12/13/2014 6:05PM

Liam's Map wins stretch duel in Harlan's Holiday

Kenny Martin
Mshawish and jockey Javier Castellano win the El Prado Stakes on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Liam’s Map completed a perfect afternoon for trainer Todd Pletcher and did so in courageous fashion, surviving a stretch-long duel with the more experienced Valid to register a well-deserved half-length victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday at Gulfstream Park.

The win was the fourth of the day from as many starters for Pletcher, who 30 minutes earlier captured the $100,000 El Prado with Mshawish.

Although he was making just the fourth start of his career and coming out of an entry-level allowance victory, Liam’s Map went postward as the favorite against a graded-stakes-caliber field in the 1 1/16-mile Harlan’s Holiday.

Despite getting hung a bit wide on the opening turn, Liam’s Map was able to stalk a rapid early pace set by Csaba, who hung up splits of 22.85 seconds and 46.25 for the opening quarter- and half-mile.

Liam’s Map readily overtook the leader midway through the backstretch but was immediately joined by Valid, who gained a short advantage at the top of the stretch. But Liam’s Map, a 3-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song, reasserted himself leaving the furlong grounds, ultimately edging away to his third straight win.

Valid was easily second-best, checking home 5 1/4 lengths in front of Pants On Fire, the third-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in his previous start.

Liam’s Map covered the distance in 1:42.51 over the fast track and paid $4.20.

“I’m really proud of him,” said Pletcher, who also sent out Micromanage to capture Aqueduct’s Queens County Handicap earlier in the day. “He lost a bit of ground on the first turn, but he seemed to relax and handle it well.

“When you have a nice horse come to you on the middle of the turn, one who was making his 21st start, it gave him a bit of a class test, and he showed some courage. We know he’s got a lot of ability, but it was nice to see someone look him in the eye and seeing him respond like that.”

Pletcher said his goal for Liam’s Map will be the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 7.

“We were between this race and the Hal’s Hope, which is only a mile, so the decision was made to go in here, and that will give us plenty of time before the Donn,” said Pletcher.

Mshawish takes El Prado

Mshawish ($5) won for the first time in four U.S. starts and did so impressively when surging through the final furlong to a two-length victory over Excaper in the El Prado. Vinny Goodtimes finished third despite an eventful trip.

Mshawish, who was disqualified from an apparent allowance win this summer at Saratoga, raced in midpack while between horses to the stretch, then proved clearly best once getting clear for the drive.

Excaper set a contested pace from the rail and ultimately proved no match for the winner.

Mshawish, a 4-year-old son of Medaglia d’Oro, will be pointed for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 7.

“It’s taken us a while to get the trip we were looking for, so we thought by turning him back to 7 1/2 furlongs, we’d get some pace for him to run at,” said Pletcher. “He got shuffled back a little early, then made that long, sustained run. By getting him covered up and to relax early, he was able to give that good kick he’s capable of.”   

Marbre Rose wins South Beach

Marbre Rose ($8.60) made the same, successful jump from an entry-level allowance win to stakes company as Liam’s Map when rallying to a half-length victory over defending champion Baffle Me in the $100,000 South Beach. Sassy Kitten, the 2-1 favorite, finished far back and bled.

Marbre Rose, a 3-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, was Group 3-placed in France. She won her U.S. debut in impressive fashion at Belmont Park on Oct. 12.  

“She got sore in her feet when she first came to me, and it took me forever to run her,” said trainer Christophe Clement. “She was very impressive when she broke her one-other-than, and I know it’s a big jump to go right to a stakes against older mares, but I loved the distance, 7 1/2 furlongs, and I just thought I liked the distance for her more than anything else.”

Clement said Marbre Rose likely will “be put aside” for a while before resuming her career early this spring.