Million-dollar earner Bribon was the class play in the $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO), and the grade I winner lived up to his reputation with a stylish 1 3/4-length win Oct. 30 at Belmont Park.
The late-running 7-year-old gelding overcame his rail post, angling to the outside for jockey John Velazquez early on the turn and running down Jersey Town in the long Belmont stretch. He completed the seven-furlong prep for next month's Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I) in a time of 1:22.36.
Todd Pletcher trains the winning French-bred son of Mark of Esteem for owner Derrick Smith. Bribon was victorious for the first time since taking the True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont June 5. He was coming off a sixth-place finish in Saratoga's Forego Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 4 but injured a foot in that race and needed time to recover. As a result, Pletcher opted for the Bold Ruler rather than supplementing to the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I).
Jack On the Rocks established the early pace over Temecula Creek and favored Tahitian Warrior while stepping a tepid quarter-mile in :23.13 and the half in :46.05. Jack On the Rocks led the field into the stretch but came under heavy pressure on the outside from a couple of rivals. Jersey Town, ridden by Alan Garcia, emerged with the lead.
Bribon, who was closer to the pace than usual while fifth after a half-mile, charged four wide into the lane and engaged for the lead past mid-stretch. He edged away late under steady handling.
“It seemed like nobody wanted to go to the lead," Velazquez said. "For him to be that close without me asking him, I knew they were going slow. And that was good because I didn’t have to ask him until the quarter-pole. And sure enough, when I did, he went on. When he took the lead today, he was loping along. He’s very honest and he’ll give you everything he can.”
"He put himself into the race early, which I think made all the difference," said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to Pletcher. "Johnny was able to negotiate from the one hole into an outside trip.”
Jersey Town held on for second by a neck over the closing Half Metal Jacket, with Tahitian Warrior another neck farther back in fourth.
Bribon won for the fifth time in 10 starts on the Belmont main track and improved his career mark to 11-9-4 in 36 starts with earnings of $1,125,013. He captured the Metropolitan Mile Handicap (gr. I) last year when he was in the barn of Robert Ribaudo.
Darpat Si bred Bribon. The chestnut is out of Rowat Arazi, by Arazi.
Sent off as the second choice in the field, the winner carried top weight of 120 pounds and paid $6.90, $4.30, and $3.10. Jersey Town, coming off a third in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II) for trainer Barclay Tagg, returned $8.40 and $5.10 and completed a $78.50 exacta. Half Metal Jacket was $3.30 to show.
Godolphin's Tahitian Warrior, in his American stakes debut for trainer Saeed bin Suroor, was followed by Wildcat Brief, Temecula Creek, Jack On the Rocks and Roaring Lion.