02/04/2013 2:09PM

Gulfstream Park: Discreet Dancer, Sean Avery starting year in tough matchup

Barbara D. Livingston
Sean Avery has started just three times since his upset victory in the Grade 1 Alfred G Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga during the summer of 2011.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.- The new race week at Gulfstream Park will get off to a fast start when Discreet Dancer, the favorite in last year’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, and Grade 1 winner Sean Avery match up against four rivals in the second half of Wednesday’s early daily double, a $57,500 optional claiming dash to be decided at six furlongs.

Trainer Todd Pletcher was looking for an easy spot to bring Discreet Dancer back from nearly a year on the sidelines, only to catch not only Sean Avery but also Candyman E, winner of the 2011 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, who is returning from a year’s layoff of his own in Wednesday’s main event.

Discreet Dancer began his career in sensational fashion here last winter, winning a statebred maiden special weight sprint by 9 3/4 lengths with speed to spare. He stretched out to a mile for his second start, crushing first-level allowance opposition including Neck ’n Neck while also well within himself at the wire.

Discreet Dancer was sent off the 4-5 favorite against Union Rags when trying two turns for the first time in the Fountain of Youth but wound up in an early speed duel that ultimately compromised his chances at a third straight victory. Union Rags rallied to win the Florida Derby prep by four lengths, with Discreet Dancer finishing a tiring third; he has been unraced since. He has been working well at Palm Meadows for his eagerly awaited return.

“The horse is training super, and we’re really happy with him, but it’s a tough spot to come back in with a lightly raced horse coming off a layoff,” said Pletcher, who trains the homebred Discreet Dancer for the E. Paul Robsham Stables. “There are some seasoned, quality, older horses in there, but he’s trained very well, likes the track, and there was a reason why he was favored in the Fountain of Youth here last year. Right now we’re just looking to get him started, and then we’ll see where we’ll go from there.”

Javier Castellano, who guided Discreet Dancer to his two easy wins here last winter, will be reunited with the speedy 4-year-old on Wednesday.

The injury-plagued Sean Avery has started just three times since upsetting the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga during the summer of 2011, capping off a season in which he won 4 of 5 starts for the Black Swan Stable. Sean Avery returned from a 13-month hiatus to win an overnight stakes in New York in early September but failed to duplicate that effort in two subsequent starts that included a fifth-place finish three weeks later in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

Sean Avery, now 7, will race for a $62,500 claiming price in his 2013 debut.

Candyman E can also be claimed for $62,500 out of Wednesday’s headliner. The 6-year-old gelding has been sidelined since finishing fourth in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Toboggan one year ago, a setback that snapped a four-race winning streak that included a half-length victory over Immortal Eyes the previous fall in the De Francis.

Candyman E has been scratched on two occasions over the past 10 weeks, including a five-furlong optional claiming and allowance race on the turf here Jan. 25 for which he was entered main track only.

Stakes winner Escrow Kid, Quiz Whiz, and Dreaming of Neno complete the field.