Tops Solid Field in Stakes Debut for Pletcherâ€™s Fourth Win on Card
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ In his first three races, the last two of them runaway wins, Liamâ€™s Map had shown considerable ability. In his fourth start and first in stakes company, the still-improving colt made it clear heâ€™s as tough as he is talented.
Headed by battle-tested Valid on the turn, Liamâ€™s Map dug in along the inside and surged again, out-finishing the Grade 2 winner down the length of the stretch to win the $100,000 Harlanâ€™s Holiday by a half-length Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
It was the fourth win of the day and second in a stakes for Todd Pletcher, the 11-time defending Championship Meet leading trainer who brought the 3-year-old gray son of Unbridledâ€™s Song to South Florida after back-to-back victories in New York by a combined 21 lengths.
â€œWe knew he had a lot of natural ability,â€ Pletcher said. â€œWhat I like is a good horse looked him in the eye and he responded. Heâ€™s still a horse thatâ€™s learning to run and with a race like that it could do him a lot of good because his last two wins have been pretty effortless.â€
Made the even-money favorite in a field of eight, Liamâ€™s Map ($4.20) ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast main track in 1:42.51. Valid was second in his 21st lifetime start, 5 Â¼ lengths ahead of Pants On Fire. It was another eight lengths back to Schivarelli in fourth.
â€œWe had a really good trip and he put in a really good fight with the other horse,â€ Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez said of his third win of the day, all for Pletcher. â€œHe hasnâ€™t run in a lot of really tough races, but he ran really good. Heâ€™s inexperienced, but he put in a really good fight and thatâ€™s what counts. The other horse came to him and he fought all the way down to the wire.â€
Liamâ€™s Map broke well and stalked a solid pace of :22.85 seconds for the quarter-mile and :46.25 for the half set by multiple graded stakes winner Csaba. Liamâ€™s Map took command as the field left the backstretch, as Valid began to launch his bid on the outside.
Jockey Orlando Bocachica and Valid ranged up on Liamâ€™s Map rounding the far turn and looked poised to run by, only to find a stubborn and determined Liamâ€™s Map fighting back.
â€œI thought I had him, but [Liamâ€™s Map] never let me by him,â€ Bocachica said.
Pletcher, who captured the El Prado Stakes on turf earlier in the afternoon with Mshawish, felt Liamâ€™s Map fit talent-wise with a salty group that included five older horses, but was anxious to see how he would respond in the heat of battle.
â€œI was concerned. I said, â€˜The race is on now and weâ€™ll see if heâ€™s got some courage,â€™â€ Pletcher said. â€œWe know heâ€™s got a lot of ability, but itâ€™s nice to see someone looking him in the eye and having him respond. Iâ€™m really proud of him. When you have a nice horse come to you on the middle of the turn, itâ€™s time to get a little class test. He showed a lot of courage.â€