11/26/2012 5:24PM

Calder: Trainer Bennie Stutts calls it a career

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Duke of Mischief, who hasn't raced since April, is back working at Gulfstream for his return next year at 7.

MIAMI - Bennie Stutts Jr., a racetrack fixture for more than 40 years, rang down the curtain on his long career after sending out Iwillneversaynever in Saturday’s sixth race.

Stutts, 74, comes from a racing family. His father, Ben, and uncles Harry and George Stutts all preceded him in the business. Born just outside the Fair Grounds in New Orleans but a football star at Coral Gables High School in Miami, Stutts first ventured out on his own as a trainer in 1968 and has raced at Calder since the plant opened in 1971.

Stutts’s finest hours came with Smooth Air, who won the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream in his 3-year-old debut in 2008 and went on to compete later that season in both the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Smooth Air also finished second in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at 3 and captured the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap the following winter.

“That one horse made my whole career,” said Stutts. “I trained horses for 30 years before I ever won a stakes.”

Stutts said the grind of training horses for a living all those years led to his recent decision to retire.

“I’m going to be 75 in February,” said Stutts. “And I think it’s time for me to have some fun away from the track for a while.”

Duke of Mischief on comeback trail

One veteran not quite ready to call it quits yet is Duke of Mischief, who’ll turn 7 on Jan. 1. Duke of Mischief, who is approaching the $2 million mark in lifetime earnings, has not started since finishing second behind Caixa Eletronica in defense of his title in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on April 14.

“He had a few little problems and just needed a break,” said trainer David Fawkes.

Duke of Mischief, who recently shipped over to Gulfstream, where he’ll be stabled this winter, worked five furlongs in 1:01.21 from the half-mile to the mile pole on Sunday morning. The work was his third since returning to training last month.

“He won’t need much more to get ready,” said Fawkes. “It shouldn’t be long before we get him back in the entries.”

◗ Friday is closing day for the Tropical meeting, with the final card of the long Calder season offering a dozen races topped by a pair of Grade 3 stakes, the La Prevoyante and the Tropical Park Turf handicaps.