(Todd Pletcher trains Nocturnal / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Cheyenne Stables’ Nocturnal is scheduled to return from a nine-month layoff at Gulfstream Park in Friday’s Race 7 feature, in which his talent and fitness figure to be sternly tested while clashing with Slam Dunk Racing and Madaket Stables LLC’s Drain the Clock.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Nocturnal, who hasn’t raced since capturing a Feb. 27 optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park, has always been highly regarded as a horse with stakes potential.

“We always felt he had that kind of potential. Unfortunately, he’s had some minor setbacks along the way, and it’s been hard to keep him on a consistent schedule,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, this time around, we can accomplish that.”

Nocturnal debuted at Gulfstream in a March 2020 in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race, finishing second after setting the pace behind Pletcher-trained Dr Post, who went on to finish second behind Florida Derby (G1) winner Tiz the Law in the 2020 Belmont Stakes (G1).

The son of Palace Malice went to the sidelines for seven months but came back to graduate at Gulfstream in January with a front-running 3 ¾-length romp at a mile. Five weeks later, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred came right back to win an entry-level optional claiming allowance by 1 ¼ lengths before going back to the sidelines.

Nocturnal, who will be ridden by Luis Saez, has been gelded since his most recent race.

“He’s trained really well, as he always has. We had originally entered him in a mile race that didn’t fill, so he kind of landed in a race that I’m concerned might be a little too short for him,” Pletcher said. “We’re hoping for a good hot pace, and hopefully, he can close into that.”

Nocturnal drew the rail post position, four stalls inside Drain the Clock in the starting gate.

“It’s not ideal, but I do think with the other speed in the race, he’ll be able to work out a good trip,” Pletcher said. “We anticipate they’ll run away from him early on and hope Luis can work him to the outside.”

Drain the Clock, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, will face older horses for the first time Friday after establishing himself as one of the country’s leading 3-year-old sprinters.

The son of Maclean’s Music will return from a well-deserved freshening since finishing fourth in the Aug. 28 H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga. After winning three races and finishing second after setting the pace in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth (G2), Drain the Clock went on the road to win the Bay Shore (G3) at Aqueduct and the Woody Stephens (G1) at Saratoga, beating Jackie’s Warrior. He finished second behind Jackie’s Warrior in the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga before his subpar run in the Jerkens.

“We’re happy to have him back on Friday. Hopefully, he can come back with a bang,” Joseph said.

Dare to Dream Stable LLC’s Quick Tempo, a stakes-winning son of Tapizar, enters Friday’s feature off a close-up third in a Keeneland allowance on turf. Junior Alvarado has the call aboard the Christopher Davis-trained 3-year-old.

Sagamore Mischief, Flap Jack, Where Paradise Lay and Gatsby are also entered.