Skippylongstocking Exits Harlan’s Holiday in Good Order
Favored Stablemate O’Connor Comes Out with Excuse
Both Joseph Trainees Targeting Pegasus World Cup
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking exited Saturday’s $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) victory at Gulfstream Park in good order, while his stablemate Fernando Vine Ode’s O’Connor came out of the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up with an excuse for a disappointing fourth-place finish as the 6-5 favorite.
“They both came out good, everything checked out good this morning,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. “I’m happy in that regard.”
O’Connor, a Group 1-winning Chilean import who had won his U.S. debut impressively in October, was found to have had an issue with his shoeing following the Harlan’s Holiday.
“He wears glue-on shoes and they actually separated where one shoe was half on and half off,” Joseph said. “I think that could have been a hinderance. I’d rather lose a shoe than have one half on and half off.”
Both Joseph-trained horses are being pointed to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28.
“Once we receive an invitation, I don’t see any reason to change plans,” Joseph said.
After breaking alertly to track pacesetter Pioneer of Medina around the first turn and into the backstretch, Skippylongstocking ($8.40) bobbled briefly at the top of the backstretch, but quickly recovered put pressure on the Todd Pletcher-trained pacesetter. Irad Ortiz Jr. asked his long-striding mount for a kick, and the son of Exaggerator responded with a steady run through the stretch to score comfortably by two lengths.
Pioneer of Medina fought back after being passed in mid-stretch by a stalking Simplification to finish second by a neck.
O’Connor, who raced in fifth on the backstretch was eased off the rail by jockey Edgard Zayas in the backstretch to launch a bid, but the Chilean Group 1 winner never made an impact while settling for fourth, beaten by 4 ¼ lengths by his stablemate.
“Beyer-wise, the race came back very fast. He ran a 100 Beyer [Speed Figure]. He ran faster than when he won,” Joseph said. “Skippy ran a 106, so speed figure-wise the race came back very fast.”
The Harlan’s Holiday gave Skippylongstocking his second graded-stakes win following a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
“He’s getting better and he’s filled out so much,” Joseph said. “He exceeds all expectations. I never give him that much credit and he keeps delivering.
Sumaya U.S. Stable’s Pioneer of Medina is under consideration for the Pegasus said Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled Life Is Good for a victory in the 2022 Pegasus World Cup.
Trainer Antonio Sano said he was “very happy” with the performance on Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification Saturday.
“He came out of the race good, and we were pleased,” Sano said. “We hope to move on to Pegasus.”
Simplification was making his first start in the Harlan’s Holiday since finishing seventh Nov. 5 in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1). The son of Not This Time, who captured the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream, was fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), sixth in the Preakness (G1), third in the West Virginia Derby (G3) and fourth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1).
Brad Cox, who saddled Knicks Go for a Pegasus World Cup victory in 2021 as well as a runner-up finish last year, is expected to be represented this year by Gold Square LLC’s Cyberknife, the Haskell (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) runner-up who is slated to be retired directly following the winter’s premier race. Bob Baffert, who sent out Arrogate for a memorable Pegasus win in 2017, is planning to run Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Defunded, who captured the Awesome Again (G1) before winning the Native Diver (G3) last time out. Godolphin LLC’s Proxy, winner of the Clark (G1) in his 2022 finale, is scheduled to return in the Pegasus for trainer Michael Stidham.