Under the handling of Ramon Dominguez, Fabulous Strike broke sharply from the inside post, dueled with Talent Search through a half-mile and then shifted into another gear as he straightened out in the stretch, pulling away for a decisive 5 3/4-length victory at Belmont Park Sept. 30.
The talented field of eight included not only Discreet Cat, who was coming off of a six-month layoff, but also Talent Search, First Defence and Mach Ride, all colts with solid stakes victories this year. The ease in which Fabulous Strike put the field away made the effort all the more impressive.
A son of Smart Strike-Fabulous Find, Fabulous Strike is trained by Todd Beattie and based out of Penn National. A 4-year-old gelding owned by Walter Downey, the Pennsylvania-bred came into the Vosburgh with two stakes wins this year, including an eye-popping score in the June 2 Aristides Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs in which he ran six furlongs in a freakish 1:07.64, just .05 off the track record. He had four Beyer Speed Figures of at least 115 in his last five starts.
But there were questions surrounding Fabulous Strike, too, after finishing a well-beaten fifth in his most recent start, the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder Race Course July 7. In that one, Mach Ride won by two lengths.
There are no more questions now, as Fabulous Strike will certainly be among the favorites for the $2-million TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.
"I was a little concerned with the rail," said Beattie. "But I had so much confidence in Ramon I told him to ride his race. I was positive he could come from off the pace, not that I wanted to take him back. I was nervous after the first quarter (:21.89), but when they got around to the quarter-pole and I looked at my horse, compared to the other jockeys being busy on their horses, I felt very comfortable that we would have horse left.
"I really thought I was going to see this in Miami, but he had heat exhaustion. We’ll take him back to Penn National. I have my own barn there and we’ll train him up to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Bred by Tea Party Stable, Fabulous Strike ran six furlongs in 1:09.22. Going off as the 9-2 third choice, he paid $11.20 to win. There was a three-way photo for second, which went to Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Talent Search, who went off at 18-1. The exacta (1-8) paid $107.50.
“I’m glad he showed up today," said Dominguez. "Even though he had some huge `Beyers,’ there was a lot of skepticism. We were going so fast, but he was going easy. I was just hoping I would have some horse. As soon as I opened by hands, he just exploded. This horse is a running son of a gun. I know Todd will have him in great shape going into the Sprint.”
Discreet Cat, the 4-5 favorite who had won six lifetime races but hadn’t raced since his last place finish in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March, came in just ahead of Mach Ride for show.
“He needed the race and should improve off of this race," said Discreet Cat trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He had been working well and was physically sound. We’ll have to see how he comes out of this race and check him over. If everything is fine, I would be happy to send him to the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt) Mile. I think the Mile would be better for him. Six furlongs is too short for him and his race.”
Fabulous Strike has now won nine of 13 career starts.