03/25/2010 12:00AM

El Caballo has much in his favor


NEW ORLEANS - Despite the strength of the competition, El Caballo figures to be tough in Saturday's Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap, with a comeback race under his belt and a good history on the Fair Grounds turf.

Carded as race 9 at 1 1/8 miles on turf, the Muniz has drawn a field of 10, with El Caballo, Jet Propulsion, and Blues Street sharing high weight at 119 pounds.

Jet Propulsion will be the early speed, and trainer Martin Wolfson isn't worried about El Caballo trying to go with him.

"I don't think El Caballo can keep up with this horse," said Wolfson. "He'll be in front, unless he doesn't break well."

Two races ago, in his first race after Wolfson claimed him for $50,000, Jet Propulsion wired the field going 1 1/8 miles to win the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream.

Wolfson said he thinks the Muniz's distance and Jet Propulsion's early speed will aid his cause.

"He's fast, but he relaxes good," said Wolfson. "He's enormous, 17 hands. The biggest horse I've ever had, and I think the longer he goes, the better."

On the other end of the pace spectrum would be Blues Street, who came from nine lengths back to win the prep for the Muniz, the Fair Grounds Handicap, by 2 1/4 lengths on Feb. 20.

With three works coming into the race, and the likelihood of a fast pace, trainer Todd Pletcher is planning to use the same formula that has enabled Blues Street to win three in a row.

"He's best making one late run," said Pletcher. "He's trained very well."

El Caballo can set the pace, but with speed present, he has shown the ability to stalk and win. Off since sustaining a condylar fracture while training at Churchill last June, El Caballo came back to win the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley in January on the Fair Grounds turf, stalking the pace before taking over to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

"It was a very good race back off the layoff," said trainer Ralph Nicks. "He's doing well, and I'm happy with how he's come back, knock on wood."

El Caballo's only other race over the Fair Grounds turf was arguably his best. He nearly won last year's Muniz, but Proudinsky caught him in the last jump to win by a nose.

"That was probably the best competition he's faced, and he ran awful well," said Nicks. "He seems to run well over the Fair Grounds turf."