Tea Party Stable's heavily favored Fabulous Strike, having posted some impressive speed figures while facing lesser company since last summer, rose to the occasion Saturday with a gate-to-wire victory in the $159,600 Aristides Breeders' Cup (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Ramon Dominguez, Fabulous Strike coasted to an an emphatic two-length victory at 4-5 odds, beating four rivals in an eye-catching time of 1:07.64, just .05 seconds off the stakes and course record for six furlongs set by Kelly's Landing in 2005.
Fabulous Strike won his fourth consecutive stakes race for trainer Todd Beattie and paid $3.60, $3.40 and $2.60. Cougar Cat, who at 23-1 was the longest shot in the field, chased the leader throughout under Robby Albarado and paid $9.20 and $4.40 as the runner-up. It was another five lengths to Gaff, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, who held off grade I winner Greg's Gold for third and paid $3.40.
A Pennsylvania homebred son of Smart Strike , Fabulous Strike is a 4-year-old gelding who is based at Penn National Racecourse for Beattie, who won his first stakes race at Churchill Downs. The Aristides was the first graded stakes victory for Fabulous Strike, who came into the race off three easy victories at West Virginia's Mountaineer Park. Fabulous Strike won for the second time in as many races in 2007 and lifted his career record to 8-1-0 in 12 races. he winner's purse of $99,882 pushed his career earnings to $378,132.
Beattie has aspirations of running Fabulous Strike in the $2 million TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) later this year at Monmouth Park, and Fabulous Strike looked every bit the part Saturday. The Aristides Breeders' Cup offered Fabulous Strike the toughest test of his career. Dominguez gunned Fabulous Strike to the front out of the starting gate and, after a moderate first quarter of :22.31, led the field through a sizzling half-mile in :44.56 and five furlongs in :55.64. He was never threatened at any point in the race and held Cougar Cat safe under a hand ride.
"I respectfully didn't say that before, because I didn't know, but it doesn't surprise me, or my brother (assistant Richard Beattie)," said Beattie. "My brother and I know this horse well and we expected that kind of race and to see him come through and do it was just all the more exciting."
"He actually feels like he's got gears," Dominguez said. "He runs very easy, but even when I just ask him a little bit, he goes like he's breaking out of the gate again. He's an awesome horse."
Runner-up Cougar Cat was coming off a fifth-place finish in the Churchill Downs (gr. II) on the Kentucky Derby day program, but he chased the impressive winner all the way and clearly second best.
"That was my horse's career best right there," said Albarado. "That winner just ran freakish. But I'm just impressed with my horse's effort. He ran to the wire and that's impressive."
Off Duty finished last in the five-horse field, 5 1/2 lengths back of fourth-place finisher Greg's Gold. The field was reduced to five with the scratches of Saint Anddan and Santana Strings.