12/04/2012 2:30PM

Gulfstream Park: Graydar should improve in second start following layoff

Barbara D. Livingston
Graydar will be making his second start off a layoff on Thursday at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Graydar looked like a 3-year-old with the potential to become a major factor in the division during the second half of the season after drawing off to an 8 1/2-length win and earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure when making his career debut at Gulfstream Park in April. It comes as somewhat of a surprise that eight months later, Graydar returns to Gulfstream still eligible to compete in Thursday’s $54,500 main event that will be decided under first-level optional claiming conditions out of the one-mile chute.

Graydar has started just once since winning his maiden so impressively in April. The son of Unbridled’s Song finally returned to action off a series of eye-catching works against older horses going a mile at Belmont Park on Sept.  15, but finished a disappointing third, seven lengths behind the speedy New York-bred Saratoga Snacks.

“He went to the farm for a little while after his maiden win, and I thought he ran okay when he finally came back to the races at Belmont,” said Todd Pletcher who trains Graydar for Twin Creeks Racing Stable LLC. “Sometimes, it’s difficult to bring horses back off a layoff, and the way the conditions were written for that race, he wound up running against horses with a lot more experience. The horse that won the race that day is one of the best New York-breds and had already run through his conditions against statebreds. Graydar’s lack of experience probably hurt him more than anything.”

Pletcher said Graydar has continued to train forwardly since returning to south Florida.

“He’s been training as well as ever at Palm Meadows,” Pletcher said. “He’s a horse that showed a lot of talent, and one who is capable of some very good things. He was very impressive in his first start, and the hope is that we can finally get him into a nice, steady series of races and get some experience under his belt.”

Graydar figues to be odds on against his six rivals Thursday, a group led by the stakes-placed Launch Commander, who is back with former mentor David Fawkes after spending time in Kentucky with Steve Hobby earlier this year. Launch Commander posted a win and two seconds in three starts as a 2-year-old with Fawkes in 2011, closing out the abbreviated campaign by finishing second, beaten just a neck, in an overnight stakes going a mile at Aqueduct 13 months ago.

Launch Commander did not make it back to the races after that outing for one year, finally returning last month to finish a distant seventh in an entry-level allowance dash at Churchill Downs. Launch Command came back to Fawkes shortly thereafter and looked good working here Sunday, breezing an easy half-mile in 48.23 seconds before galloping out a strong five-eighths in 1:00.89.

Port Conway, Tiz Yankee, and Yankee Gentleman all enter Thursday’s main event off maiden victories.

Port Conway rallied to a four-length decision going six furlongs against maiden special weight opposition at Calder. Tiz Yankee, who finished second on six consecutive occasions earlier this season, finally earned his diploma going a mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 7. Kissin Gentleman also graduated at Churchill Downs when dropping in for a $50,000 claiming tag in his last start.