The Morning Line: Hutcheson Stakes

A Field of Six Entered for the Florida Derby Prep 

With only 4 derby prep sprints remaining we bring you the 2012 Hutcheson Stakes from Gulfstream Park. The grade 2 Seven Furlong race is considered a prep for the Florida Derby and often times a final sprint before moving up to two turns on the derby trail.

In its history the race has been run over 50 times dating back to 1954 and in 1968 it began running annually. Since its inception only two winners have gone on to win The Kentucky Derby. It began with Spectacular Bid in 1979 and then again in 1984 when Swale repeated the feat. Since that time there have been some legitimate derby contenders including Holy Bull in ’94 and More than Ready in 2000 but no winners that were able to wear to the roses. A live derby contender emerging from the Hutch is overdue but that can change if one of these six is ready to put their derby trail stamp on it tomorrow. 

Race 8 G3 Hutcheson Stakes | Purse $150,000 | 7 Furlongs | Dirt | Post Time: 3:49 est

1 Tarpy’s Goal  J. Castellano  D. Romans 6-1
2 Wildcat Creek  A. Serpa  E. Plesa, Jr. 12-1
3 Thunder Moccasin  J. Velazquez  T. Pletcher 7-5
4 Quick Wit  R. Dominguez  D. Romans 6-1
5 Il Villano  E. Trujillo  S. Crowell 5-1
6 Ever So Lucky  J. Leparoux  J. Sheppard 2-1

Similar to a good amount of horses in Pletcher’s barn Thunder Moccasin enters after racing very little in his 2-yr-old season. The Hutch will be his second career race and 3-yr-old debut. His first time out was on Dec. 24th at Gulfstream Park where he won at 6 ½ Furlongs by going wire to wire and holding on by 2 ½. The win was impressive enough for Pletcher to send him back against graded stakes competition so expect Thunder Moccasin to be a threat and almost a must for all exotic wagers. Starlight Racing and Todd Pletcher are on a roll right now so the Hutch is a good spot to keep things active on the derby trail.

Key program stat: Bullet work on Feb. 5 at Palm Meadows – 4 furlongs in :47 3/5 turned out to be the fastest of 47 different works that morning.

If Todd Pletcher is to win on Saturday it will become his seventh Hutcheson Stakes and sixth in the last ten years. In 2003 a run of Pletcher dominance kicked off and led to an impressive streak of 5 consecutive wins. Coupled in the company of his first win with More than Ready in 2000 it makes him the overwhelming and outright leader in Hutcheson Stakes wins. Along for the ride with the exception of 2007 was jockey John Velazquez also making him the all time leader in wins. This year the three connections team up again in attempt to win their second after they scored with Keyed Entry in 2006. A victory on Saturday will make it Starlight Racing’s second ever win in the Hutcheson Stakes.

Dropping back in distance after a close 3rd place finish to Alpha in the 1 Mile Count Fleet is Il VilanoHe won the final three sprints of his Juvenile Season so this 7 Furlong test is an opportune distance to get him back on into the winners circle. This will be his graded stakes debut and ultimately may be the deciding factor on his chances of staying on the Kentucky Derby trail vs. remaining a career focused sprinter.

Now let’s turn our attention to the questions surrounding Ever So Lucky. Often looked at as a potential Mile champion caliber horse it leads to questions surrounding his chances of even running in the Kentucky Derby. The Hutcheson may expedite that outcome but it’s still unlikely to be the final answer. Another pressing question is whether or not he will even run in the Hutcheson Stakes.

After concluding his 2-yr-old campaign with a 2nd place finish in the 1 1/16 mile G2 Kentucky Jockey Club behind Gemologist the colt was sent back to Camden, SC to rehab a tender ankle. Although there aren’t any concerns regarding his health what has been discussed are his workouts since returning to Gulfstream. Most recent was on Feb 6 when he turned in a 5F work in 1:01.75, a solo work and time that Trainer Jon Sheppard wasn’t too excited about.

So adding these elements together is the reason that the option of waiting for G2 Swale Stakes on March 10 is still on the table. It is something that Sheppard has noted but never confirmed. The expectations of him starting are still more likely than not so consider Ever So Lucky as highly probable. Overall I would be surprised if he didn’t run and not finish in the money if he does.

Rounding out the field is a pair of Dale Romans horses Quick Wit and Tarpy’s Goal alongside of Wildcat Creek. Both of Dale’s horses lost Julien Leparoux to Ever So Lucky but are replaced by a pair of veteran riders. The two horses won their last time out at Gulfstream in January and should be considered on all exotic wagers or long shot picks.

Picks: Have a feeling Thunder Moccasin is going to remain the short favorite so I’ll be playing to beat him from two different angles – Ever So Lucky to win, Il Villano across the board.

Good luck to all 6 horses in the Hutch, we hope to see you again on the Kentucky Derby Trail.

Written by: Little Brink


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