Provocateur Comes into His Own in Saturday’s Hutcheson
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Spendthrift Farm LLC and My Racehorse’s Provocateur produced a thoroughly professional and authoritative victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park, providing his Hall of Fame trainer, Todd Pletcher, with his eighth success in the six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.
The Hutcheson was featured on Saturday’s program, along with the $100,000 Any Limit, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies, and the $100,000 Silks Run, a five-furlong dash for older horses on turf.
Provocateur ($7) broke cleanly from the starting gate to gain ideal stalking position behind a contested pace set by Golden Juan and 1-2 favorite Nitrous Channel along the backstretch and far turn. When Irad Ortiz Jr. asked the son of Into Mischief to join the pacesetters, the Kentucky-bred colt responded with a three wide sweep to draw on even terms with Nitrous Channel at the top of the stretch. Nitrous Channel, an impressive debut winner last time out, fought back in the stretch under Tyler Gaffalione but was no match for the Pletcher trainee, who drew away to score by two lengths.
“I got a perfect trip. He broke good. Todd told me to stalk a little bit. I bided my time on the outside and when it was time to go, he responded well,” said Ortiz, who rode four winners on Saturday’s 12 race program.
Provocateur ran six furlongs in 1:09.60 after stalking fractions of 22.31 and 45.39 seconds for the first half mile.
“He’s not really quirky. He does tend to want to drift a little bit and get out so that’s why we put a little more bit in his mouth and Irad said he was perfect today,” Pletcher said. “He broke really sharply and put him in a good spot and he was able to stalk the pace. It worked out perfectly.”
After finishing off the board in his first two starts, one on turf and one on dirt, Provocateur broke through to graduate by 4 ½ lengths in a six-furlong maiden special weight race at Tampa Bay Downs Dec. 23. He came back to finish second in the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa on Jan. 15.
“We were a little confused about what he wanted to do early on. He wasn’t training as promisingly as we had hoped. We thought he would improve a little bit on the grass,” Pletcher said. “After that experience he seemed to improve in his dirt training and recently has really come around.”
Runner-up Nitrous Channel finished 6 ¼ lengths clear of third-place finisher Golden Juan.