Trainer Todd Pletcher trains several 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail. Thunder Moccasin, who makes his second lifetime start in Saturday’s Grade II Hutcheson Stakes, isn’t one of them.
“I think he gets seven-eighths to a mile; after that I’d be a little bit surprised,” Pletcher said. “He’s pretty forward and ambitious early, so I think he’s a sprinter. That’s the feeling that he gives us at the barn.”
Thunder Moccasin, who scored a resounding debut victory at Gulfstream Park on Christmas Eve, has been installed as the 7-5 morning-line favorite for the seven-furlong Hutcheson.
“This is kind of an ambitious move, making a graded-stakes start after just one maiden start,” Pletcher said. “But he’s training forwardly and he’s training professionally.”
Thunder Moccasin set all the pace under John Velazquez in his debut, scoring by 2 1/2 lengths over next-out winner Ender Knievel while completing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.80.
“It seemed to be a key race – both the second- and third-place finishers came back to win, so I feel like it’s a good calculated risk,” Pletcher said.
The eight-time defending Gulfstream training champion, who is well on his way to another title this season, expects Thunder Moccasin to go right to the lead in the Hutcheson.
“I believe that’s going to be his running style,” Pletcher said. “He’s pretty forward and quick away from the gate, so we’ll let him do his thing.”
John Velazquez retains the mount on Thunder Moccasin.
--Edited Gulfstream Park release with additional content by Dick Downey