Jose Garoffalo goes to Plan B and an Eclipse Award-winning jockey with Wildcat Red in Saturday's Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park, and Pablo Del Monte seeks redemption.
Runner-up in the one-turn, one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on Jan. 1, Wildcat Red will cut back to seven furlongs for the $200,000 Hutcheson at seven furlongs.
Garoffalo said last week that a minor illness was discovered on the day entries were taken for the two-turn Holy Bull Stakes, forcing Garoffalo to back away from the race.
“I’m running in this race because we had to skip the last one,” Garoffalo said. “That’s the option we have. The horse ran a month ago, so he needs the race. I’m still thinking to take the horse around two turns. I’m going to use this race to keep the horse in shape and make sure the horse is ready to go longer, and it’s a good race. He fits pretty good, and the distance is an intermediate distance, so we can go longer with him.”
Wildcat Red has been first across the line in three of his four starts, all at Gulfstream Park. He broke his maiden in September and won an entry-level allowance in October before his stakes debut in the Juvenile Sprint Stakes for Florida-breds on Nov. 9. He won by 1 1/4 lengths but was disqualified to second for bearing out in deep stretch.
In the Gulfstream Park Derby, Wildcat Red dueled with General a Rod from the gate and wound up a head short at the wire. Garoffalo said he is not concerned with the cutback, particularly since Wildcat Red's sire, D'wildcat, was a grade I-winning sprinter.
Javier Castellano will ride Wildcat Red for the first time in the Hutcheson. The recently minted Eclipse Award-winning jockey was up for a three-furlong blowout on Jan. 26.
“That’s like a guarantee when you put him on. You give yourself a better chance,” Garoffalo said. “He gets along better with the horse, so let’s do it. We’re ready.”
A disappointing fourth as the favorite in the Gulfstream Park Derby, Pablo Del Monte also returns in the Hutcheson. He is trained and co-owned by Wesley Ward, who also handled the colt’s mother, One Hot Wish.
“I was hoping he would go further,” Ward said, “but his mother was a sprinter, so we’ll shorten him up a little bit and he should be good.”
The Gulfstream Park Derby was the first try on dirt for Pablo Del Monte, who won twice on Polytrack to open his career and was fifth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, in the Generous Stakes on grass.
“He ran good,” Ward said of his last race. “He got a little compromised there in the first part of the race and had to kind of check and go around. He came running late and didn’t really get into it. I was happy with the effort. I think seven-eighths will be a little better for him.”
Trail Blaze and Vinceremos will each be making their graded stakes debut in the Hutcheson for trainer Todd Pletcher unless the latter one goes to Tampa. Vinceremos was cross-entered in Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes.
An impressive maiden winner at Aqueduct on Nov. 29, Trail Blaze came back to be fourth in the Spectacular Bid at Gulfstream on Jan. 4 after a slow start.
“It was disappointing,” Pletcher said of the race. “He came back and trained well, so we’ve got to draw a line through it and try again.”
Vinceremos has run twice at Gulfstream Park, finishing second in his debut on Nov. 30 before breaking his maiden by a head going one mile on Jan. 4 despite having to steady at the sixteenth pole.
“We’re kind of in that mode where I think he still needs to learn something,” Pletcher said. “When he made the lead the other day, he kind of balked a little bit and moved over to the rail and lost his momentum. The other horse engaged him and he came back on again. I think he’s still a work in progress. He’s a talented colt who’s still figuring out the game a little bit.”
Also entered in the Hutcheson were Mighty Brown, winner of the Pasco Stakes on Jan. 4; C. Zee, runner-up in the Spectacular Bid for trainer Stanley Gold; Long On Value, sixth in the Champagne in his most recent start; Tashir, a seven-furlong allowance winner at Calder on Jan. 17; and last-out maiden winners Spot and Gambler’s Ghost.
Edited Gulfstream Park release