Gulfstream News: Flat Out, Thunder Moccasin, Pletcher Nears 3,000 Wins
By Ed Gray & Jack Will
Flat Out Back on Familiar Ground in Donn
Flat Out finished 12th in his prep for Saturday’s $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park, but trainer Scooter Dickey isn’t putting too much weight on his 6-year-olds turf debut in the Fort Lauderdale (G3).
“I guess we have to throw that race out. He doesn’t like the turf. We wanted to try him, and we did. It didn’t work out, so now we’re going back to the dirt,” said Dickey, whose star prompted the pace before giving way badly over a surface he clearly disliked. “Our main objective was to get a race in him before the Donn.”
Flat Out ranked among the top handicap starts last year, having won both the Suburban Handicap (G2) and the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). His only off-the-board finishes came at Churchill Downs, where he finished fifth and third, respectively, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Clark Handicap (G1) to close out his 2011 campaign.
Flat Out, who has never run on the dirt at Gulfstream Park, will carry high weight of 121 pounds, conceding between two and six pounds to his accomplished rivals, including 2011 Preakness (G1) winner Shackleford and 2011 Belmont (G1) victor Ruler On Ice.
Dickey said he and jockey Alex Solis have yet to set a strategy in the 1 1/8-mile stakes for older horses.
“We’re just going to have to wait to see how the track is to figure out how we want to do it,” Dickey said. “We’ll talk it over with the owners and Alex and see how the track is playing that day.”
Dickey won’t be overly concerned if the track should come up muddy.
“He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup in the mud,” Dickey said with a smile.
‘ Thunder’ Figures to be Lightning Fast in Hutcheson
Trainer Todd Pletcher trains several 3-year-olds who are on the Florida Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1) trails. Thunder Moccasin, who will make his second lifetime start in Saturday’s $150,000 Hutcheson (G2), isn’t one of them.
“I think he gets seven-eighths to a mile; after that I’d be a little bit surprised (if he was as effective going longer),” 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 dazzling debut victory at Gulfstream 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 jockey John Velazquez in his debut, scoring by 2 ½ lengths over next-out winner Ender Knievel while completing 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15 4/5.
“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 Mountain to go right to the lead at the start of 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.”
Pletcher Closing in on 3,000 Career Wins Milestone
Virtually every weekend is a big one for trainer Todd Pletcher’s powerful stable as he continues to add to his certain Hall of Fame resume, and he will almost certainly hit the lofty 3,000 career victory mark in the next few days, most likely at Gulfstream Park as he goes into Thursday’s card with 2,994 wins.
Pletcher has runners entered in three races here Thursday, three more on Friday and seven races on Saturday. Although his largest string of more than 100 horses spends the winter at Gulfstream’s Palm Meadows Training Center, he maintains a division in New York at Belmont Park and has one horse entered in a race Friday at Aqueduct and two more there on Saturday.
The stable will have contenders in three of the four graded stakes races to be run Saturday at Gulfstream, led by Twin Creeks Racing Stable’s 5-year-old Mission Impazible in the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1), a race he won twice previously with Harlan’s Holiday in 2003 and Quality Road in 2010.
The $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (G1) is one of the few major events on the track’s stakes schedule that Pletcher has not won officially, but the stable will have a solid chance to add that race to his credentials with Black Rock Stable’s 4-year-old Silver Medallion. Pletcher sent out Take the Points to finish first in the 2010 edition only to watch from the winner’s circle as he was disqualified for interference in the stretch.
Pletcher sends out Starlight Racing’s 3-year-old Thunder Mocassin as one of the favorites in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2), a race he has won six times previously. The first came with More Than Ready in 2000 (dead-heat) and five straight from 2003-2007. Pletcher sent out Travelin Man to finish second in the Hutcheson last year, and he is scheduled to make his 2012 season debut in Thursday’s third race allowance feature.