HALLANDALE, Fla., March 16 (UPI) -- Harlan's Holiday blew past a spent Booklet just shy of the three-quarters pole Saturday and ran away to a 3 1/2-length victory in Saturday's 51st running of the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Booklet was looking for an unprecedented triple, having held off Harlan's Holiday in both the Holy Bull Stakes and Fountain of Youth Stakes at this track. Both those races, however, were 1 1/16 miles and ended with Harlan's Holiday closing strongly.
This one was 1 1/8 miles and the extra length clearly benefited Harlan's Holiday. Ridden by Edgar Prado, the favorite kept the early leaders in his sights before making his move on the far turn and running away from the field in the stretch.
"He's been doing great physically," McPeek said. "The only thing I was worried about was pace and how it set up for him today. He's just a fantastic horse. I think he's part machine.
"He did it all by himself. I knew I had a good chance to win the race He's a very nice horse."
A winner of four races as a 2-year-old, Harlan's Holiday won for the first time as a 3-year-old. He finished in 1:48 4/5 and returned $5.40, $3.40 and $2.80. Blue Burner paid $6.40 and $4.60 and Peekskill showed for $18.20.
Blue Burner ran a similar race under Jerry Bailey and also steamed past the fading Booklet as the leaders approached the stretch. But the Bill Mott trainee made no headway on Harlan's Holiday.
Booklet finished a distant fourth under Jorge Chavez, who replaced Eibar Coa after the Holy Bull Stakes. He was trying to become the first horse to win all three 3-year-old stakes races at Gulfstream since the inception of the Holy Bull Stakes in 1990. Five had won two, but none had won the first two.