Padua Stables' Proud Accolade overcame some traffic trouble on the turn before exploding away from the field in the stretch for an impressive 4 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 Hutcheson (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park Saturday.
The combination of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez clicked again after winning the Old Hat (gr. III) with the 3-year-old filly Maddalena in the first of six stakes races on Gulfstream's program.
Proud Accolade, who disappointed in a pair of routes to close out his 2-year-old campaign – the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Hollywood Futurity (both gr. I) – relished the cutback to one turn in his 3-year-old debut. Last year's Champagne (gr. I) winner completed the 7 1/2-furlong event in 1:29 4/5. It's the first time the Hutcheson was contested at that distance in 52 runnings.
"He's four-for-four and got a perfect record around one turn now, and you'd like to think that a mile and a sixteenth around two turns would be the same thing," Pletcher said. "You'd like to think he'd get a distance – I'm not saying a mile and a quarter, but we thought everything was on schedule the last two times but it didn't work out for us. Today, we just wanted to get him back on track."
Velazquez had to put the brakes on Proud Accolade along the inside near the 5/16ths pole, shuffling back to last in the six-horse field to avoid tiring early pacesetter Carson's Bridge. But the son of Yes It's True
recovered nicely, circling the field on the extreme outside and rolling past his rivals for a convincing win.
Velazquez said he wanted to keep Proud Accolade on the inside to keep the colt from getting hit with dirt.
"He tried to go into a hole that got shut off," Velazquez said. "But I guess it was a blessing because I snatched him up and brought him outside and he just jumped into it."
The odds-on choice, Proud Accolade raced without the blinkers he wore in his fifth-place finish in the Hollywood Futurity.
Carson's Bridge tugged his way to the front early through an opening quarter mile of :23 giving way as they entered the turn to Devil at Sea, who led at the half-mile point in :46. Devil at Sea led to the head of the stretch under Jose Santos but was soon overtaken by Park Avenue Ball, who rallied from last to get the lead under J.J. Castellano.
Park Avenue Ball, in turn, soon yielded to Proud Accolade who finished under moderate urging from Velazquez. Park Avenue Ball held on for second. Vicarage, Proud Accolade's stablemate, settled for third, after stalking the leaders throughout.
Defer, the 5-2 second choice under Jerry Bailey, Devil At Sea, and Carson's Bridge followed.
The Florida-bred Proud Accolade, winning for the fourth time in six career starts, paid $3.60, $2.80 and $2.40. The $90,000 winning purse increased his earnings to $454,130.
Park Avenue Ball, who won last year's Belmont Futurity (gr. II), returned $6.80 and $3.80. Vicarage was $3.80 to show.
Pletcher said Proud Accolade could show up in either the seven-furlong Swale or the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth (both gr. 11) on March 5.
Marion G. Montanari bred the winner, who is from the dam Proud Ciel (Septieme Ciel).