Michael Tabor's Left Bank posted his 13th victory in 23 starts when he set a Belmont Park seven-furlong track record of 1:20 en route to an impressive 6 1/4-length triumph in the Tom Fool Handicap on the July 4 holiday card.
The 5-year-old son of French Deputy ridden by John Velazquez for trainer Todd Pletcher took advantage of an early speed duel between Appealing Danger and Express Tour, who battled through the first quarter in :21 4/5 and the half in :44 1/5. Velazquez and Left Bank remaiined clear on the outside to take over when the speedy pacesetters faded. The final time eclipsed the seven-furlong record of 1:20 1/5 that You and I held since June 11, 1994.
Eight-year-old Affirmed Success finished second, nearly six lengths ahead of third-place finisher Summer Note. Express Tour, Voodoo and Appealing Danger trailed.
Showing that he was not affected by the 100-degree heat in New York, Left Bank paid $5.20, $3.10, $2.30, with Affirmed Success worth $3.30 and $2.40, and Summer Note paying $3.00.
The Tom Fool marked the third win for Left Bank in his last four starts, his only loss coming in the grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.
"We were disappointed with the Met Mile; it was probably too quick back for him," Pletcher said. "He was training up for this race very well. The race set up well for him today. Johnny (Velazquez) had him in the clear, and he seems to enjoy that. He was a little antsy at the gate, and the crew did a good job to back him out and bring him back again. The track record obviously means something to this horse because of his future as a stallion. It is always good when you set a track record at a facility like this."
While the Tom Fool was one of the top sprint performances of the year, Pletcher said there is a possibility Left Bank will not remain in short races. He said the 1 1/8-mile, grade I Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 3 could attract Left Bank.
"We've been kicking around the idea of stretching him out," Pletcher said. "He has won from six furlongs to a mile and an eighth. We might consider the Whitney.
The timing seems to be right for that."
"He was bottled up, and usually, where he makes his move, is where he was waiting for room today," said Richard Schosberg, trainer of Affirmed Success. "Johnny (Velazquez, jockey of Left Bank) had a clear path on the outside, while we were still looking. It might have made things a little closer; it might not have. I don't have a plan mapped out right now."