02/24/2011 4:18PM

Hutcheson features plenty of early speed


The race Boys At Tosconova ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile would’ve been good enough for first money many years, but the Rick Dutrow-trained Boys At Tosconova ran into a monster from the Todd Pletcher barn, Uncle Mo. That same dynamic might be at work in the Hutcheson Stakes on Saturday, where the flashy Dutrow maiden winner Flashpoint goes against the Pletcher-trained Travelin Man, among the sharpest debut winners of the Gulfstream meet.

Travelin Man and Flashpoint comprise one-fifth of an apparently strong edition of the Grade 2, $150,000 Hutcheson, a seven-furlong dirt sprint. The race also includes Madman Diaries, last seen finishing a close fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf; Crossbow, a good allowance race winner over the distance Jan. 29; Little Drama, younger brother of champion sprinter Big Drama; and Manicero, a two-time Tampa sprint stakes winner this winter.

Travelin Man, a homebred owned by the estate of E. Paul Robsham, made his career debut Jan. 6 at Gulfstream, drawing off to win a six-furlong race by more than seven lengths and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 106. Travelin Man is fast enough to win the Hutcheson, but with an eye to the future, Pletcher would have run the Trippi colt in an allowance race last weekend, had the race filled.

“From one race, from a figure standpoint, he’s the possible favorite and one to beat,” Pletcher said. “From an experience standpoint, he might have benefitted from an allowance race. But I think he’s talented enough to compete.”

Travelin Man faced only four foes first time out, but the two behind him – Ninja Blade and Ballyclough – both can run. The former finished second to Dialed In in his debut, the latter was second to Fountain of Youth entrant Shackleford last fall.

“The horse had trained well, but he hadn’t trained as well as he ran,” Pletcher said. “I didn’t necessarily expect him to run off the screen.”

The same went for Flashpoint, whose morning work had been modest enough that he was left behind to debut Jan. 15 over the Aqueduct inner track. Facing heavily favored Simba’s Story – another Pletcher-Robsham horse – Flashpoint broke on top, showed great speed, and cruised to a fast 5 1/4-length victory.

“He just doesn’t set the world on fire in the morning,” Dutrow said. “We thought he was okay all along, but we weren’t expecting to see that.”

Madman Diaries made five of his six 2-year-old starts on synthetic or turf but won his lone dirt race, the Sapling at Monmouth, and has been posting fast main-track works at Gulfstream prepping for his first start of the year.

“I took him to my farm for about a month after his last race, just to sort of let him down,” trainer and co-owner Wesley Ward said. “We brought him right back, and he’s never missed a beat. That little bit of a freshening really helped.”

Ward, however, noted what will be obvious to any handicapper doing a cursory read on the Hutcheson: The race is packed with early speed.

“My horse has always been trained to be up in the first flight,” Ward said. “If we go 44 and change, we could all be done.”

Barring a change in tactics, the race has three potential off-the-pace hopefuls: Pletcher’s second entrant, Razmataz, rallied from third to win a Jan. 12 allowance race; Leave of Absence was a flat sixth in the Holy Bull Stakes; and Black N Beauty came from behind with some success in a pair of shorter races last year.