Flashpoint In Good Hands On Road To Derby
By Ed Gray
Sure, Flashpoint looked amazing while jetting to a dominating victory in the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park last Saturday.
Admit it, though, would you even entertain the thought that a colt with only two lifetime starts is a serious prospect for this year’s Kentucky Derby if he were trained by anyone other than Richard Dutrow?
But Flashpoint is trained by Richard Dutrow, and that fact lends instant credibility to the son of Pomeroy’s status as an exciting Kentucky Derby hopeful. Racing fans will readily remember that Dutrow brought a 3-year-old colt with only one lifetime start to Gulfstream Park in 2008, and Big Brown went on to win an allowance race and Florida Derby before going on to win the Kentucky Derby in only his fourth race.
After Flashpoint became a Grade 2 stakes winner in his first start since breaking his maiden at Aqueduct on Jan. 15, Dutrow is thinking Kentucky Derby, but he’s not drawing any comparisons between the Peachtree Stable’s star and Big Brown.
“Big Brown, everybody knew he could run as a 2-year-old. This horse never ran until he was 3. Big Brown is bay; this one’s gray,” Dutrow said. ‘They’re owned by two different people; they’re ridden by two different riders. I don’t see any similarities.”
Well….except for one very important similarity.
“They can both run, for sure,” Dutrow said. “This gray horse took us by surprise the other day. I couldn’t have dreamt that we would run like that.”
Although he had to beat just four rivals in his debut at Aqueduct, the manner in which he won prompted Dutrow to ship him to Gulfstream, where maiden races often feature at least a few future stakes horses – and last Saturday’s race was no different. Despite his sizzling fast maiden score, Flashpoint was sent to post as the 6-1 third betting choice in the seven-furlong stakes that featured Travelin Man, the 3-5 favorite from Todd Pletcher’s stable. Flashpoint broke alertly under Cornelio Velasquez but was out-sprinted for pacesetting honors by Travelin Man, whom he pressed before drawing off in the stretch by 7-1/4 lengths.
“It was nice to see that he could set off. It was only his second race,” Dutrow said. “Everything kind of went his way. He broke really good and he didn’t have to catch any speed outside of him, so it gave us an option to set off if we wanted to. Todd’s horse came up on the inside of us. We just let him have the lead and see if the horse could rate off of him, and he did it the right way.”
Having successfully negotiated the jump from maiden to Grade 2-stakes winner, Flashpoint has moved Dutrow to put the son of Pomeroy on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with the possibility of returning in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on April 3.
“If our horse is Ok, I’m just going to see whether to run him in there, the Wood Memorial, or another big race somewhere, and try to find the easiest spot we can for him,” said Dutrow, expressing his preference for remaining at Gulfstream.
Unbeknownst to Dutrow, Peachtree Stable’s president John Fort said in an interview last week that he intended to run Flashpoint in the seven-furlong Swale (G2) on the Florida Derby undercard. Dutrow would prefer a two-turn race.
“I don’t think the two turns will be a problem; it just depends who he runs with around two turns. That’s why I’m going to try to pick the easiest spot available for him, because if he wins his next start around two turns, he’ll be a live horse for the Derby,” he said. “That’s kind of what we’re up to. I’d like to leave him here. A lot of things are going to have to unfold before his next start, so we’ll be scouting around.”
As brilliant as Flashpoint has been in his two races, the Florida-bred colt had never stood out in his training since joining Dutrow’s barn last summer.
“He was just kind of dragging along, dragging along, dragging along, and he then started training better and better,” said Dutrow, who reported that “just baby things” delayed his debut.
Dutrow, though, believes his lack of brilliance while training is a plus.
“He’s kind of lazy and won’t do anything unless he has to – he’s that kind of horse,” he said. “It’s a very good thing. I like it when horses are laid back and don’t do anything unless they need to. I think that’s good.”