12/22/2009 12:00AM

Slight edge to Agastache in Holiday Cheer

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Barbara D. Livingston
Churchill Downs Handicap winner Accredit is the Holiday Cheer favorite.

A horse whose name is one word and starts with "A" could emerge the winner Saturday in the $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes at Turfway Park. But instead of Accredit, whose record this year includes a triumph in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on the Kentucky Derby undercard, it could be Agastache, whose preference for synthetic surfaces has been well established.

Accredit and Agastache are two of 10 older sprinters entered in the six-furlong Holiday Cheer, the 11th of 12 Saturday races at the Florence, Ky., track. Accredit is likely to be favored for the powerhouse stable of Mike Maker. Not only did the 4-year-old colt win the CD Cap in May, but he got back to good form by finishing second to the highly regarded Custom for Carlos in his most recent race at Churchill. Accredit will be ridden by Larry Sterling Jr. when breaking from post 4.

But Agastache, who has Tommy Pompell named from post 10, has been particularly adept in Polytrack races (4 wins and 2 seconds from 8 starts), and given clear sailing from that favorable post, he could be a serious factor at a decent mutuel.

"I was undecided for a while about whether to actually run him in this race," Rick Hiles, who trains 4-year-old Agastache at Churchill for the Broadfields Racing Stable, said early Tuesday. "We missed a few days of training at Churchill, but he just breezed this morning and seems to be fine. There are a couple in there that look pretty tough, but our horse has run well over the Poly at Turfway, Arlington, and Keeneland, so we could be okay in that spot Saturday."

Besides Accredit and Agastache, other logical contenders in the Holiday Cheer include Flavor, Golden Country, and Harlan Street.

The Holiday Cheer, first run in 1989, highlights a program that begins at 1:10 p.m. Eastern. The Holiday Cheer goes as the 11th, with post time set for 5:45.

Saturday marks the first of nine consecutive racing days at Turfway. First post each day through Jan. 3 is 1:10 p.m. One other stakes, the $50,000 Turfway Prevue on Jan. 2, will be run during that span.

Mostly for the sake of record-keeping, the holiday meet ends Dec. 31, with the 2010 winter-spring meet starting the next day.