Favored Thunder Moccasin thundered down the stretch to pull away to a
6 ¾-length score in the 7-furlong $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) over a
good track, scoring his first graded stakes victory in his second start
and remaining undefeated.
“He broke half a step slow but it worked out perfectly because I was
able to get great position outside of the other speed. I wanted to make a
quick move on the turn to try to surprise the other horse and it
worked,” jockey John Velazquez said. “He runs so hard every step of the
Il Villano, second-choice at 4-1, easily settled into the lead from the
gate under jockey Elvis Trujillo, while longshot Wildcat Creek took
second. Thunder Moccasin, the 1-5 favorite quickly passed Wildcat Creek
and fought to grab the lead from Il Villano, who sat on the inside.
Thunder Moccasin easily moved ahead of Il Villano approaching the final
turn. Velazquez looked back once and together they pulled away down the
Fractional times for the race were 23.34, 46.89, and 1:11.17, with a final time of 1:24.16.
In his career debut on December 24 over a fast main track in a 6
½-furlong maiden special weight race, Thunder Moccasin set the pace,
going wire-to-wire in 1.15:81. Second-place finisher Ender Knievel,
third-place finisher Panthro, and fourth-place finisher Stealcase all
won their next races out, now matched by Thunder Moccasin’s stakes
“He’s a very talented colt,” trainer Todd 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.”
In 2011, Pletcher sent Travelin Man to a second-place finish in the
Hutcheson, bringing him back in the seven furlong Swale Stakes (G2) for a
2-length victory. He has a similar plan for Thunder Moccasin.
“If he comes back all right, the logical spot next would be the Swale
(Mar. 10). Right now, my inclination is that he’ll be best staying in
one-turn races,” Pletcher said.
The win with Thunder Moccasin in the Hutcheson marks the seventh time
Pletcher has won the Hutcheson, with previous victories coming in a
dead-heat in 2000, and five straight from 2003-2007. In 2011, Pletcher
finished second in the Hutcheson with Travelin Man, who returned to win
the Swale Stakes.
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.
The victory became career win no. 3,002 for Pletcher, who earlier in the card earned his 3,000th
career victory when Triple Crown nominee Spring Hill Farm dominated the
third race going wire-to-wire to remain undefeated and sent Majestic
Number to victory in the race right after. He is also well on his way to
his ninth-straight Gulfstream training title.
Quick Wit, who dropped to last out of the gate, past his rivals to take
the third position heading into the final turn, contending with Il
Villano down the stretch, with Il Villano holding on by a half-length
“He ran well. The other horse (Thunder Moccasin) just went by me in hand,” Trujillo said of Il Villano.
Romans was happy with Quick Wit’s performance.
“He looked good. He just got shuffled back a little early but I thought he ran well,” Romans said.
Ever So Lucky, second-choice on the morning line at 2-1, was scratched
the morning of the race by trainer Jonathan Sheppard. The Hall of Fame
trainer instead opted for a potential run in the $150,000 Swale Stakes
(G2) on March 10 for the graded stakes-placed colt’s 3-year-old debut.