After the uninspiring performances by the Kentucky Derby candidates in the Flamingo Stakes last week, a formidable 3-year-old finally emerged here today.
Plugged Nickle won the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park by seven lengths, and did it in a manner that suggests he may have a productive future ahead of him.
Last season Plugged Nickle finished his 2-year-old camapaign with a flourish, winning the rich Laurel Futurity and the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. He finished second in a tuneup at Hialeah two weeks ago, but today he got serious.
He faced an unbeaten rival, Execution's Reason, winner of four straight races in Chicago last summer and ranked among the year's best young horses.
Plugged Nickle broke a bit slowly, and was last in the early stages of the seven-furlong race. Jockey Buck Thornburg was looking for room with horses bunched all around him, but he wasn't worried. "This horse will go anywhere you want him to," he said.
When he finally found an opening on the backstretch, Thornburg sent Plugged Nickle up to challenge the leader, longshot One Son. He swooped past him entering the stretch and increaased his margin without much urging from his jockey, as Execution's Reason rallied to finish second.
Plugged Nickle covered the seven furlongs in 1:22 3/5, an excellent time over a track that seemed somewhat dull. His next start will probably be in the Florida Derby March 29.