The one-mile allowance optional claimer on dirt was the first start for grade II winner El Padrino since a 13th-place finish in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Citrus Kid, trained by John Terranova II, had not raced since suffering a soft tissue injury during a second-place finish over a boggy Parx Racing turf course in last year's PTHA President's Cup Stakes.
"He's a nice, nice horse," Terranova said by phone from New York. "He got over a big hurdle today. I'm glad he won, but I was just looking to get him back to the races. We'll sit down and see how he comes out of the race before we make any decisions."
Ridden by Joe Rocco Jr. and sent off at 6-1 in the field of six, Citrus Kid vied for the early lead along the inside and continued to battle with Rock Alex and Decisive Moment on the front end through splits of :23.29 and :46.16. El Padrino, the 1-5 favorite, got a wide trip from post 4 and lagged back to fifth at the half under jockey Javier Castellano.
Making his move through three-quarters in 1:10.56, El Padrino attempted to catch the winner with an outside move and cut the advantage to a half-length. But Citrus Kid dug in gamely while completing the mile in 1:36.33 with 1 1/4 lengths to spare.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was not disappointed in El Padrino's first start since May 5.
"He ran well," he remarked. "He's a big, heavy horse. We thought he could need to run a time or two to get going again. I'm pleased with what he did today."
Although Citrus Kid, a 5-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid, had raced on the grass for his previous eight starts, Terranova had no qualms about bringing him back on the main track in his first dirt start since a seventh as a sophomore in the 2010 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III). Citrus Kid broke his maiden and won the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park and finished third in the Remsen (gr. II) at Aqueduct Racetrack on dirt prior to being switched to turf.
Owned by Golden Goose Enterprises, James Covello, Michael Imperio, and Nick Sallusto, Citrus Kid was bred in Kentucky by Hurstland Farm and W. S. Farish out of the Ginistrelli mare Orange Ice. The win increased his record to 5-2-1 from 14 outings, with earnings of $311,104.
Citrus Kid returned $15.40, $4, and $3.80, while El Padrino paid $2.10 and $2.10. Rock Alex, 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third, brought $7.20 to show. Adirondack King, Decisive Moment, and Bluedacious completed the order of finish.
El Padrino, a son of Pulpit who took the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) in early 2012, races for Let's Go Stable. His record now stands at 3-2-1 from eight starts, with earnings of $326,770.