One week after winning the Belmont Stakes with Palace Malice, trainer Todd Pletcher was back in the winner’s circle at Belmont Park following a stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday.
Pletcher-trained Notacatbutallama captured the Grade 3, $150,000 Hill Prince over the Belmont Park turf under John Velazquez.
Leaving from the outside post in the field of 12, Notacatbutallama broke sharply before dropping back to race in seventh along the backstretch. Following a half-mile in 46.46 seconds set by Shining Copper, Notacatbutallama began to move up along the inside on the turn, was angled outside by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez at the quarter pole, took over with a furlong to travel, and went on to defeat Play It Loud by a neck.
Notcatbutallama completed one mile in 1:34.82 and paid $11.80 as the 9-2 third choice.
“He broke well, then I had to get him back to drop inside,” said Velazquez, who won his 5,001st race in the United States and Canada in the Hill Prince. “Once I dropped in, I was comfortable where I was and let him settle. He got to the turn, and I saw that horse [Play It Loud] laying second. I liked that horse, I broke his maiden in Florida, so when he started moving out, I moved out with him and made a nice run down the lane.”
Following a pair of starts on dirt at Aqueduct – a second in the Damon Runyon for New York-breds in December and a sixth in the Grade 2 Jerome in January – Notacatbutallama returned to the grass in the James W. Murphy Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico, making a mild rally on the outside to finish third.
“Johnny knows the horse really well,” said Pletcher, who trains the son of Harlan’s Holiday for Mike Repole. “I just told him that I thought he had been training much better since the Murphy. I think he moved forward from the race. We were a little concerned with the outside post, just trying to get some position, and he was able to tuck in and save a little ground along the way.”
Notacatbutallama is 4-3-1 in 10 starts and has $308,334 in earnings, including $90,000 for his Hill Prince win.