02/09/2012 4:28PM

Gulfstream Park: Ever So Lucky starts outside in Hutcheson Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Jonathan Sheppard (right) looks over Ever So Lucky on Thursday at Gulfstream.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Jonathan Sheppard has been non-committal about Ever So Lucky’s status as a Kentucky Derby candidate. But if he does get to the Derby, Ever So Lucky will get there via a somewhat unconventional route after making his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The Grade 2 Hutcheson carries a $150,000 purse and drew a field of only six 3-year-olds. Joining Ever So Lucky, who will break on the outside from post 6, will be Tarpy’s Goal, Wildcat Creek, Thunder Moccasin, Quick Wit, and Il Villano. Both Tarpy’s Goal and Quick Wit are trained by Dale Romans.

Ever So Lucky hit everybody’s list of Derby prospects the moment he crossed the finish line an easy 3 1/4-length winner launching his career last fall at Churchill Downs. Ever So Lucky made just one more start at 2, returning 15 days later to finish second behind the undefeated Gemologist going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club.

Ever So Lucky was given some time off after suffering minor bone bruising in the Kentucky Jockey Club, returning to training this winter first at Sheppard’s farm in Camden, S.C., before shipping to south Florida late last month. He has had two local works, including a very impressive five furlongs in 59.19 seconds with regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard Jan. 30.

“I’m pleased we drew the outside post, but it’s just a comeback race, and if he can get a nice run and sneak in for a piece I’d be happy,” Sheppard said. “And if we were to get more rain and the track was not to be to my satisfaction, I could just wait another month and run in the Swale.”

Sheppard has maintained all along that Ever So Lucky might be a better miler than anything else and has stated that making the Derby is not his major objective at the moment.

“Running in the Florida Derby is unlikely, and I’d just assume not run him long again until I have to,” Sheppard said. “He’s already had a race around two turns. I’m seriously thinking about the Blue Grass later this spring. That’s a pretty important race on its own. We don’t necessarily have to run in the Derby.”

While Ever So Lucky is the only member of the Hutcheson field currently considered a true Derby prospect, Thunder Moccasin looks like the horse to beat in the race. The speedy son of A. P. Warrior earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure winning his only previous start by 2 1/2 lengths for Starlight Racing and trainer Todd Pletcher on Dec. 24. His most immediate victim that day was Ender Kneivel, now a stablemate in Pletcher’s barn, who ran off the screen winning a maiden race here last weekend.

“He was great the first time out,” Pletcher said of Thunder Moccasin. “It’s an ambitious move going from a maiden win into a Grade 2 race, but it was a key race and the way he’s trained recently we should be okay.”

Thunder Moccasin could receive a challenge for the early lead from Il Villano who turns back to a sprint after setting the pace into the stretch before finishing third behind Alpha in Aqueduct’s Count Fleet in his 3-year-old bow.

Tarpy’s Goal and Quick Wit are both coming off victories. Tarpy’s Goal registered a 2 1/2-length optional claiming tally going seven furlongs while returning on five days’ rest here last month. Quick Wit won his maiden by three lengths Jan. 28.

Hutcheson S. (G2), Post Time: 3:49 ET Saturday

Purse: $150,000; 7 furlongs





ML Odds


Tarpy's Goal

D. Romans

J. Castellano



Wildcat Creek

E. Plesa Jr.

A. Serpa



Thunder Moccasin

T. Pletcher

J. Velazquez



Quick Wit

D. Romans

J. Velazquez



Il Villano

S. Crowell

E. Trujillo



Ever So Lucky

J. Sheppard

J. Leparoux