Grade 2-placed Ever So Lucky is the top draw in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park as he makes his three-year-old bow in the seven-furlong contest off a near three-month break.
However, that seasonal debut may be pushed back after a less-then favorable final breeze, according to Jonathan Sheppard. The trainer's confidence in Ever So Lucky's preparedness was slightly shaken by a five-furlong move in 1:01 3/5 over Gulfstream's sloppy track on Monday.
"It was too slow. I think the horse needed one more good work," he said. "I mean, it was better than nothing, but it didn't prove much."
Although dissatisfied with his colt's final workout for his 2012 debut, Sheppard indicated his bay pupil will likely still run on Saturday.
"I expect we'll end up running him," he said after entering the Indian Charlie colt in the seven-furlong stakes Wednesday morning. "The horse is doing wonderfully."
Ever So Lucky just shipped to Gulfstream in mid-January after spending part of the winter training in Camden, South Carolina. Monday's move was his second at the Hallandale Beach, Florida, venue this year, as he sped five furlongs in :59 1/5 in his previous work on January 30.
"The horse wasn't even blowing after the work," Sheppard said. "When he worked the previous time, he worked in company. Julien (Leparoux) had to ride him a little bit to catch up. The horse got something out of it, and I wanted something similar. This time for some reason I decided to work him alone."
The possibility still remains that Ever So Lucky will scratch from the Hutcheson. If that occurs, Sheppard revealed the bay's 2012 debut could be delayed by a month.
"I might just wait for the (Grade 2) Swale Stakes (on March 10) -- same distance, same purse," Sheppard said. "Most of the other graded stakes are all too long. I don't particularly want to bring him back at a longer distance. But we'll see."
If Ever So Lucky enters the gate Saturday, he'll face five rivals, including the Todd Pletcher-trained Thunder Moccasin. The bay son of A. P. Warrior captured his career debut by 2 1/2 lengths in front-running fashion on Christmas Eve while going 6 1/2 furlongs. Second in that Gulfstream maiden contest was Thunder Moccasin's stablemate Ender Knievel, who came back to post an impressive 7 3/4-length score last weekend.
Making his Gulfstream debut in the Hutcheson will be Il Villano, who has traveled from the Northeast for the race. The Pollard's Vision gray broke his maiden by 11 lengths at Parx Racing before adding a pair of stakes victories to his resume. He'll enter Saturday's event off a third in the Count Fleet Stakes behind Alpha, who returned last week to take the Grade 3 Withers Stakes.
Grade 2-placed Tarpy's Goal, dual stakes-placed Wildcat Creek and nice maiden winner Quick Wit complete the Hutcheson field.