01/15/2013 1:46PM

Gulfstream Park: Cool Blue Red Hot gets going after long layoff

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Tom Keyser
Cool Blue Red Hot makes his first start in a year on Thursday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The last time Cool Blue Red Hot was sighted in the afternoon, he was running the race of his life finishing third here in the 2012 edition of the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope. Now, trainer Angel Penna Jr. is hoping Cool Blue Red Hot can regain that top form when he returns from a year on the sidelines in Thursday’s $60,500 optional claiming feature at Gulfstream Park.

Cool Blue Red Hot will be among the favorites in a six-horse field that also includes the graded stakes winner Easter Gift, making his first start since being transferred to trainer Chad Brown’s barn, and Swagger Jack, who comes off an impressive allowance win here three weeks earlier.

Cool Blue Red Hot earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure finishing just 1 1/4 lengths behind Jackson Bend in last year’s Hal’s Hope, but pulled a muscle in his back that afternoon, which necessitated the long layoff.

Cool Blue Red Hot, a 5-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday, showed promise while lightly raced at 3, beating older horses twice under allowance conditions and also finishing third in the Grade 2 Dwyer. Penna entered Cool Blue Red Hot in last Sunday’s Hal’s Hope, but never really had any intention of running him in that spot.

“I actually scratched him out of that race before entering him for the race on Thursday, and fortunately this one filled,” Penna said. “He wasn’t ready for the stakes. I still have a very immature horse. He never developed like he should have developed, and I didn’t want to throw him to the wolves right off the bat or he’d have been a basket case afterwards.”

Penna said Cool Blue Red Hot is training well for his return. He will break from the rail out of the mile chute Thursday.

Before coming to Brown’s barn, Easter Gift won the Grade 3 Smarty Jones at Parx Racing and finished second in Monmouth Park’s Pegasus while with Nick Zito last year at 3. He captured his only local start when winning his maiden at first asking here last April on Easter Sunday.

Easter Gift has not raced since finishing third in a Churchill Downs optional claiming race in November.

“I’ve had him for about a month,” said Brown, who trains Easter Gift for Robert LaPenta. “He came to me in outstanding shape. I breezed him a little at Palm Meadows. The horse is doing well, and he’s ready to run.”

Swagger Jack may actually go postward the favorite after rallying to a 2 1/4-length victory over Ever So Lucky going a mile here Dec. 29. He received a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure. The win followed a series of unlucky trips for the son of Smart Strike who is trained by Marty Wolfson for Silverton Hill LLC.

Tell Tale Friend figures to be loose on the lead and is perhaps a sleeper in Thursday’s main event while coming off the grass and returning to the main track for the first time since finishing second in Calder’s Our Dear Peg overnight stakes on Sept. 8. Tell Tale Friend led throughout and then held gamely to a narrow advantage through the stretch to post a second-level optional claiming victory over the turf at Calder in his 2012 finale.

Completing the field are Thank U Phillippe, who is an uncoupled Wolfson-trained stablemate of Swagger Jack, and Sky Alert.