Todd Pletcher, who saddled his 3,000th winner on Saturday, and owners Starlight Racing, who won the Holy Bull with Algorithms, teamed up again to win the Hutcheson Stakes with Thunder Moccasin. The victory was Pletcher’s seventh Hutcheson win.
Thunder Moccasin, the son of A.P. Warrior, started his career late in the season with a maiden win on Christmas Eve. However, he looked like a seasoned professional on Saturday as he rated just behind Il Villano in the 7 furlong race and made his move to overtake Il Villano at the quarter pole.
Sent off as the post-time favorite at odds of 1-5, Thunder Moccasin needed nothing more than one quick tap on the rump from jockey John Velazquez before he sprinted to the finish, 6 ¾ lengths in front of Il Villano. Quick Wit was another ½ length back in third. Wildcat Creek was 8 ½ lengths back in fourth, 8 lengths in front of last place finisher Tarpy’s Goal. The morning-line favorite, Ever So Lucky, scratched.
At seven furlongs, the Hutcheson Stakes is not typically a good indicator of how a horse might fare in the 1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby. Many horses coming out of the Hutcheson will likely go on to sprint careers. However, in every race leading up to the Derby, there is something to be learned.
There were no surprises in this year’s running of the Hutcheson Stakes. With Ever So Lucky scratching, the obvious choice was Thunder Moccasin. His lone start turned out to be a key race with the second and third place finishers going on to impressive victories in their next starts. His lack of experience proved nothing to worry about. Thunder Moccasin did everything right in Saturday’s Hutcheson and cruised to an easy win. Assuming he stretches out in distance in his next start, you’ll learn then if he will become a sprinter or could handle the distance of the Derby.
The much more experienced runners in Saturday’s race showed that most are not Kentucky Derby caliber runners. The three horses in the lead early stayed in position throughout the race and never attempted to take on the competition. Il Villano willingly gave up the lead to Thunder Moccasin and seemed content to watch him run. Quick Wit attempted to close on Il Villano, but only managed to extend his margin over fourth-place finisher Wildcat Creek. However, Quick Wit tried to rally so he might warrant a second look, but only in a sprint.
Thunder Moccasin returned $2.40, $2.20, and $2.10 for his win in Saturday’s Hutcheson Stakes. Il Villano paid $3.40 and $2.20 and completed the $2 exacta for $6.40. Quick Wit returned $2.20 for third place and completed a $1 triple for $7.10. To view a video of the race click here.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby