Running at his favorite distance of seven furlongs, Flaxman Stable homebred Aldebaran weaved through the field and drew off for an easy two-length victory in the grade II Tom Fool Handicap on the Independence Day card at Belmont Park.
Ridden by Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey as the 4-5 favorite, Aldebaran was well back before beginning a steady rally in the stretch. Stalked by Northern Rock and Najran, Voodoo set early fractions of :22 2/5, :44 4/5, and 1:09 3/5 as the gelding took a nice four-length lead. As the field moved into the stretch, Aldebaran made his way through traffic to assume the lead and draw off to stop the timer in 1:22 2/5.
The winner, who carried top weight of 122 pounds, paid $3.90, $2.50, and $2.10, Peeping Tom, who closed well for second, returned $4.60 and $2.80, with third-place finisher State City worth $3.50.
The victory was the seventh in 23 lifetime starts for Aldebaran, a 5-year-old son of Mr. Prospector produced from the Private Account mare Chimes of Freedom. The $90,000 winner's share of the Tom Fool $150,000 purse improved Aldebaran's bankroll to $1,589,167 as the Bobby Frankel-trained horse has 12 seconds and three third-place finishes to his credit.
The Tom Fool triumph also solidified Aldebaran's status as the country's top sprinter, having finished first or second in all eight of his starts at seven-eighths of a mile, Aldebaran ran third in the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) previous to the Tom Fool. Before the Stephen Foster, Aldebaran won the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) and grade I Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.
"I rode him like he was the best horse," Bailey said. "You just have to let him find himself for the first half-mile. Then, he starts to roll when he gets into it. I didn't think they would go that fast, but I guess Voodoo took care of the other speed. (Aldebaran) is a strong finisher."
"He ran well today, but I don't think he was at his best," said Frankel. "I brought him back a little quick for this, but he will probably get two months off now. I'll look to bring him back in the Forego (grade I, seven furlongs, Saratoga Race Course, August 31)."