Honors Stable Corporation's Wildcat Red turned in a sparkling performance Feb. 1 at Gulfstream Park, taking the $200,000 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) over eight other 3-year-olds in dominant fashion (VIDEO). The Feb. 22 Fountain of Youth (gr. II) will be his next target.
After missing the Jan. 25 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) due to a minor illness, the Florida-bred son of grade I-winning sprinter D'wildcat closed three wide under jockey Javier Castellano in the seven-furlong Hutcheson, easily sailing past pacesetter Gambler's Ghost after running fourth behind a :22.30 opening quarter and up into second through a :44.87 half. He carried on alone down the length of the stretch for three-quarters in 1:09.57, widening the gap to 4 3/4 lengths under a hand ride, and crossed the finish line in 1:22.21 on a fast track.
"It was an infection in the throat, some mucus in the upper windpipe," trainer Jose Garoffalo said of missing the Holy Bull with Wildcat Red. "It wasn't a big deal really, but we didn't want to take the chance to run in the previous race. We waited for this race, and the horse fit pretty good in this spot. He proved he was the best horse in the race, as we were expecting."
Castellano, who was aboard his third winner on the afternoon card, said a three-furlong breeze in :36.25 on Jan. 26 cued him in to the talent of the young bay runner.
"I worked him one morning last week and was very impressed," the jockey remarked. "He has a good mind and you can put him wherever you want. He doesn't have to be on the lead and he can rate, which is very important. I give the credit to Jose to cut him back in distance to seven-eighths so that he could win a race and move forward.
"The race unfolded like I had handicapped. I didn't want to be on the lead because then they'd want to chase me and he would get tired. I wanted to target somebody and then he'd give me the kick. It's very impressive, the way he did it. They went good fractions and he was sitting right there. When I asked him, he took off."
According to Garoffalo, Wildcat Red should get increased distance despite his sprinter's pedigree.
"If you look at his pedigree, he doesn't show much stamina, but the way he's training, the way he relaxes now, I think we could try him around two turns and see what happens," the trainer said. "I think when the pace is slower, he can go longer. He can relax himself in the race, he proved that today. Actually, I was very impressed. I was expecting a tough race but he handled the group very easily. He impressed me how easy he did it."
Garoffalo said the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth is more attractive as a target without the presence of Holy Bull winner Cairo Prince , who is headed straight to the March 29 Besilu Florida Derby (gr. I).
"(The Fountain of Youth) is the next step, hopefully, if everything goes good," he confirmed. "We're going to check the horse after the race, and if everything goes in a good way, we'll be there. Especially because I just read that Cairo Prince is not going to go in the race. I probably am going to run in that race if the horse is in good shape.'
Wildcat Red paid $6, $3.80, and $2.60 as the 2-1 favorite while C. Zee brought $6.40 and $3.60. Pablo Del Monte checked in third, a half-length back ($3), as Long On Value, Spot, Tashir, Mighty Brown, Trail Blaze, and Gambler's Ghost completed the order of finish. Vinceremos scratched to run in—and win—the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Bred by Moreau Bloodstock International & Winter Racing Enterprise out of the Miner's Mark mare Racene, Wildcat Red has a 3-2 record from five starts—all at Gulfstream—with earnings of $235,850. A $30,000 purchase by Garoffalo from the Classic Bloodstock consignment at the 2013 Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s June sale of 2-year-olds & horses of racing age, he was disqualified from first to second in the Nov. 9 Juvenile Sprint Stakes, and just missed the Jan. 1 Gulfstream Park Derby to General a Rod by a head.