Intense Holiday Connections: "It's All About the Trip"

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2:37 pm EST

Intense Holiday will have the rest of the field inside him when he breaks from post 11 in the Holy Bull Stakes. According to Gulfsteam Park, it's the same scenario his sire, Harlan’s Holiday, faced 11 years ago in the Donn Handicap at the track.

His connections are hoping for a similar result. Hustled from the gate by John Velazquez, Harlan’s Holiday was able to secure good early position before drawing away in the stretch.

“We were at the draw that year, and everybody had a heart attack when he pulled the 11-hole,” said Jack Wolf. He owned Harlan’s Holiday and is co-founder and managing partner of Starlight Racing, which campaigns Intense Holiday. “Good horses can find a way to win from any post.”

The 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull will mark the 3-year-old debut for Intense Holiday, who had a maiden win from five starts last year. He finished fifth in the Champagne and fourth in both the Nashua and Remsen Stakes.

“We sort of took a stab in the Champagne because there sort of wasn’t any other place to go. I thought he ran a credible race there,” Wolf said. “Not using it as an excuse, he hasn’t had the best of trips."

Wolf, an astute handicapper, is taking nothing for granted, though, observing, "This race has got some pretty fancy horses in there. It’s one good horse after another.”

The field is the largest since Barbaro beat 11 challengers in 2006. There have been as many as 11 four times in 27 runnings, the best finish from post 11 being Choctaw Ridge’s fourth in 1992.

“We’ve been pointing for this race ever since his last race in New York. He’s trained forwardly and seems to be maturing at the right time,” said Starlight co-founder and managing partner Don Lucarelli. “I just wish, naturally, that we had a better post but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Hopefully this will make him get more involved early and see from that standpoint what he can do.”

Intense Holiday is fourth in the program at odds of 6-1; Nashua winner and Remsen runner-up Cairo Prince is favored at 3-1.

“We’re hopeful he can catch a trip and show us what he really is capable of,” Lucarelli said. “Whatever happens, happens, but I do think that he will be a good horse. He can handle the distance. It’s going to all be how much pace is in front of him and where he sits off the first turn; that’s what’s going to dictate everything. It’s all about the trip, but the horse is doing well.”

Edited Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey