In a battle of all-star sprinters at showery Saratoga Aug. 9, even-money choice Fabulous Strike edged past stubborn pacesetter Go Go Shoot in deep stretch to win the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO).
Fabulous Strike, carrying top weight of 123 pounds in his Saratoga debut, defeated Go Go Shoot by one length. Those two inched away from the four other competitors in the stretch run. Kodiak Kowboy rallied for third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner, with 2008 sprint champion Benny the Bull finishing fourth, another 1 3/4 lengths farther back. The final time for the six-furlong Vanderbilt was a sharp 1:08.69 on a fast track.
Regular rider Ramon Dominguez drove Fabulous Strike to victory for trainer Todd Beattie and owner Walter Downey. The Pennsylvania-bred 6-year-old son of Smart Strike won for the 14th time in 23 starts. He has been especially remarkable at six furlongs, winning 11 of 16 races.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to the horse," Beattie said. "I’m lucky to be the guy to bring him over here."
Go Go Shoot, the second-longest shot in the field ridden by John Velazquez at 15-1, went to the front as expected and clicked off swift quarter-mile fractions of :22.03 and :44.52. Fabulous Strike, positioned in second on the outside of Go Go Shoot, increased the pressure through the lane, eventually drawing even at the sixteenth pole under moderate right-handed urging from Dominguez. He proved best in the final 100 yards.
“He’s so good, we often take it for granted that he will blow everyone away, at least I do, so anytime there is someone to challenge him it is cause for concern," Dominguez said. "But I was very happy with the way he ran. I know Go Go Shoot has been showing super fast fractions at Monmouth.”
Fabulous Strike earned $150,000 for his second victory in a row following a 1 1/4-length triumph in Belmont Park's True North Handicap (gr. II) June 6. The dark bay gelding has banked $1,329,412 in his career.
With the Vanderbilt victory, Fabulous Strike has now won graded stakes races at all three New York Racing Association tracks.
“A thrill. How can you get a bigger venue than this with these peers I’ve looked up to all these years?” said Beattie, who trains Fabulous Strike at Penn National Race Course in the mountain town of Grantville, Pa.
Beattie had entered Fabulous Strike in the Vanderbilt last year but was forced to scratch after the horse suffered a minor hoof injury five days before the race. This was only his second starter ever at Saratoga – the other being an off-the-board finish by Astor Park two years ago in the Test (gr. I).
“It’s a long time coming,” Beattie said of winning the Vanderbilt. “I waited a year for this.”
Tea Party Stable bred the winner, who is out of Fabulous Find, by Lost Code.
Fabulous Strike paid $4, $3 and $2.30, topping a $2 exacta worth $40.60. Go Go Shoot, coming off back-to-back front-running stakes wins at Monmouth Park for trainer Bruce Levine, returned $8.40 and $3.80. Kodiak Kowboy, ridden by Gabriel Saez, was $3.10 to show.
“At the sixteenth pole I thought I was going to win it," Levine said of Go Go Shoot. "That was the strategy, to get out ahead quickly. I told him to go, and if you’re last at the end, don’t worry about it. Take him as far as he’ll go.”
Benny the Bull was followed home by Eaton's Gift and Fatal Bullet.