Defer Ready to Go in Hutcheson

Trainer Shug McGaughey is set to take the wraps off Laurel Futurity winner Defer in Saturday's $100,000 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in what he hopes will be the first step toward the 3-year-old Classic races later this spring.

"That's where we want to go with him," said McGaughey in a release from Gulfstream Park. "The Hutcheson is the kind of springboard we're looking for toward the Fountain of Youth (gr. II), the Florida Derby (gr. I) and hopefully the Kentucky Derby."

McGaughey says the distance and the scheduling of Gulfstream's 3-year-old prep races this year give him several options while formulating a plan with the talented son of Danzig.

"Bringing him back at 7 1/2-furlongs sets him up nicely," said McGaughey. "This race this weekend isn't do or die. I'd like to see him win, but we just want to see him run well. If I feel like he's peaking too soon, we can skip a race like the Fountain of Youth and wait until later in the meet. There's a lot of options. This race is the first step and we'll see what kind of options it opens up for us."

The Ogden Mills Phipps colorbearer ran second to the highly regarded Rockport Harbor in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct in his second career start. McGaughey started to look around for ways to avoid the established 2-year-old stars in New York.

"We knew the Laurel Futurity was out there and we knew we would want to duck Rockport Harbor and Galloping Grocer," he said. "We wanted to look around for a race where we could avoid those two and a spot where we would be the nuts and the Laurel race just worked out that way."

McGaughey had also nominated Good Reward to the Donn Handicap (gr. I), but instead the 4-year-old will race in the Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.