01/04/2012 2:42PM

Gulfstream: Utley out for fresh career

Barbara D. Livingston
Utley was seventh, three lengths behind the winner, in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Utley, whose only previous appearance in this country came in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, will try to kick-start what has been a somewhat disappointing career to date against first-level allowance competition in Friday’s $53,500 main event at Gulfstream Park.

Utley, a homebred son of Smart Strike owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable, finished seventh, beaten only three lengths by Pluck, despite a very wide trip in the 2010 Juvenile Turf. He returned to England for his 3-year-old campaign, going winless in five starts before being stopped on last June. He had spent his career up to this point with trainer John Gosden but is currently under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard.

“Mr. Strawbridge bred him, and he’s out of one of his bests mares,” said Sheppard. “Obviously they thought highly enough of this colt to bring him over to run in the Breeders’ Cup. He was kind of a disappointment last year after running several more times without winning. They sent him back to me last summer, and we just gave him quite a bit of time off on the farm before putting him back in training, and he got a pretty good foundation under him before coming down to Florida.”

Utley, who arrived at Sheppard’s Gulfstream barn at the end of last week, had his first work over the track on Monday breezing a strong five furlongs in 59.60 seconds in company with stablemate Piquant under jockey Julien Leparoux.

“He had some good breezes on the farm in South Carolina before arriving here, and he worked very nicely on Monday,” said Sheppard. “He’s not prepped like it was the Breeders’ Cup, he’s probably at about 85 percent for this race, but he’s fit enough to give a good account and for us to see where we are with him right now. Hopefully he’ll have a productive season, and we want to leave a little gas in the tank for later on.”

Utley will face nine rivals if Friday’s headliner goes as scheduled at a 1 1/16 miles on the turf, including four horses who won their last starts: Liston, Stormy the Cat, Grip Hands, and Photo Shoot.

Liston and Stormy the Cat each won divisions of a $50,000 conditioned claiming race going a mile on the turf here on Dec. 4. Liston captured far and away the faster split, rallying from last to post a head decision after completing the distance in 1:34.41. Stormy the Cat overcame trouble on the far turn and used similar stretch-running tactics to post a three-quarter-length victory, covering a mile in 1:35.17 later on the card.

Grip Hands, trained by Graham Motion, was an impressive winner of his grass debut, parlaying a stalking trip into a 2 3/4-length maiden special weight victory going a mile on opening day.

Photo Shoot was claimed for $30,000 by his present connections out of a 6 1/4-length conditioned claiming victory over Keeneland’s synthetic surface on Oct. 28. A son of Giant’s Causeway, he is winless in six starts on grass.