Continuing a trend through half the program at Belmont Park June 8, Fast Bullet took advantage of a speed-favoring dirt surface to win the $400,000 RTN Blue North Stakes (gr. II) wire to wire (VIDEO) .
Firing from the gate, jockey Joel Rosario placed the son of Speightstown on the lead in the six-furlong event and opened up a two-length advantage through an opening quarter-mile in :22.48. Off the Jak was closest to the leader early on with Laurie's Rocket third. Sage Valley, winner of four consecutive races, was next, with defending True North winner Caixa Eletronica last.
Fast Bullet, coupled in the wagering at 4-5 odds with Justin Phillip because they are both owned by Zayat Stables, was relaxed up front as he carved out a half-mile in :45.16 while racing several paths off the rail. Justin Phillip came calling around the turn when he cut the corner on the inside, but his rally never got him on even terms with Fast Bullet, who went five furlongs in :56.56 and continued on to the wire in a swift 1:08.27.
"He always breaks a little slow," Rosario said, "but he broke well today. He's really fast and he took me to the winner's circle."
Justin Phillip finished second, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner, with Laurie's Rocket 4 1/2 lengths farther behind in third. Off the Jak, Sage Valley, and Caixa Eletronica rounded out the order of finish. Reload was scratched after having raced June 7.
Fast Bullet, a 5-year-old horse, has won four of five lifetime starts with $327,000 in earnings. He most recently scored in an allowance/optional claimer Dec. 6 at Betfair Hollywood Park, a month after finishing sixth in the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I). The True North was the first stakes score for Fast Bullet, who was bred in Kentucky by Roy Gottlieb out of the Dayjur mare Renfro Valley.
Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip returned $3.60, $3.40, and $2.30. Laurie's Rocket paid $3.80 to show. The exacta returned $23.60.
The True North marked a New York double for California-based trainer Bob Baffert, who won the previous race, the Easy Goer Stakes, with Power Broker.
"He has always been talented," Baffert said of Fast Bullet on the telephone from California, "but he has had physical setbacks. He deserved to finally win one of these. We ran him in the Breeders' Cup off works (and a 51-week layoff) and he got shuffled back that day and really didn't get a chance to run."