Repole Stable's Notacatbutallama found his way back to the winner's circle for the first time since last November and added a grade to his resume in the meantime, rallying to take the $150,000 Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park on June 15 (VIDEO).
The 3-year-old New York-bred son of Harlan's Holiday got up by a neck over 36-1 shot Play it Loud after dropping down to the rail, quickly making up ground, and shifting out to the five path in upper stretch to outduel his rival. Jockey John Velazquez was in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher aboard Notacatbutallama, who came off a third-place finish in the May 18 James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
"Johnny knows the horse really well," said Pletcher. "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."
Sent off at odds of 9-2, Notacatbutallama broke well from the outside in a field of 12 and rated kindly in seventh up the backstretch as 10-1 shot Shining Copper rushed up under his own power to open a three-length lead for a quarter in :23.21 and a half in :46.46. Shining Copper was two lengths in front as three-quarters went in 1:10.59, but gave way as Play it Loud and the eventual winner moved forward as a team.
"He broke well, then I had to get him back to drop inside," said Velazquez. "Once I dropped in, I was comfortable where I was and let him settle. He got to the turn, and I saw 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."
The winner returned $11.80, $6.50, and $4.20. Play it Loud brought $30.40 and $17.20. Chamois was third and returned $6.30. The 2-1 favorite Red Rifle was next as Sayaad, Infinite Magic, Shining Copper, Michael With Us, Special Skills, Joha, Bernie the Jet, and Red Rocker completed the order of finish.
Notacatbutallama improved his record to 4-3-1 from 10 starts, with earnings of $308,334. He is the winner of the 2012 Super Mario Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack and also won the Incurable Optimist overnight stakes at Belmont as a 2-year-old. Last year he was runner-up to Noble Tune in the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT) before putting together those victories.
In 2013 the colt's connections tried him on dirt in the Jan. 5 Jerome Stakes (gr. II) with negative results; he finished sixth of eight before getting a breather leading into the May 18 James Murphy.
Bred by Happy Hill Farm out of the Hansel mare Self Rising, he was a $105,000 purchase at the 2012 Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training when consigned by De Meric Sales. De Meric purchased him for $50,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton New York bred yearling sale, where he was consigned by Skara Brae Sales, agent.