December 3, 2023

War Story upsets Harlan’s Holiday; Lady’s Island sizzles in Sugar Swirl

War Story winning the 2019 Harlan's Holiday (G3) (Lauren King/Coglianese Photography)

War Story concluded an effective seven-year-old campaign Saturday when posting a 12-1 upset in the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3) at Gulfstream Park, potentially earning a third try in next month’s Pegasus World Cup (G1) over the same track.

Under Luis Saez, War Story made up four lengths in the final quarter-mile to win by 1 1/2 lengths from 28-1 outsider Phat Man. Bodexpress, the 11-10 favorite, weakened to third after setting the pace.

“He’s a horse you have to keep busy all the way. At the half-mile pole, he responded to me. In the stretch, he switched leads and took off,” Saez said.

Completing the order of finish were Red Crescent, Realm, Eye of a Jedi, and Flowers for Lisa. Prince Lucky, the second choice, was racing close to Bodexpress soon after entering the backside when he was abruptly pulled up out of the race by jockey John Velazquez. Prince Lucky was subsequently vanned off.

Owned by Imaginary Stable and Glenn Ellis, War Story paid $27.20 after completing 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.45. Previously trained by Jorge Navarro, the Harlan’s Holiday marked War Story’s first start for trainer Elizabeth Dobles.

War Story was well beaten in two prior attempts in the World Cup, but Imaginary Stables’ John Guarnere said he would accept an invitation to the race if one is offered.

“He doesn’t traditionally run well at this track, but after that…If we get an invite, we’ll go,” he said.

Although well beaten in a couple tries, War Story otherwise enjoyed a solid 2019 campaign. Prior to the Harlan’s Holiday, the gelded son of Northern Afleet captured the Monmouth Cup (G3) in July and also placed in the Charles Town Classic (G2) and Greenwood Cup (G3). He’s won three other stakes during his career, including the 2017 Brooklyn (G2).

With the win on Saturday, War Story’s career earnings are approaching $3 million, aided in great part by three placings in the seven-figure Charles Town Classic. Bred in Kentucky by Jack Swain III, he’s a half-brother to Grade 2 winner Land Over Sea and is from the family of 1987 champion juvenile filly Epitome.


Lady’s Island was an island unto herself in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3), dominating the 6-furlong dash for fillies and mares from the start and crossing the wire 6 3/4 lengths on top underneath Emisael Jaramillo.

Up two lengths through an opening quarter in :22.15, Lady’s Island increased her lead to five lengths after a half-mile in :44.69 and was up eight lengths with a furlong to go.

“Everyone always says they have fast fillies, but they’re not going faster than this one,” said trainer Georgina Baxter. “She’s just super quick. And she’s put on all this muscle now, and she can carry it.”

Now a winner in 8-of-9 starts this year, Lady’s Island returned $8.60 for owners Matties Racing Stable and Averill Racing. Meadow Dance finished second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Pretty Greeley. Bronx Beauty, 9-5 favorite A Bit of Both, Stormy Embrace, Ms Meshak, Blazen Betsy, and Heavenhasmynikki completed the order of finish.

The five-year-old Lady’s Island was claimed for $16,000 in June 2018. She was a two-time stakes winner at Gulfstream in June, taking the Nicole’s Dream and the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint, the latter versus males.

By Greatness and out Broadway, by Broad Brush, the five-year-old Lady’s Island was bred in Florida by Bailey Bolen.


Pink Sands made a sustained rally from seventh in the final quarter-mile to catch long-time leader and 19-10 favorite Cookie Dough by a half-length in the $100,000 Rampart (G3) for fillies and mares.

Owned by Gainesway Stable and Andrew Rosen, Pink Sands paid $11 after completing a mile in 1:36.20 under Jose Ortiz. Cairenn was third and following her were Baccarat Fashion, Unholy Alliance, Tweeting, Perspire, Bella Ciao, Molto Bella, and Shamrock Babe.

This was the first graded score for Pink Sands, who captured the Lady’s Secret S. at Monmouth Park in June. She had also placed third in the Ruffian (G2) and in the Pumpkin Pie S. at Aqueduct this season.

“She kind of went through her conditions here last year so we felt like when we brought her back down here that she does like the track and she’s had a little bit of an opportunity,” said trainer Shug McGaughey of Pink Sands, who has now recorded three wins at Gulfstream.

“We’ll have to sit down and look at what’s next. There’s the Inside Information [(G2) on Jan. 25] and we’d probably get some gas going seven-eighths so it’s possible but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Bred in Kentucky by KatieRich Farms and a $625,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, Pink Sands is by Tapit and was produced by the Grade 1-winning Her Smile, by Include.