Making his stakes debut, Keyed Entry repelled the 3-5 favorite First Samurai in the stretch to post a determined win in the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds on a sloppy Gulfstream Park main track Saturday.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Keyed Entry, a dark bay son of Honour and Glory
, set a track record of 1:27.12 for the 7 1/2-furlong distance on the reconfigured Gulfstream course. The Hutcheson was contested previously at seven furlongs.
Keyed Entry defeated First Samurai by 1 1/4 lengths when it appeared that the latter, a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was going to blow past in the stretch. But Keyed Entry opened up again to lead by two lengths inside the eighth pole and finished well to defeat First Samurai, who kept trying.
"This horse has been training exceptionally well since he got down here," Pletcher said. "Obviously it's a big step up to go from an 'a other than' (allowance) to run against a grade I winner like First Samurai. The plan now is to gradually stretch him out. Whether or not we go in the Fountain of Youth (Mar. 4), or somewhere else, I'll have to get him back and decide that later."
First Samurai, a two-time grade I winner at 2, turned in an encouraging effort in his first start since finishing third in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Belmont Park Oct. 29. He broke first and then was taken in hand by Edgar Prado, who prompted the pacesetter Keyed Entry through fractions of :22, :44 and 1:07 3/5. Carrying 122 pounds, six more than Keyed Entry, First Samurai challenged the winner at the top of the stretch but could not edge past.
"I thought he ran well," trainer Frank Brothers said of First Samurai. "That was a top class horse that he was running with, and you can't take anything away from him, but I thought my horse ran well for his first start off the bench in three months.
"The track condition didn't hurt the top two, I know that. He was sharp. He just couldn't get to that other horse. We're going to stretch him out. I'd like to get a mile-and-a-sixteenth (race), but you don't always get what you want in this game. I expect that he'll have another start at Gulfstream, but that's not set in stone."
Keyed Entry, a $145,000 Fasig-Tipton sale in July 2004, had a more recent start, winning a first-level allowance race over a fast Gulfstream strip Jan. 7. He is now undefeated in three starts with earnings of $132,729 for owners Starlight Stables, Saylor and Lucarelli.
The second choice in a field of seven, Keyed Entry paid $7.40, $2.60, and $2.10. First Samurai returned $2.10 and $2.10. It was 16 lengths back to third place finisher Express News, who paid $2.10.
Catcominatcha finished fourth, followed by Fabled, Almost Certain and Blazing Rate. City Attraction scratched.