Wednesday, December 23, 2009 12:00 AM
FLORENCE, KY . . . December 23, 2009 . . . Live racing returns to Turfway Park after the holiday break on Saturday, December 26, when 10 are expected to line up for the 21st running of the $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes.
Accredit and Golden Country finished second and third, respectively, in the Bet on Sunshine Handicap at Churchill in their most recent starts and match up again in the six-furlong Holiday Cheer.
Four-year-old Accredit was claimed by Ken and Sarah Ramsey for $75,000 last spring and finished third in his next start, beaten just a length, in the G3 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn. He moved up a notch and won the G2 Churchill Downs Stakes but was soundly beaten when he stepped up again three weeks later, finishing last in the G1 Metropolitan. Trainer Mike Maker gave him a four-month break and he returned to racing in September, and while he has yet to win since then, he has improved in each of his subsequent three starts. The Holiday Cheer will be his first start at Turfway but he has two good works over the track in the last two weeks. Pace will matter for Accredit; all of his wins have come off an early lead or gate to wire. Larry Sterling Jr. will ride.
Golden Country was third in last year's Holiday Cheer. In eight starts this year he has one win, two seconds, and a third, the win coming when he set all the pace in an allowance race at Churchill two starts back. He also can sit just off the pace but at best has gained second- and third-place money in such efforts this year. Orlando Mojica has been winning regularly this meet and gets the call on Golden Country from trainer Tom Bergin.
One of two three-year-olds in the race, Flavor comes in to the Holiday Cheer off four straight wins, including a $50,000 optional allowance at Turfway in his last start. He has three wins on all-weather surfaces, starting with a maiden special at Keeneland last spring. Unraced at two, he will be making his 13th start of the year in the Holiday Cheer. Yuri Yuranga will be aboard for the competitive barn of Joe Woodard, who claimed the gelding in October in his second win at Keeneland.
The field for the Holiday Cheer from the rail out: Forestry Gold (jockey Rex Stokes III); eight-year-old Connections (Carlos Marquez Jr.); Timbucto (Rodney Prescott); Accredit; Flavor; Victory Notion (John Mckee); Golden Country; Dynamite Bob (Pablo Tolentino); Harlan Street (Scott Spieth); and Agastache, making his 24th start in 24 months (Tom Pompell).
The Holiday Cheer is the 11th of 12 races on Saturday's card. Saturday is the first of nine straight days of live racing at Turfway, a span that includes the January 1 switch to the Winter/Spring Meet. Post time is 1:10pm all nine days.