Updated on 09/17/2011 10:57AM

Holiday season?

Harlan's Holiday at Saratoga in August. He has a difficult post and top weight in the Donn.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Though Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap lost its marquee horse when Lido Palace dropped out last week because of illness, it has become a much more intriguing betting race. While Harlan's Holiday, last year's Florida Derby winner, is a deserving Donn favorite, there are ample reasons to take a shot against him in Gulfstream Park's Grade 1, nine-furlong race.

As the 120-pound highweight, Harlan's Holiday will concede 4 to 9 pounds to his 10 rivals. Harlan's Holiday will break from post 11, a post that is 0 for 18 at the meet. In fact, posts 10 through 12 are a combined 1 for 59 at the meet through Thursday. Finally, and perhaps of most concern to trainer Todd Pletcher, is how Harlan's Holiday will fare running back just 20 days off a strong allowance win.

"In a perfect world, I'd like more time," Pletcher said. "By the same token, I needed that race to get to this race."

Pletcher kept Harlan's Holiday out of last month's Hal's Hope Handicap because he didn't like the way the horse was training at Palm Meadows, a training facility about 45 miles north of Gulfstream. When Pletcher moved him to Gulfstream, Harlan's Holiday trained better and ran dynamite, winning his allowance race by 1 3/4 lengths. The win confirmed his affection for Gulfstream, a surface on which he has two wins and two seconds from four starts.

"The horse obviously likes Gulfstream; that was a good race for him," Pletcher said. "If he runs that kind of race or better, he'll fare well Saturday."

Three of the horses Harlan's Holiday defeated that day - Bonus Pack, Mr. John, and Request for Parole - are in the Donn field. But, the horses most will be looking at as potential upsetters come out of last month's Hal's Hope.

That race was won by Windsor Castle, who took advantage of a swift pace to rally from next to last and win by 1 1/2 lengths. He has followed that up with four solid works, including a best-of-44, five-furlong move in 59.40 seconds last Saturday. He will break from post 3 under Eibar Coa and carry 116 pounds.

"He's coming into the race as good as you'd want," said Frank Alexander, trainer and part-owner of Windsor Castle. "Whether it's good enough, I don't know, but he'll be competitive."

The pace figures to be different in the Donn than in the Hal's Hope. Whereas five horses went gunning for the lead in the Hal's Hope, only Keats and Mr. John look like speed in this field. Keats is 3 for 4 at Gulfstream, including a front-running allowance score here Jan. 10. His lone loss over this track came in last year's Donn when he was cooked in a speed duel.

"He did impress me," trainer Niall O'Callaghan said of Keats's last race. "I wasn't sure he was up to that kind of an effort, plus he was pulling away at the end."

The horse to beat in the Donn may be Hero's Tribute. Sent off the 2-1 favorite in the Hal's Hope, Hero's Tribute was blocked behind horses from the five-sixteenths pole to the eighth pole. Once clear, it was too late and he was beaten 4 1/2 lengths.

"Even then the hole was still tight," said Edgar Prado, the rider of Hero's Tribute. "He could've been right there. Hopefully, we'll get a cleaner trip this time. He's not the kind of horse that has that quick acceleration. It takes a while to get him going."

Hero's Tribute, who won the Grade 2 Peter Pan as a front-runner, should get a ground-saving, stalking trip just behind the speed from post 2.

Blue Burner and Puzzlement finished heads apart when first and second in a third-level allowance race here on Jan. 25. Blue Burner did finish second behind Harlan's Holiday in last year's Florida Derby and hails from the barn of Bill Mott, who won back-to-back runnings of this race with Cigar.

Puzzlement will be part of an uncoupled Allen Jerkens-trained entry along with Saint Verre, who demonstrated the ability to come from off the pace when second in the Hal's Hope.

Free of Love, a two-time winner at Gulfstream, completes the field.

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