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Hutcheson Stakes 2024 | Gulfstream Park Picks
Valiant Force (Shamela Hanley/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Hutcheson Stakes 2024 | Gulfstream Park Picks

Following an aborted attempt for a main-track debut in the Jan. 6 Limehouse, Valiant Force is scheduled to kick up some dirt in Saturday’s $100,000 Hutcheson Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds that will headline Gulfstream Park’s 12-race program.

Having already witnessed how exceptionally well Valiant Force handles turf, trainer Jorge Delgado has been anxious to give AMO Racing USA’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) runner-up an opportunity to show what he can do on dirt.

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The son of Malibu Moon had been scheduled to try dirt for the first time as the odds-on favorite in the six-furlong Limehouse at Gulfstream but reared up in the starting gate and was scratched. 

“That didn’t affect him at all,” said Delgado while expressing his complete satisfaction with how well Valiant Force has been working for the Hutcheson.

Winner of the five-furlong Norfolk (G2) at Royal Ascot last summer, Valiant Force rallied from far back to be second by a half-length in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. After being scratched from the Limehouse, he returned to turf to finish second as the favorite in a five-furlong optional claiming allowance Feb. 7 at Gulfstream.

“We want to give him a chance on dirt to see what he can do, so we can plan for the rest of the season,” Delgado said. “We’ll see what he wants to do. If he runs the way he’s training, he should have a really good chance.”

Valiant Force, who has been installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds, will be ridden by David Egan.

Vintage Thoroughbreds LLC, Scott Estes, and Brian Hanley’s Beeline, an impressive debut winner Feb. 10 at Gulfstream, will concede considerable experience to well-traveled Valiant Force but has nevertheless been rated second at 5-2 on the morning line.

The Riley Mott-trained son of Bee Jersey turned in an eye-catching debut effort, shaking off an outside bid by stablemate Mr. Skylight heading into the homestretch turn before drawing clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths. He ran six furlongs in a snappy 1:09.74.

“He’s come back and worked several times without issue and seems to be doing just fine, good enough to enter him back in a stake,” Mott said. “I wasn’t looking necessarily for a stake. It was just the timing of the race was ideal for us. We thought we’d nominate and enter him. It looks like he’d be in there with a shot.”

Edgard Zayas has the return mount.

Holly Crest Farm’s Ship to Shore returns from a sharp score in the Limehouse in the Hutcheson. The Eddie Owens Jr.-trained son of Sea Wizard went right to the front and pulled away to win by eight lengths, completing six-furlongs in 1:10.51.

Hector Diaz Jr. has the turn mount aboard Ship to Shore.

Fly With Me and Tami Bobo’s Impromptu, who is coming off back-to-back wins in Florida-bred races, and Mellon Patch Inc.’s Patriot Spirit, who captured the six-furlong Inaugural at Tampa Bay Downs before finishing off the board while stretching out in the Sam F. Davis (G3), are among the leading contenders.

Bruno Schickedanz’s Starship Mocha and GOP Racing Stable’s Sir Flash, both last-out winners, round out the field.