The Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes wasn't the only contest with potential Kentucky Derby implications at Gulfstream Park on Sunday. Three races earlier, promising three-year-olds lined up in an entry-level optional claimer carded as the 7TH, and the Todd Pletcher-trained El Padrino rolled to a good-looking score over Take Charge Indy.
Both colts brought graded stakes form to the table, unlike their rivals. Let's Go Stable's El Padrino was last seen finishing third in the Grade 2 Remsen, and Grade 3-placed Take Charge Indy was most recently fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Yet they were sent off at 5-2, with El Padrino the slight second choice and Take Charge Indy the third pick. Garnering 9-5 favoritism was Casual Trick, runner-up in the non-graded Gulfstream Park Derby. The proven class rose to the top, but Casual Trick threw in a clunker on the sealed main track. Listed as good at the time, it was officially labeled sloppy by the next race.
Bartolome grabbed the early lead from the rail and splashed through fractions of :23 2/5 and :47. Take Charge Indy prompted the pace in second, and El Padrino secured a tracking spot behind the leader on the inside. Casual Trick, who stumbled at the start, improved into a stalking position.
Take Charge Indy took charge on the far turn and opened up by daylight, getting six furlongs in 1:10 4/5. Casual Trick found himself in second as the early leader Bartolome beat a retreat, but he too gave way abruptly and drop well back.
Seeing Take Charge Indy steal away, Javier Castellano sent El Padrino after him, and he rapidly erased the gap and bore down on the leader. Although Take Charge Indy tried to take advantage of the short stretch run in the 1 1/16-mile affair, El Padrino had too much momentum. The mud-splattered chestnut powered past and pulled away by two lengths. After stopping the teletimer in 1:42 3/5, El Padrino returned $7.20, $3.60 and $3.20.
The top two were in a race of their own. There was a chasm of 13 3/4 lengths back to Argentine Tango, who closed from last to get up for third. Big Screen reported home fourth, followed by A Boy Named Em, In the Beat, Bartolome and Casual Trick. Gaelico was pulled up once hopelessly beaten.
El Padrino was already known to relish an off track, having crushed a maiden by 12 3/4 lengths in the Belmont Park slop on October 29. His two tries on a fast track were more than respectable as well. Despite a troubled trip in his debut at Saratoga, he flew late for second, beaten just three-quarters of a length by the well-regarded B Shanny. El Padrino stepped up off his big maiden win straight into the November 26 Remsen, and closed strongly for third.
The Pulpit colt was originally penciled in for the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds on January 21, but Pletcher decided to give him another week. He has now bankrolled $86,100 from his 4-2-1-1 record.
Bred by Emory A. Hamilton in Kentucky, El Padrino was sold for $210,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is the first registered foal from the Giant's Causeway mare Enchanted Rock, herself a half-sister to Grade 2 winners Waldoboro and Tara Roma. Immediate family members include Grade 1 winner Serra Lake; Grade 2 scorers Al Khali and Hungry Island; and Grade/Group 3 winners Soaring Empire, Coal Play, Cappuchino, Somali Lemonade and Baraan.
Enchanted Rock's dam is Grade 1 queen Chic Shirine, a full sister to champion Queena, who is in turn the dam of Grade 1 hero Brahms. Chic Shirine and Queena were both produced by Grade 1 victress Too Chic.