02/14/2004 12:00AM

Limehouse takes the Hutcheson

Limehouse, ridden by John Velazquez, wins the Hutcheson by 2 1/4 lengths over stablemate Deputy Storm.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher said he circled Feb. 14 on his calendar over a month ago as a day when a lot of good things could happen for his 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park. And sure enough they did.

Pletcher topped off an already successful afternoon by sending out Limehouse and Deputy Storm to finish first and second in Saturday's $150,000 . Pletcher had already watched his Value Plus register an impressive victory in his 3-year-old debut and his potential Florida Derby hopeful, Shaniko, finish second behind the promising Swingforthefences under first-level allowance conditions.

Limehouse was making his first start since finishing third behind Eurosilver in the Grade 2 Lane's End Futurity on Oct. 4. Allowed by jockey John Velazquez to settle near mid-pack while saving ground down the backstretch, Limehouse eased out in early stretch and then ran down his uncoupled stablemate Deputy Storm, inside the sixteenth pole before drawing off by a widening 2 1/4 lengths.

Deputy Storm had been idle even longer than Limehouse, not having started since he finished second in Monmouth Park's Grade 3 Sapling on Aug. 9. Racing without blinkers for the first time since launching his career in May, Deputy Storm easily sprinted to command under jockey Jerry Bailey, setting fractions of 21.68 and 43.73 seconds. He settled into the stretch with a clear lead but proved no match for the winner.

Saratoga County overcame a very eventful trip to finish third. Wynn Dot Comma, a tepid 2-1 favorite, had to steady in traffic a couple of times around the turn and was a distant fourth.

Limehouse, a son of Grand Slam, is owned by the Dogwood Stable. He covered seven furlongs in 1:22.23 over a fast track and paid $10.40.

"He was really super-game," Pletcher said of Limehouse.

Pletcher noted that the scratch of Silver Rapt had placed Limehouse in the rail position, "and you never want to be in the 1 post going seven furlongs. I thought he ran very well to run down a horse who looked like he had something left."

Pletcher said he had nothing in mind at the moment for either Limehouse or Deputy Storm.

"We have a lot of options," said Pletcher. "We'll see how they come out of the race then sit down, talk things over, and sort it out."