Updated on 09/16/2011 6:44AM

Cashel Castle steps up in Hutcheson

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Jim Linscott
Cashel Castle will run in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park this Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Chris Block could have found any excuse to get out of Chicago and head to south Florida for part of the winter. In his unbeaten 3-year-old Cashel Castle, Block has the best excuse a horse trainer could want.

Block will learn more about his untested colt on Saturday when Cashel Castle takes a logical step up in class and runs in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Grade 2 Hutcheson, run at seven furlongs, is a stepping-stone to the Fountain of Youth, a Grade 1 race run on Feb. 16.

A son of Silver Ghost, * won his first three starts by a combined 19 1/2 lengths, including an eight-length score in the six-furlong Hoosier Juvenile at Hoosier Park last Nov. 24. He earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure for that performance.

"He's been some fun," said Block, who trains Cashel Castle for Sandra and Barry Buchholz, who bred and own the colt. "I don't know where else to run him. A horse like this deserves to be in Florida for the winter. I want to get him running against better horses. I think this is the spot to bring him back in. We really don't know where we're headed with him."

Block didn't know what he had in Cashel Castle the first time he ran him on Oct. 7 at Arlington Park. The colt had not done anything spectacular in the morning. After getting stopped cold at the three-eighths pole, Cashel Castle rallied to win by 4 3/4 lengths.

"By the time he got to the eighth pole, he was free and gone," Block said.

The maiden win was followed by a handy 6 3/4-length win in an entry-level allowance race at Hawthorne. In the Hoosier Juvenile, Cashel Castle sat a nice trip behind dueling leaders and charged to the lead when roused.

"The best thing about him is he's got a very efficient stride, he's not real hard on himself," Block said. "He's got a good mind and rates awful kind."

Following the Hoosier Juvenile, Block shipped Cashel Castle to Classic Mile Training Center in Ocala, Fla., where he recorded two solid workouts before vanning to Gulfstream on Saturday. On Tuesday, Cashel Castle worked three furlongs in 36 seconds, according to Block, although track clockers credited him with a four-furlong move in 50.80 seconds. Pat Day, who will ride Cashel Castle on Saturday, was aboard for the move.

"[Day] said he handled it fine, liked the way he moved and did everything right," Block said.

Block said he would let Cashel Castle's performance on Saturday dictate where he goes from here.

Expected to run in the Hutcheson are Axis, Dr. Greeley, Handsome Hunk, Maybry's Boy, Royal Lad, and Showmeitall.

On Tuesday, Showmeitall, runner-up to Maybry's Boy in the Spectacular Bid here on opening day, worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds at Calder, the fastest of 18 works at the distance.

Hit the Trail, who won his maiden at first asking on Jan. 19, is possible for the Hutcheson, though trainer John Mazza said he would prefer to run him in an allowance race. On Tuesday, Hit the Trail worked four furlongs in 48.20 seconds, equaling the fastest of 37 moves at the distance.

"We tried to hold him and slow him down and he went in 48," Mazza said. "If he turned him loose he might have went in 45. He came home like it was a walk in the park. I don't know what to do. He's doing excellent, but I would like to give him another easy race."

Keats possible for Donn

The defections of Lido Palace and Monarchos from the $500,000 Donn Handicap have prompted trainer Niall O'Callaghan to consider running Keats in the Grade 1 race on Feb. 9.

Keats won a third-level allowance race by 10 1/4 lengths here on Jan. 4, earning a 106 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. O'Callaghan is also considering shipping Keats to Fair Grounds for the $125,000 Whirlaway Handicap on Feb. 10.

"I'm just going to wait it out and see how he works this week," O'Callaghan said from his Payson Park barn. "Absolutely, it makes you think about it when you don't have two horses of that caliber in there [the Donn]. I wouldn't have considered it with those horses in it."

Although Keats went gate to wire last time out, O'Callaghan was impressed with how relaxed the horse was during the running of the race. "He went as slow as he ever went," O'Callaghan said.

Without Lido Palace and Monarchos, the Donn still possesses Grade 1 winners Red Bullet, Hal's Hope, and Traditionally. Others expected to run include Best of the Rest, Free of Love, Graeme Hall, Kiss a Native, and Mongoose or Ubiquity. Wooden Phone is also possible.

Free of Love, who won a third-level allowance race here on Jan. 21, worked four furlongs in 50.80 seconds on Tuesday. Trainer Rick Violette is pointing him to the Donn, but wants to see the weight assignments before committing.

Hal's Hope, prepping for the Donn, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 on Tuesday at Calder. Hal's Hope, the 2000 Florida Derby winner, is coming off a third-place finish in the Skip Away Handicap.

Nominations for the Donn were to close Wednesday and weight assignments will be made on Saturday.

Perfect Sting's brother wins

El General, a 3-year-old half-brother to 2000 female turf champion Perfect Sting, won his maiden by a neck Monday in a 1 1/16-mile turf race. Owned by Stronach Stable, El General overcame a little bit of traffic trouble to get up late.

"I was hoping because he has so much talent I could have run him on dirt and hopefully he'd have been my Florida Derby horse," trainer Joe Orseno said. "But I talked to [farm manager] Danny Vella and we know he's a better turf horse and that's where he's going to be. He's loaded with talent, but he's a turf horse."

Orseno was impressed with the performance by El General, who had not raced since Oct. 18 when he finished second in a maiden turf race at Belmont.

"At the end he looked like Perfect Sting the way he was flying," Orseno said.

Orseno said he had not looked beyond Monday's race and was unsure where El General would run next.

* The Ninth Annual Backstretch Picnic Appreciation Day will be held on Tuesday from noon-4 p.m. in the corporate tent of the Gulfstream Park grandstand. All backstretch employees are admitted free (with Florida racing badge) and are encouraged to bring their children. Volunteers and donations of prizes, food and beverages are needed. For more information, contact Dan Perlsweig at 929-3389.

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