HALLANDALE BEACH–Thus far, there has been a dearth of graded stakes action in South Florida this late fall season. Not anymore.
There are four graded events, one listed stakes, and we’ll celebrate that with a handicapping look-in at two prominent features; the G3 Harlan’s Holiday, considered a good bridge race to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and the G2 Fort Lauderdale for the turf set, an event that can stand on its own.
First up is the 9 furlong grass event which has drawn a field of nine. And if it’s turf, that means Chad Brown and Mike Maker. Chad has entered two; Maker three, but there’s not a favorite among them.
Enter Todd Pletcher, who will turn the classy Channel Cat (3-1) back in distance and supply what should prove to be highly beneficial class relief. When last seen, Channel Cat was having his own less-than-perfect trip in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
In fact, of ‘Cat’s’ last six starts, five have come at the Grade 1 level. The other, like today, was a G2, a race in which he made all going 11 furlongs in Saratoga’s storied Bowling Green. Today, Johnny Velazquez replaces Luis Saez, who will ride recent Maker allowance winner, Cross Border (7-2).
Class matters, especially so on turf, so we’re going on record with Channel Cat to win. However, 3-1 would be a post time fantasy. For sure, we will key-box him in exactas with key-race Cross Border and the appropriately placed Admission Office (9-2) .
Additionally, we will key the favorite in super-exotics, including pole sitting sharpster Exulting (12-1) with Tyler in the boot, and tough-tripping, second-time-in-U.S. Flavius (6-1).
The G3 Harlan’s Holiday is a lot more interesting. Among its starters is this year’s most famous maiden, Bodexpress (4-1), seeking his third straight win and first stakes, and likely Pegasus preppers, surface-loving Prince Lucky (2-1) and consistently fastest and high-class tested War Story (7-2).
For his part, Prince Lucky has run well fresh, loves it here, has been training purposefully at his deepish Palm Beach base and is well drawn on the rail with Johnny in this first-finish-line event. Bodexpress has returned from his Preakness debacle with two dominating performances at ‘Calder’.
Lest we not forget that following wild pre-race antics, he was an excellent second to Maximum Security in the Florida Derby. Of course, ‘Max’ never has been beaten here. And as a non-stakes-winning 3-year-old, he gets weight concessions from his older rivals.
From an intent and value perspective, we’re going on record with Bodexpress to win. We would not be too interested if he starts at less than 3-1 in the straight pool, but that’s why the Deity created the multiple pools.
We’re key-boxing the choice in exactas with the aforementioned Prince Lucky and War Story, and will sprinkle Realm (12-1), Phat Man (12-1) and Flowers for Lisa (6-1) into the super-exotic mix of tris and supers.