El Padrino signaled his readiness for a clash with Union Rags in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park during a half-mile workout at Palm Meadows Training Center Sunday morning. The son of Pulpit, who was ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, was timed in :49 over the fast dirt.
"He went well. He went in :49, which is what we set out to do. He seemed happy and is coming up to the race in good order," trainer Todd Pletcher said.
El Padrino worked in company with Brethren, who is scheduled to make his first start since finishing off the board in last April's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby in the Sir Shackleton Stakes on the Florida Derby undercard.
"(El Padrino) finished slightly ahead of Brethren at the wire and galloped out nicely," Pletcher added.
El Padrino, who finished a close third in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes in his 2011 finale, took a big step forward in a stakes-quality allowance at Gulfstream on Januray 9 with a two-length victory over Florida Derby candidate Take Charge Indy after lacking room early. He came back to catch Mark Valeski by a nose in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds in his most recent start.
The chestnut colt's development this year has impressed his Eclipse Award-winning trainer.
"Physically, he's a big strong colt but has good acceleration and can be pretty tactical in his races," Pletcher said. "He's becoming more and more professional. His allowance race here was an impressive race for a young horse, sitting behind horses on the inside and having to wait for something to open and finishing up strongly against a horse that was kind of loose on the lead.
"Then, he went to Louisiana and showed he had some courage in a dogfight with a nice horse and was able to put his nose down at the wire. It's nice to know that he's capable of sitting behind horses and taking some dirt when he's down inside and that when he gets in a situation that he needs to find more, he can come up with it."
Sunday was a busy morning at Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Boynton Beach for Pletcher, who also sent Our Entourage out for a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 2/5. The three-year-old captured a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park in his seasonal debut on February 25.
"We're going to the (Grade 3, $500,000) Illinois Derby (on April 7 at Hawthorne) with him," Pletcher said of the Street Cry bay. "He was only beaten a couple lengths (when fifth) in the Remsen and he's been training well all winter on the dirt in good company, so we're optimistic he'll handle the dirt just fine."
Pletcher-trained runners finished second and third behind Went the Day Well in Saturday's Grade 3, $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. Holiday Promise, sent to post at 25-1, finished 3 1/2 lengths behind victorious Went the Day well and a length ahead of stablemate Heavy Breathing.
"Both came out of the race in good order. We're going to take Holiday Promise to the (Grade 3) Lexington (at Keeneland on April 21) and Heavy Breathing will come back here to Palm Meadows and we will survey how he's doing and take a look at the numbers, but we haven't decided what the target is for his next start yet," Pletcher said.
Holiday Promise won't be prepping for a start in Kentucky Derby in the Lexington.
"We don't have him nominated for the Triple Crown, and we decided (Saturday) that we weren't going to supplement him and we'll find other spots for him," Pletcher said.
In other Florida Derby news, jockey Jeffrey Sanchez will be squarely in the spotlight on next Saturday's Florida Derby Day program as he goes to the post atop Fort Loudon, a longshot chance in the $1 million Florida Derby.
Trained by Stanley Gold, Fort Loudon is a son of Awesome of Course and finished fourth in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and fifth behind Union Rags last out in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on February 26.
"We thought he ran a decent race in the Holy Bull but is capable of better than he showed in the Fountain of Youth," Gold said Sunday morning. "He had a good work yesterday morning (half mile in :51 at Calder) and he's ready to go."
Jockey Rajiv Maragh rode Fort Loudon in both the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, but will be aboard Fountain of Youth runner-up News Pending in the Florida Derby.