Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan of Let's Go Stable had high hopes for their grade II winner El Padrino in early 2012, only to see the strapping chestnut go to the sidelines after a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). On Dec. 19 trainer Todd Pletcher sends their son of Pulpit back to the races off a 7 1/2-month layup in a $60,500 allowance optional claimer going a mile at Gulfstream Park, eying the early-season target of the $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) Feb. 9.
Winner of the Feb. 25 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, El Padrino finished fourth behind Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (gr. I), a foe he had beaten by two lengths with a promising Jan. 29 optional claiming victory at Gulfstream for a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. Eventual Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Union Rags was just 1 3/4 lengths in front of El Padrino in the Florida Derby and finished third, both finding their best stride too late.
After running 13th in the Kentucky Derby, El Padrino got some down time at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky. He started back galloping over the farm's Polytrack surface and spent a brief time at Pletcher's Keeneland barn before shipping to Palm Meadows Training Center mid-October.
"From 2 to 3 we never really took him out of training, he never really left Todd's barn," Scatuorchio said. "He really had a pretty long campaign going into the Derby and then he got roughed up a little bit with a troubled trip. The break lost him any chance to get a call in the stretch. We felt it was right to give him a little rest after that and let him be a horse for a while, just some time off doing nothing. He was turned out and once we started back up on him, he really didn't miss a beat."
El Padrino has recorded six solid works at Palm Meadows, the most recent of which was a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.63 Dec. 13. He faces older company for the first time and is one of three sophomores in a six-horse field, along with Adirondack King, fourth in the Nov. 17 Discovery Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack, and Bluedacious, runner-up in an Oct. 24 allowance optional claimer at Keeneland last out.
"He's been training forwardly and building up his conditioning very well; he looks fantastic physically and he's traveling beautifully, coming into the race in good order," Scatuorchio said. "Todd does an amazing job with these horses, getting them fit and ready off the layup. Usually they get right back to training and pick up their former form."
A $210,000 purchase from the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, El Padrino was bred in Kentucky by Emory A. Hamilton out of the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock. His current record stands at 3-1-1 from seven starts, with earnings of $316,100. He was third in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) in 2011 in his graded stakes debut off a 12 3/4-length maiden win going a mile on the dirt at Belmont Park.
"He always had great size; even as a juvenile he was a pretty imposing colt," Scatuorchio remarked. "He's definitely one of the larger horses in Todd's barn, and conditioning a horse of that size can be a little tricky, but when you see him on the track you're actually surprised how big he is because he moves well, with such a fluid stride.
"We always thought he would be better suited for longer distances and having to give him some time off, albeit a disappointing decision, was definitely the right thing to do," the owner continued. "Giving the horse a chance to recharge the batteries is specifically the way we try to manage a horse with a tremendous amount of potential like this. You always have to do right by the horse, no matter what. We decided to circle the Donn as a goal going forward, gave him the ample time off, and he's probably better for it."
The older horses, Citrus Kid, Decisive Moment, and Rock Alex, have all gone extended periods without a win. Citrus Kid, a 5-year-old, is unraced since a runner-up finish to Stormy Lord in the 2011 President's Cup Stakes on the Parx Racing turf last September and made his last dirt outing in 2010 with a seventh in the Lecomte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
Decisive Moment, a 4-year-old who hasn't won since taking last year's Delta Mile at Delta Downs, has made six starts in stakes company for trainer Juan Arias but has yet to hit the board; he gets blinkers for the first time since his juvenile campaign. Rock Alex is a 4-year-old allowance winner whose last victory came in September of 2011 at Calder Casino & Race Course.
Race 4, approximate post 2:09 p.m. EST, $60,500 allowance optional claiming, 3YOs & Up, one mile (dirt)
PP., Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Rock Alex (FL), F. Jara, 119, M A Estevez, 15-1
2. Citrus Kid (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 119, J P Terranova, II, 6-1
3. Decisive Moment (FL), S.O. Madrid, 119, J D Arias, 8-1*
4. El Padrino (KY), J. Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher, 4-5
5. Bluedacious (KY), J.C. Leyva, 116, H Collazo, 6-1
6. Adirondack King (KY), J. Lezcano, 116, J C Servis 3-1
*Equipment Change: 3, Decisive Moment, blinkers on