Tackleberry won the 2011 Sunshine Millions Classic.

Tackleberry won the 2011 Sunshine Millions Classic.

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Tackleberry Returns After Two-Year Absence

The 7-year-old gelding one of South Florida's most popular horses in recent years.

When trainer Luis Olivares entered Tackleberry to run on Friday's program at Gulfstream Park, it marked the impending homecoming of one of South Florida's most popular and beloved horses in recent years.

If absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, the 7-year-old gelding will reach his height of popularity when he makes his first start in more than two years in the third race, a very contentious optional claiming allowance. Anticipating the fans' response to Tackleberry's long-awaited return to action, the Gulfstream linemaker has installed the son of Montbrook as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in a field of seven.

Unraced since finishing fourth in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) on April 14, 2012, Tackleberry was on the shelf with a pulled muscle and a subsequent tendon issue.

"He's doing real good. He's happy. He's enjoying what he's doing," said Olivares, whose multiple-graded stakes winner has had a strong string of breezes at Gulfstream.

Owned by Marissa Olivares, Tackleberry became a force during the 2011 Gulfstream meet, following up a triumph in the Fred Hooper (gr. III) at Calder in his 2010 finale with three straight victories in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions, Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (gr. II) and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II). After sustaining an injury in the Met Mile (gr. I), Tackleberry was sidelined for nine months before firing fresh with a second-place finish behind multiple grade I-stakes winner Mucho Macho Man in the 2012 Sunshine Millions. He raced once more in the Charles Town Classic before being sent to the sidelines.

Olivares expressed complete satisfaction with Tackleberry's physical condition and preparation for his return to action Friday.

"I want him to show what kind of horse he is. You know, it's like when your kid goes back to school. You want him to do good," Olivares said. "I think he'll do his job. Whatever he does, as long as he comes back good, is OK with me. If he gets beat, he gets beat. It'll be the first time he's run in two years. Sometimes they need a race, but with him, he might be ready to go."

Carlos Olivero has been named to ride Tackleberry, who should get a strong challenge from City of Weston, County Gun, Dreaming of Neno, Pachanga Party, Defense Article and Argentine Tango.