Simplification will look to end 2022 the way it started, with a stakes win at Gulfstream Park, in Saturday’s $150,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3), a 1 1/16-mile test which is among six stakes on the Miami-area track’s New Year’s Eve program.
One of the leading three-year-olds at the 2021-22 Championship Meet, Simplification captured the Mucho Macho Man S. on New Year’s Day and followed up with a second in the Holy Bull (G3), a win in the Fountain of Youth (G2), and a third in the Florida Derby (G1). However, since running fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Simplification has managed to place in only one of four starts.
Skippylongstocking wasn’t quite in Simplification’s league last winter, but has improved significantly since. Third to Mo Donegal in both the Wood Memorial (G2) and Belmont S. (G1), Skippylongstanding later splashed to victory in the West Virginia Derby (G3) at Mountaineer, with Simplification more than six lengths behind in third.
“He’s a horse who always tries hard and is pretty consistent except his last race,” said trainer Saffie Joseph, referring to Skippylongstocking’s ninth-place effort in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). “We’ve freshened him after that, and he’s had a steady series of works. I expect him to run well.”
Joseph also saddles the most serious-looking challenger among the older horses in the Harlan’s Holiday in Chilean import O’Connor. A Group 1 winner in his native land last April, O’Connor romped to a six-length win in his U.S. debut on Oct. 16, a track-and-distance second-level allowance.
“If anything, he kind of exceeded expectations, the way he won,” Joseph said. “I was a little concerned the distance was going to be too short for him. He’s a horse that wants a mile and an eighth, mile and a quarter.”
Godolphin and trainer Brendan Walsh will look to end another strong season on a high note with Prevalence a potentially strong player in the $125,000 Mr. Prospector (G3) over seven furlongs. Although unplaced in his two most recent starts, Prevalence has won three of four over the Gulfstream strip and earned his first stakes triumph last spring in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland.
The John Servis-trained Uncle Ernie enters off two powerful allowance wins at Parx by a combined margin of 11 3/4 lengths. Getting in one final start before turning four on Sunday are Sibelius, Steal Sunshine, Dean Delivers, and Pappacap, the latter a distant second to Jack Christopher in the Pat Day Mile (G2) and Woody Stephens (G1) earlier this season.
“His last race at Saratoga, we cut him back a little and he ran OK but…something hit him in his eye and after the race he couldn’t even open his eye,” said trainer Mark Casse, explaining Pappacap’s last-out fourth in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga on July 31. “We kind of felt like his last race was not a true indication of his ability.”
The first stakes of the card is the $125,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) for fillies and mares going six furlongs. Multiple Grade 2 veteran Frank’s Rockette, the 2021 Sugar Swirl runner-up, was an uncharacteristic 11th of 12 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) last month but is well spotted to rebound. Among her challengers are Coppelia and Joyful Cadence, one-two in the Nov. 13 Dream Supreme S. at Churchill Downs.
Also on Saturday, a less accomplished field of eight fillies and mares will contest the $125,000 Rampart S. over one mile.