12/17/2012 5:34PM

Gulfstream Park: El Padrino begins comeback in Wednesday feature

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Barbara D. Livingston
El Padrino makes his first start since finishing far back in the Kentucky Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – El Padrino’s 3-year-old season started on a high note at Gulfstream Park, and trainer Todd Pletcher is hopeful it will end the same way when he brings his Grade 2 winner back from a 7 1/2-month hiatus against older horses in Wednesday’s $60,500 main event, to be decided under optional claiming conditions out of the one-mile chute.

El Padrino began his 3-year-old campaign by earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure defeating optional claiming company here Jan. 29, then moved to the upper echelon of his division by registering a game nose decision over Mark Valeski in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. El Padrino finished fourth as the second choice behind Union Rags in the Grade 1 Florida Derby and 20 lengths behind I’ll Have Another following an eventful trip in the Kentucky Derby. He then went to the sidelines for a prolonged vacation.

“After the Derby, he just needed some time to regroup, and we decided if we were going to focus on a 4-year-old campaign, we needed to give him a meaningful break,” Pletcher said. “And if we are possibly looking to target a race like the Donn this winter, we needed to get a race under his belt now to see where he is. So here we are.”

El Padrino has trained forwardly for his return, working six times since shipping down to the Palm Meadows training center, including a bullet five-eighths in 1:00.60 on Dec. 13.

“The horse is training very well,” Pletcher said. “It’s a long layoff, but I think we have him where we want him for this type of race. I expect him to run well, although on the other hand I don’t think he’s ready for peak performance. Hopefully, his class shows up.”

El Padrino is one of three 3-year-olds among the six horses entered for Wednesday’s headliner, along with Adirondack King and Bluedacious.

Adirondack King remains winless after nine starts at 3, but he did finish third last winter in the Grade 3 Southwest and most recently was fourth in Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Discovery Handicap.

Bluedacious will make his first start since being transferred to trainer Henry Collazo’s barn shortly after his second-place finish under optional claiming conditions earlier this fall at Keeneland.

Citrus Kid has not started since finishing second in Parx Racing’s grassy President’s Cup in September 2011 and has not raced on dirt since finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds in January 2010. Citrus Kid was entered and scratched from Sunday’s Harlan’s Holiday.

Decisive Moment has kept a steady diet of stakes company this year, but has yet to hit the board in six starts. Trainer Juan Arias will put blinkers back on Decisive Moment, who has not raced in shades since his 2-year-old campaign. Decisive Moment won three stakes as a 3-year-old last season, including the Delta Mile at Delta Downs.