12/21/2012 1:43PM

Gulfstream Park: El Commodore returning after break

John Duca/Tom Cooley Photography
El Commodore (5) is beaten by Roman Tiger in the Tampa Bay Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Greg Griffith knew 20 minutes before El Commodore’s last start, in the Japan Racing Association Stakes at Laurel in September, that his horse was in big trouble.

“It poured so hard as we were leading them over for the race you couldn’t see the racetrack five feet away,” said Griffith. “The turf course went from concrete to a complete bog and speed never had a chance.”

El Commodore splashed home a tiring eighth in the Japan Racing Association, after which he was given a bit of a freshening by Griffith. He will return as one of the choices along with 3-year-olds O’Prado Again and Heavy Breathing in Sunday’s $57,500 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

El Commodore kept some pretty good company in his last start. See Tobe, who won the race, came back to finish second in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker. Third-place finisher Dunnhauser won the Laurel Turf Cup in his next outing, while Action Andy, who chased El Commodore and also faded to the rear of the pack over the boggy course, won his next three starts including the De Francis Memorial.

“I decided to give him a little vacation after that last race,” said Griffith, who trains the homebred El Commodore for the Kinsman Stable. “I was going to put him in the stakes on Saturday, but there was a lot of speed in that field and it probably wasn’t the right place to go off the layoff. He’s getting a little older now, which is why we put him in for the tag on Sunday. He’s been training very well at Tampa except for his last work, which I’m just hoping can be chalked up to rider error.”

Griffith said El Commodore will “do what he does best” and go right for the lead breaking from the rail on Sunday. That is the same strategy he used when beaten a nose by Roman Tiger in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes earlier this year. El Commodore was also narrowly defeated by Get Serious in Monmouth Park’s Grade 3 Red Bank during the summer.

O’Prado Again has started just twice since winning the Grade 2 Remsen at 2, finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby and second under optional claiming conditions last month at Churchill Downs. O’Prado Again will be returning to the grass for the first time since the summer of his 2-year-old campaign.

Heavy Breathing was briefly on the Kentucky Derby trail after launching his career with a couple of one-sided main-track victories here last winter and a third place finish in the Grade 3 Spiral. Trainer Todd Pletcher switched Heavy Breathing to the turf after he finished mid-pack in the Grade 1 Blue Grass, and the Giant’s Causeway horse responded with a second-place finish in Monmouth’s Lamplighter. He has started just once since, finishing last in an overnight stakes opening week at Saratoga.

Burn the Mortgage returns to allowance company after being overmatched against stakes opposition in his last two starts. Burn the Mortgage defeated older horses winning his entry-level allowance condition over the grass at Saratoga on Labor Day.

Master Dunker returns from a one-year vacation under the tutelage of Jamie Ness. He was stakes placed here as a 3-year-old for trainer David Fawkes during the winter of 2011.

Chosen Empire also comes into the race off an extended vacation, having been idle since winning a mid-level optional claiming race over the local course in April.

Mr. Online and trainer Manny Azpurua’s uncoupled pair of Kings Over and El Romano complete the field.