01/06/2010 12:00AM

Battle Plan healthy for comeback

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Battle Plan was bred to be a champion. A son of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker out of the three-time Grade 1 winner Flanders, he is also a half-brother to the four-time Grade 1 winner Surfside.

Battle Plan gave a hint of what might be to come when he drew away to a 7 3/4-length maiden victory in just his second career start here at Gulfstream Park last winter. He has not run since.

The regally bred but injury-plagued Battle Plan will finally make his much-anticipated return against eight rivals under entry-level allowance conditions in Friday's $48,000 feature.

Battle Plan, 5, an Overbrook Farm homebred trained by Todd Pletcher, did not begin his career until the fall of his 3-year-old season. His debut was far from auspicious, resulting in a 16-length defeat after he was fractious at the starting gate. Things went much smoother the second time around, as Battle Plan survived an early speed duel before drawing away to an authoritative maiden win while earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He had some health issues that delayed his debut and then wound up with a non-displaced condylar fracture that required surgery following his win here last year," explained Pletcher. "He certainly showed plenty of talent last winter. He's training well, ready to go, and although he's a little fragile, hopefully he can stay healthy and this will be his year."

John Velazquez, who was aboard Battle Plan for his only two starts, will have the mount again on Friday.

Battle Plan figures to be the controlling speed in the race. He may receive his stiffest challenges from Star Player or Jet Set Vinny.

Star Player comes off a nose setback at the hands of High Spirit going seven furlongs under similar entry-level conditions at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. Star Player ran here twice last winter, both times on the grass.

Jet Set Vinny is one of only two horses in the field - the other being Nowhere to Hide - to have posted a Beyer Figure in the 90s. In fact, Jet Set Vinny has done it twice, most recently when beaten less than a length going a mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 8. Jet Set Vinny finished less than a length behind Star Player following a race-long pace duel when the pair met at seven furlongs 19 days later.