Starlight Stable's Thunder Moccasin remained perfect in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes, drawing off to an impressive 6 3/4-length score, and provided trainer Todd Pletcher with his third winner on the afternoon at Gulfstream Park. The leading conditioner reached the 3,000-victory milestone earlier on the program.
A bay son of A.P. Warrior, the three-year-old colt stalked the pace in second behind Il Villano, who established opening splits in :23 1/5 and :46 4/5 on a one-length advantage, and Thunder Moccasin was given his cue by jockey John Velazquez leaving the far turn. He quickly overhauled the front runner and sped clear, winning under wraps.
Heavily favored at 1-5 among five rivals, Thunder Moccasin completed seven panels in a commendable 1:24 over a track rated good.
"He broke half a step slow, but it worked out perfectly because I was able to get great position outside of the other speed," Velazquez said. "I wanted to make a quick move on the turn to try to surprise the other horse and it worked. He runs so hard every step of the way."
Il Villano held for second, a half-length better than Quick Wit. It was another 8 1/2 lengths back to Wildcat Creek in fourth and Tarpy's Goal completed the order of finish. Ever So Lucky was scratched.
A $95,000 yearling purchase at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, Thunder Moccasin made his career debut on Christmas Eve, recording a smart 2 1/2-length win at six furlongs.
"He's a very talented colt," Pletcher said. "His first race was so impressive with the move he made we thought we'd take a shot and go right into the Hutcheson. The race came up just the way we talked about where we sat just off the five (Il Villano), a horse with more seasoning, and he handled it beautifully."
Thunder Moccasin has now earned $114,300.
Velazquez and Pletcher are no strangers to the winner's circle for the Hutcheson, having teamed up to win the race five times previously. The first time came in a dead-heat in 2000, while they won four-straight 2003-2006. Pletcher also won an additional Hutcheson in 2007.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonewall Farm Stallions, Thunder Moccasin is out of the Storm Cat mare One Stormy Mama, a daughter of stakes winner and Grade 3-placed Wicked Mama. This is the female family of multiple Grade/Group 2 victor Lundy's Liability.
The Kentucky Derby trail is always a lure for talented three-year-olds, but Pletcher indicated that Thunder Moccasin will be kept at shorter distances.
"If he comes back all right, the logical spot next would be the (seven-furlong) Swale (on March 10). Right now, my inclination is that he'll be best staying in one-turn races," Pletcher said.