Bourbon Courage Set for Sunday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday
Strong Group of Maidens Kick off Thursday Card
Get ‘Ready’

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer Kellyn Gorder couldn’t have been happier with Bourbon Courage’s performance at Gulfstream Park last February in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1), in which he closed to finish second behind runaway front-running winner Graydar.

“I thought he ran super. He just got beat by a really nice horse,” Gorder said. “No excuses there.”

Nevertheless, he’s going to try things a little differently this year while preparing the 4-year-old son of Lion Heart for another try in the 2014 Donn, set for Feb.8.

First and foremost, Bourbon Courage, who ran in the Donn last season without a prep, will be entered Thursday for a start in Sunday’s $100,00 Harlan’s Holiday as a prep for Gulfstream’s most prestigious race for older horses.

“He’s lightly raced this year,” Gorder said. “Last year, he ran in the Woody Stephens, the West Virginia Derby, the Super Derby, the Indiana Derby and the Clark. We’d had a heavier schedule last year.”

After getting “banged up” during a fourth-place finish in the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs last May, Bourbon Courage was sidelined until returning to action with a second-place finish in a Churchill allowance. The Kentucky-bred colt came back to finish fourth in the Clark Handicap (G1), in which he trailed the field at the top of the Churchill stretch and closed strongly to finish fourth, 3 ¾ lengths behind victorious Will Take Charge.

“We’re coming off a decent race in the Clark against Will Take Charge and Game on Dude,” Gorder said. “My horse was real relaxed early in the race and was just too far off the pace. He was 15 or 16 lengths off the frontrunners and closed to within three lengths or so to be fourth.”

Gorder will equip Bourbon Courage with blinkers for the Harlan’s Holiday with the hope that his stretch-running horse will be a little more focused during the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile stakes. Javier Castellano, who rode Bourbon Courage in the Donn last season, will be back aboard.

“Javier came up to Palm Meadows to work him the other day and he worked super,” said Gorder, who served as exercise rider and assistant for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg in the 1990s before going to work for WinStar Farm.

In addition to Bourbon Courage, the Harlan’s Holiday field is expected to include Neck ‘n Neck, Csaba, Purple Egg, Reveron, River Seven, Sr. Quisqueyano and Joshua’s Comprise.

Strong Group of Maidens Kick off Thursday Card

Thursday’s card will start off strongly when a well-bred group of maiden colts goes postward in a seven-furlong contest. Nine juveniles were entered for the first race, including a pair of first-time starters from the Todd Pletcher barn. They are Coach Inge, a son of Big Brown owned by Repole Stable that cost $150,000 earlier this year; and Whisper Hill Farm’s Hollywood Idol, a $650,000 yearling by Smart Strike out of millionaire Hollywood Story.

“He’s very well-bred,” Pletcher said of Hollywood Idol. “I think he will probably benefit from longer distances down the road, but this is a good starting point.”

The juveniles breezed in company last Saturday at Palm Meadows, where they went a half-mile from the gate and were timed in 48 seconds flat.

“[Coach Inge] has been a little more forward and precocious,” Pletcher added.

Coach Inge will break from post three and will be ridden by Javier Castellano. Hollywood Idol has the services of Joel Rosario and drew the eight hole.

Also in the field is Darley homebred Empower, who boasts a series of good works for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The chestnut colt is the second foal from the talented Magnificience, who was purchased as a broodmare prospect by for $1 million.

“He’s ready to run and he should run well, but we’re not great with first-time starters,” McLaughlin cautioned. “He’s a big, leggy long horse that wants to run all day, and I feel he’s going to take a race or two to figure it all out. Our barn thinks he’s going to win, but our second-time percentage is huge.

“He’s a two-turn horse for sure and we hope he’s a graded-stakes horse,” McLaughlin added. “He’s like a grown-up, really tall teenager that isn’t quite there yet. It’s a tough race. We do like him, but he’s not a speedball.”

The morning-line favorite at 5-2 is trainer Eddie Kenneally’s second-time starter H Town Brown, who completed the exacta under the lights at Churchill Downs in his November 16 career debut. Owned by Jake Ballis, the $145,000 yearling purchase is a half-brother to the accomplished sprinter D’Funnybone. He will break from the rail under Julien Leparoux.

Get ‘Ready’

The ninth race on Thursday attracted a full field of juvenile fillies that will go a mile on turf under optional claiming conditions. Trainer Chad Brown is hoping the feature is a confidence booster for his charge, Ready to Act.

The chestnut filly scored first time out at Saratoga in July and held a clear lead in the Grade II Natalma Stakes at Woodbine on September 14, only to duck in and drop rider Rajiv Maragh. Sent to Santa Anita for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Ready to Act disputed the pace on her way to a sixth-place finish.

“She’s come out of everything alright,” Brown said. “We just want to get her back on track in an allowance race.”

Javier Castellano, who rode the filly in her career opener, will be back in the irons on Thursday.