03/08/2017 2:06PM

Recruiting Ready returns home to Laurel for far softer spot Friday

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Barbara D. Livingston
Recruiting Ready, after competing in a series of stakes, will try to clear his first allowance condition in Friday's seventh race at Laurel Park.

There will be an early sign of spring this week when the Sagamore Farm of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank ships six horses from Florida to their home base in Maryland. Over the next month, other snowbirds will be heading back to the Mid-Atlantic, which could use an infusion of new blood.

Among those on the van will be Recruiting Ready, who looms a solid favorite over 10 rivals in the seventh race at Laurel Park on Friday, a first-level optional $40,000 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds. The interesting card also includes two other optional claimers and a one-mile maiden race for 3-year-olds.

Recruiting Ready hasn’t lived up to the potential he displayed early in his 2-year-old season, but on Friday, he will be singled on many Rainbow 6 and pick-five tickets as Sagamore’s private trainer, Horacio De Paz, has found a cozy spot for him.

“He’s had some hard beats, and we want a race to build some confidence in him,” said De Paz, who cut his teeth working for more than five years for Todd Pletcher and his father, J.J. Pletcher.

Recruiting Ready began his career last May with a 10-length win at Pimlico. He then finished second twice, beaten three-quarters of a lengths by Classic Empire in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs and a length by recent Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevera in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.

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Following a third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois Stakes over a muddy Churchill strip, Recruiting Ready was sent to the Palm Meadows training facility in south Florida. He has since raced twice at Gulfstream Park, finishing third in the six-furlong Buffalo Man at 3-5 and most recently tiring to 10th after setting the pace in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 7.

His performance in the Mucho Macho Man surprised De Paz, who has gone 20 for 96 – close to 21 percent – since he began training for Sagamore in 2015.

“I couldn’t have asked for him to be training any better going into it,” De Paz said. “We wanted to run him back in the Swale, but he didn’t have any excuse, so we instead gave him a little bit of time.”

Recruiting Ready has worked five times since his last start, including five furlongs in 1:00.40 last Friday and five furlongs in 1:03 on the turf Feb. 25.

“He’s been working well,” De Paz said. “He went a nice and steady five furlongs last Friday. I tried him on the turf in his prior work, but the dogs were out, and he was kind of confused. He’s not opposed to the turf, but we’re not planning on running him on it right now.”

This week’s new arrivals will give De Paz 20 horses at Laurel. He has another eight at Sagamore, which has a six-furlong Tapeta track, and eight more still in Florida.