02/11/2012 6:03PM

Gulfstream Park: Thunder Moccasin gives Pletcher seventh Hutcheson win

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Just call it the Todd Pletcher Hutcheson.

Pletcher won the 3,000th race of his training career earlier on Saturday’s card. Six of those victories had come in Gulfstream Park’s seven-furlong Hutcheson. A couple of hours later, Pletcher got his seventh Hutcheson trophy after Thunder Moccasin cruised to an easy and popular 6 3/4-length victory over Il Villano in the Grade 2 dash for 3-year-olds.    

Thunder Moccasin launched his career on Dec. 24 with an easy 2 1/2-length maiden special weight for which he earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. The son of A. P. Warrior was bet to 1-5 for the Hutcheson despite making the jump from his maiden win into graded stakes company.

Jockey John Velazquez was content to rate Thunder Moccassin off the early pace of Il Villano, who posted early splits of 23.34 seconds and 46.89 for the opening quarter- and half-mile over a drying-out racetrack officially designated as “good.” Thunder Moccasin engaged the leader approaching the quarter pole, quickly drew well clear, then increased his advantage while kept under pressure to the wire.

Il Villano proved no match for the winner but held on to finish a half-length in front of Quick Wit to be second. Wildcat Creek and Tarpy’s Goal completed the order of finish.

Ever So Lucky, runner-up in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his 2-year-old finale, was scratched out of the Hutcheson by trainer Jonathan Sheppard earlier that morning.

“I’ve been lucky in this race,” said Pletcher. “You don’t often make this move going from a maiden win to a graded stakes but he’s a very talented horse and his first race was so impressive it was worth taking the shot. I talked it over with John in the paddock and I was hoping he’d be able to put him outside the 5 horse [Il Villano]. Being less experienced, I didn’t want him to be under pressure the whole way.”

Thunder Moccasin ($2.40) is owned by Starlight Racing, whose Algorithms won the Grade 3 Holy Bull earlier in the meet.  He picked up $90,000 in graded stakes earnings out of the $150,000 Hutcheson purse but trainer Todd Pletcher said he doesn’t think Thunder Moccasin is a horse who will end up on the Kentucky Derby trail.

“Even though his pedigree suggests he’ll run further he gives the impression he’ll be at his best in shorter races,” said Pletcher, who singled out the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Swale on March 10 as Thunder Moccasin’s next likely start.