Munnings r(by Speightstown) an the race his connections always thought he was capable of, impressively winning the Woody Stephens (gr. II) at June 6 at Belmont Park.
The chestnut colt won his first stakes by shooting through on the rail and drawing off by 5 1/4 lengths over Everyday Heroes, who edged Kensei for second by a head. Favored This Ones for Phil lacked running room and was never a factor while finishing behind second choice Hull in fifth.
Triumphant Flight shot for the lead under Kent Desormeaux while Everyday Heroes, unbeaten in four starts, went with him under Jose Caraballo. Hull, also undefeated, broke sharply but the others would not let him get to the front from his outside post.
The order did not change down the backside in the seven-furlong contest for 3-year-olds, the leaders taking the field through an opeing quarter-mile in :22.32 and a half in :45.61. Velazquez had Munnings on the move when they came out of the turn and he split horses on his way by the leaders as they ran six furlongs in 1:08.89.
Munnings then threw It into overdrive and he coasted home, running the distance in 1:20.63 on a track labeled fast.
Munnings broke his maiden in his first start at 2 and then ran third in the Sept. 1 Hopeful (gr. I) at Saratoga and second in the Oct. 4 Champagne (gr. I) at Belmont before ending his juvenile campaign with a 10th-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 25 at Santa Anita. The Woody Stephens was his second start of 2009, having run a solid second in an allowance race at Churchill Downs May 1 for trainer Todd Pletcher. Munnings is now 2-2-1 from six starts with $302,240 in earnings.
“I liked the way he had been training here, and he came into the race in good shape," Pletcher said. "It was nice to see him deliver that performance. I thought his comeback race was better than most people thought because it was such a fast race. We talked about strategy a little bit. We felt we would be sitting off the leaders and in the pocket. We thought we would get lucky and get through on the inside. We had to wait longer than we anticipated. When it finally opened up, he accelerated and he kicked in big time.
"The obvious race we want to be ready for is the King’s Bishop (gr. I, Saratoga, Aug. 29). It’s a matter of how we get there. I might consider the Dwyer (gr. II, $200,000, July 4, Belmont Park) because of the spacing.”
Owned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith, Munnings paid $9, $4.80, and $3.80. Everyday Heroes returned $5.60 and $4.10, and Kensei paid $9.10.
By Speightstown out of the Holy Bull mare La Comete, Munnings was bred in Kentucky by Dan Tayloe and the Greathouse family’s Glencrest Farm. He was purchased for $1.7 million at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select 2-year-olds in training sale last year.