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APPEALING SKIER TAKES HUTCHESON STAKES TITLE

SHARE APPEALING SKIER TAKES HUTCHESON STAKES TITLE

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Unbridled's Song succumbed to a slow pace and Appealing Skier in the $75,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Appealing Skier led from start to finish Sunday and held off Unbridled's Song by half a length. Gold Fever was third in the field of five, 11/2 lengths farther back.All made their first start as 3-year-olds in the Grade II, seven-furlong sprint.

Appealing Skier, ridden by Rick Wilson, covered the first half-mile in a slow 47 1-5 seconds into a strong head wind, and the colt had plenty left for the stretch. The winning time was 1:24 3-5.

Unbridled's Song, ridden by Mike Smith, trailed by two lengths at the top of the stretch and gained ground on the outside but was unable to overtake the leader.

Cobra King, the second choice in the future book at 5-1, skipped the Hutcheson. He and Unbridled's Song are both scheduled to run in the 1 1-16th mile Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 24.

Appealing Skier has won four of five starts but finished 12th on a muddy track last October in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, won by Unbridled's Song. Appealing Skier's most important victory previously was in the Grade III Laurel Futurity at 71/2 furlongs.

The last horse to win both the Hutcheson and the Kentucky Derby was Swale in 1984.

At Arcadia, Calif., Helmsman, a 4-year-old colt improving with age, scored a two-length victory Sunday over favored Afternoon Deelites in the $500,000 Strub Stakes.

The win gave Helmsman, a Kentucky-bred who raced in Ireland before returning to the United States last summer, triumphs in two legs of the three-race Strub Series. Helmsman has finished first or second in each of his six U.S. starts.

Ridden by Chris McCarron, Helsman carried high weight of 122 pounds and was timed in 2:02 3-5 for the 11/4 miles. Afternoon Deelites, ridden by Kent Desormeaux and carrying 120, was two lengths in front of third-place finisher Mr. Purple at the wire.

Helmsman, who did not run in the Malibu, opening race of the Strub series for 4-year-olds, won the second, the 11/8-mile San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 13. Afternoon Deelites, coming back from a tendon injury that flared up in last year's Kentucky Derby, won the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, then skipped the San Fernando.

Mr. Purple, ridden by Alex Solis, came from last in the nine-horse field to finish third.