by Jim Freer 3-Feb-14
Several days before Wildcat Red ran in the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes his trainer Jose Garoffalo said "I think this distance suits him best." On Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Wildcat Red lived up to his trainer’s confidence.
The son of former sprint star D’Wildcat took the lead coming out of the final turn and coasted to a 4-¾ length win over C. Zee in the Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-olds.
Now Garoffalo is ready to test Wildcat Red at longer distances, starting with the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (Grade 2) at 1-1/16 miles at Gulfstream on Feb. 22.
Garoffalo mentioned that plan in the winner’s circle after the Hutcheson and reiterated it on Sunday.
"He ate up everything last night and came out of the stall this morning very nicely," Garoffako said. "It’s all good. We’re planning on the Fountain of Youth."
C. Zee also could be headed to the Fountain of youth, his trainer Stan Gold said on Sunday morning. Gold said the alternative would be the Swale (Grade 3) at seven furlongs at Gulfstream on March 1.
Wildcat Red’s longest race was the Gulfstream Park Derby, a one-turn mile, on Jan.1. C. Zee’s longest race was the Hutcheson.
Gold and Garoffalo are making plans that are common each February for trainers of talented sprinters.
A trainer can give a horse a test at a longer distance, and if he does well keep putting him into stakes races that are preps for the Kentucky Derby. If a horse does not handle the stretch-out, the trainer can move him back to sprints--usually with a break of several months. In the Hutcheson, both horses showed they merit a shot at longer distances and glory.
Wildcat Red was the 2-1 favorite and C. Zee was the 6-1 fifth choice in the nine-horse field. Gambler’s Ghost led after a half mile in 44.87 seconds. Wildcat Red was second by a half length and C. Zee was another half length back In ton third place.
Wildcat Red then made his move on the outside and won with apparent ease under a hand ride by Javier Castellano.
C. Zee was among four horses battling for second place in mid-stretch. He edged ahead and beat Pablo Del Monte by a half length for second place.
Gambler’s Ghost faded to last, after not being able to match the pressure applied by Wildcat Red.
"Actually, I was very impressed," Garoffalo said. "I was expecting a tough race, but he handled the group very easily. He impressed me how easy he did it."
He said he was pleased that Wildcat Red appeared more relaxed than in previous races and that Castellano was able to keep him from an early lead.
"Jose’s horse has that burst, which our horse doesn’t have," Gold said. "Our horse has sustained speed. I think he can handle a longer distance and we might try the Fountain of Youth."
C. Zee’s grandsires are Elusive Quality and Distorted Humor. Both had their greatest racing success at a mile or shorter. Both also are sires and grandsires of numerous horses that have won stakes races at 1 1/16 miles or longer.
C. Zee has one win and three second place finishes in four career starts. Wildcat Red has three wins and two second place finishes in five starts.
The Fountain of Youth field will also probably include Top Billing, Commissioner, Conquest Titan and Intense Holiday.
As of Sunday, it appeared that three of the leading 3-year-olds stabled in South Florida will not run in the Fountain of Youth.
Cairo Prince, winner of the 1-1/16 mile Holy Bull, is healthy. But trainer Kiaran McLaughlin does not plan to race him again until the 1 1/8 mile Florida Derby (Grade 1) on March 29.
Honor Code has ankle injuries and will probably not race again until the Florida Derby.
Havana is tentatively scheduled to make his first 2014 start in the Swale.