Trainer Kellyn Gorder couldn't have been happier with Bourbon Courage's performance at Gulfstream Park last February in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1), in which he closed to finish second behind runaway front-running winner Graydar.
“I thought he ran super. He just got beat by a really nice horse,” Gorder said. “No excuses there.”
Nevertheless, he's going to try things a little differently this year while preparing the 4-year-old son of Lion Heart for another try in the 2014 Donn, set for Feb.8.
First and foremost, Bourbon Courage, who ran in the Donn last season without a prep, will be entered Thursday for a start in Sunday's $100,00 Harlan's Holiday as a prep for Gulfstream's most prestigious race for older horses.
“He's lightly raced this year,” Gorder said. “Last year, he ran in the Woody Stephens, the West Virginia Derby, the Super Derby, the Indiana Derby and the Clark. We'd had a heavier schedule last year.”
After getting “banged up” during a fourth-place finish in the Alysheba (G2) at Churchill Downs last May, Bourbon Courage was sidelined until returning to action with a second-place finish in a Churchill allowance. The Kentucky-bred colt came back to finish fourth in the Clark Handicap (G1), in which he trailed the field at the top of the Churchill stretch and closed strongly to finish fourth, 3 ¾ lengths behind victorious Will Take Charge.
“We're coming off a decent race in the Clark against Will Take Charge and Game on Dude,” Gorder said. “My horse was real relaxed early in the race and was just too far off the pace. He was 15 or 16 lengths off the frontrunners and closed to within three lengths or so to be fourth.”
Gorder will equip Bourbon Courage with blinkers for the Harlan's Holiday with the hope that his stretch-running horse will be a little more focused during the early stages of the 1 1/16-mile stakes. Javier Castellano, who rode Bourbon Courage in the Donn last season, will be back aboard.
“Javier came up to Palm Meadows to work him the other day and he worked super,” said Gorder, who served as exercise rider and assistant for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg in the 1990s before going to work for WinStar Farm.
In addition to Bourbon Courage, the Harlan's Holiday field is expected to include Neck ‘n Neck, Csaba, Purple Egg, Reveron, River Seven, Sr. Quisqueyano and Joshua's Comprise.
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