Pegasus Candidate O’Connor Preps in Saturday’s G3 Harlan’s Holiday
Pegasus Candidate O’Connor Preps in Saturday’s G3 Harlan’s Holiday
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – O’Connor will enter Saturday’s $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) with the opportunity to earn a berth in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) Jan. 27 at Gulfstream Park.
The Harlan’s Holiday, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and up over Gulfstream’s main track, will be featured on a program that will also feature the $200,000 Ft. Lauderdale (G2), a prep for the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1), as well as the $150,000 Suwanee River (G3), the $125,000 Rampart, and the $100,000 St. Augustine Handicap.
Michael Iavarone and partners’ O’Connor enters the Harlan’s Holiday off a career-best performance at Keeneland in the Fayette (G2). The Chilean-bred son of Boboman settled off the pace before kicking in late to prevail by a head in the 1 1/8-mile stakes. His encouraging effort under Tyler Gaffalione was his first victory since capturing his U.S. debut by eight lengths in October 2022.
“In the Keeneland race, he was off the pace, but he was handy the whole way. He was into the bridle and traveled well for Tyler,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “If he can travel the same way, it will increase his chances Saturday.”
After winning his U.S. debut, O’Connor finished an even fourth in last year’s Harlan’s Holiday before finishing far back in the 2023 Pegasus World Cup. He followed up his Pegasus disappointment with a runner-up finish at Gulfstream in the Ghostzapper (G3), in which he closely attended the pace throughout.
“The Ghostzapper last year, it was a bit of a surprise to see him that close to the pace. I think he’s better coming off the pace,” Joseph said. “He was so impressive in his [U.S.] debut, but then he lost form. He ran OK after that. The Ghostzapper was an OK run but still disappointing.”
O’Connor was sidelined for a few months after undergoing surgery for an entrapped epiglottis. He went on to finish a late closing third in the West Virgina Derby (G3) at Mountaineer, a surging second behind stablemate Skippylongstocking in the Charles Town Classic (G2), only to lose all chance in the Woodward (G2) at Aqueduct following a bad start.
“He ran good at Charles Town. In the Woodward, everything went wrong, then he came back and won at Keeneland. That was his best race, obviously, so far,” Joseph said. “If he can duplicate something like that, he can be competitive.”
Tyler Gaffalione has the return call on O’Connor.
Joseph is also scheduled to saddle John Fanelli and partners’ Ny Traffic for the Harlan’s Holiday. The multiple graded stakes-placed 6-year-old son of Cross Traffic, who is a multiple-stakes winner at sprint distances, will stretch out around two turns for the first time in more than two years after coming off a year layoff with an optional claiming allowance win and a runner-up finish in the Hudson at Aqueduct.
“He’s in good order, first of all. He ran some good route races before we cut him back,” Joseph said. “Now that he’s come back and run a couple of good races, we decided it was a good time to try him again around two turns. He’s won at this distance at Gulfstream, so he’s 1-for-1. It’s a perfect scenario to see if he wants to run two turns again.”
After winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Gulfstream Nov. 1, 2020, Ny Traffic was graded stakes-placed in the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, Matt Winn (G3) at Churchill and Haskell (G1) at Monmouth. He finished off the board in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and the Preakness (G1) before eventually being converted into a sprinter.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has the call on Ny Traffic.
West Paces Racing LLC and Stonestreet Stables LLC’s Dubyuhnell will continue on the comeback trail in the Harlan’s Holiday following a most encouraging optional claiming allowance victory Oct. 28 at Keeneland off a six-month layoff.
The 3-year-old son of Good Magic, who hadn’t run since finishing far back in the April 1 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream, was forwardly placed in the 1 1/8-mile race before taking the lead in the stretch and prevailing by a length over next-out winner Denington.
“He ran really well. He had been training with a 2-year-old we are really high on,” trainer Danny Gargan said. “You never know going a mile and an eighth coming off that big of a layoff. He’s going well coming into this race, so hopefully, we’re competitive.”
Dubyuhnell was a precocious 2-year-old, breaking his maiden in his second start before winning the 1 1/8-mile Remsen at Aqueduct. However, he would disappoint in the Sam Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs and Florida Derby before going to the sidelines.
“He was a very precocious 2-year-old. He broke his maiden impressively and came back to win the Remsen. He was a very talented young horse. We tried to get on the Triple Crown Trail, but it didn’t play out in his favor. We had to give him a little break that went longer than we anticipated. We’re happy to have him back.”
Luis Saez is slated to ride Dubyuhnell for the first time Saturday.
Haras Lizzie Inc.’s Miles D, a Grade 1 stakes-placed son of Curlin, finished a close second in the Delta Mile Nov. 3 at Delta Downs while making his first start for trainer Amador Sanchez. Previously trained by Chad Brown, the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred finished third in the 2021 Travers (G1) at Saratoga. Miles D, who won the Discovery at Aqueduct later that season, has been in the money in nine of 11 career starts.
Leonel Reyes has the call on Miles D.
Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher entered PRO Thoroughbred Enterprises LLC’s Grand Aspen and Harrell Ventures LLC and CHC Inc.’s Gasoline in the Harlan’s Holiday. Grand Aspen, a 4-year-old son of Dialed In, enters the race off a dominating optional claiming allowance victory at Churchill Downs. Gasoline, a 4-year-old gelded son of Curlin had won three of four starts prior to finishing fifth in the Nov. 24 Clark (G2) at Churchill Downs.
Jose Ortiz has the call on Grand Aspen, while Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Gasoline.
My Racehorse and Rocket Ship Racing’s Blue Devil has made a successful transition from turf and Tapeta to dirt in recent starts. After winning an off-the-turf allowance at Saratoga, the 4-year-old gelded son of Uncle Mo came back to win another allowance at Saratoga before finishing second in the Lukas Classic (G2) at Churchill Downs. The Jeff Hiles trainee is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Clark at Churchill.
Junior Alvarado has the call Saturday.
Arindel’s Octane, Carrie Broden, Michael and Julia Iavarone’s Steel Sunshine and Double B Racing Stables’ Lure Him in round out the field.
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Signator will be scratched, said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.