and $27.20.

Prado, who rode Harlan's Holiday to victories in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass in the spring, said this was a good start to Harlan's Holiday's fall campaign, which is likely to include either the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont or the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington at the end of September and the Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 26 at Arlington.

"He's not at the point where he was at the Florida Derby, but still he's a nice horse and I think he'll improve," Prado said.

In other stakes action: Under Chavez, Willie's Luv ($12.40) dueled 4-5 favorite Bronze Autumn into defeat then held off a late run from Pupil to win the $75,000 Pennsylvania Oaks. Belle Artiste ($4.60) rallied from last under Chavez to win the $75,000 Steve Van Buren Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths over Tugger. The Maccabee ($3.80) won the $53,850 Captain My Captain Stakes by two lengths.