02/04/2005 12:00AM

Three faded glories out to restore luster

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A year ago, El Prado Rob, Silver Wagon, and Value Plus were competing in Gulfstream Park's elite stakes for 3-year-olds, the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth, and Florida Derby. Each colt, however, has not won a race since that meet. In an attempt to resurrect their once-promising careers, they will take a step back and meet one another in Sunday's featured ninth race at Gulfstream, a second-level allowance sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs that carries a purse of $35,000.

has the most natural speed of the three, and looms the one to beat should he run back to some of his best efforts. But the tall, imposing colt has been an enigma throughout his career, alternating brilliant efforts with huge disappointments. He was defeated as the favorite in the Breeders' Futurity, Wood Memorial, and Riva Ridge Stakes.

"He's been frustrating," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Value Plus, "especially to those of us who watch him train on a daily basis. He's shown signs of tremendous talent."

Value Plus has not raced since June. Pletcher gave him an extended vacation following a series of subpar efforts that followed his game second-place finish in the Florida Derby.

Both of Value Plus's victories have come when he was fresh, in his debut as a 2-year-old at Saratoga, and last Feb. 14 in his first start as a 3-year-old. He should be plenty fit for his return, having recorded five five-furlong works in January at Palm Meadows.

"He's always been very impressive to watch train," Pletcher said. "He tailed off last summer, so we decided to regroup. Hopefully he'll come back, run well, and hold his form."

looked like his old self when breezing five furlongs at Gulfsteam on Tuesday morning. He was good enough to capture the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga as a 2-year-old, and was third in last year's Fountain of Youth. But he came out of that race with a chip in one knee and a spur in the other.

In his lone start since then, he finished fifth on Dec. 18 in the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at Calder, a top sprint race that was won by Medallist, who was one of the favorites in Saturday's Deputy Minister Handicap.

is winless in 11 starts since an allowance victory at Keeneland in October 2003. He was fourth in last year's Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, and since then has not come close to regaining the form he showed early in his career.