Updated on 09/17/2011 10:58AM

Holiday scores rare double

Gary I. Rothstein/EQUI-PHOTO
Harlan's Holiday overcame an outside post and high weight of 120 pounds in winning Gulfstream's Grade 1 Donn Handicap Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Needless to say, Grade 1 races at Gulfstream Park bring out the best in Harlan's Holiday.

Eleven months after his easy victory in the 2002 Florida Derby, Harlan's Holiday came back with an equally impressive performance to win Saturday's $500,000 by three widening lengths over Hero's Tribute.

Harlan's Holiday became the first horse to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 1 Donn handicaps in back to back seasons. Cryptoclearance is the only other horse to capture both races. He won the 1987 Florida Derby and 1989 Donn.

To complete the unique Florida Derby-Donn double, Harlan's Holiday had to overcome a 120 pound impost and the extreme outside post in a field of 11 older handicap horses. But with the help of a masterful ride by John Velazquez, Harlan's Holiday raced in perfect striking position, engaged the pacesetting Keats and Hero's Tribute for command while three wide entering the stretch, and then pulled away with complete authority in the final furlong.

Puzzlement rallied from last to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Hero's Tribute. He was followed by Keats, Blue Burner, Windsor Castle, Free of Love, Mr. John, Bonus Pack, Saint Verre, and Request For Parole.

Harlan's Holiday paid $6.40 and covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.17 over a fast track.

"He obviously likes this track and this is the race we came down for," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Sometimes you get good trips from bad posts and sometimes you get bad trips from good posts. From where he was today the break was obviously critical and fortunately he broke running and secured a good spot."

Velazquez said he was worried about the post.

"I was worried that he might break slow or get bumped," Velazquez said. "But he broke so sharp. I just wanted to get him as close as I could without sweeping him off his feet."

Jockey Edgar Prado rode Harlan's Holiday to his victory in the 2002 Florida Derby but rode Hero's Tribute in the Donn.

"We got a beautiful trip," Prado said. "We had a good spot all around and gave him [Harlan's Holiday] a run for his money."

Pletcher said the Dubai World Cup would be a consideration for Harlan's Holiday's next start.

"Obviously there are a lot of factors involved going to Dubai but it's certainly a race we're interested in," Pletcher said.

- Additional reporting by Dave Grening