Derrick Smith’s Bribon, a 7-year-old French-bred gelding by Mark of Esteem, bounced back to top form with a strong 1 1/2-length win over Snapshot in the $250,000 True North Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO). Bribon covered the six furlongs on the Belmont Stakes Day undercard in 1:09.63.
A year ago Bribon was the top middle-distance horse on the East Coast for Marc Keller and trainer Bobby Ribaudo after wins in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) and Shadwell Met Mile (gr. I). Bribon was also second in the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I).
In two starts in 2010 for Smith, Bribon was second, beaten a neck in the Barbados Gold Cup, and was a dull fifth in his United States return as the odds-on favorite in the April 30 Westchester.
Bribon, who went over $1 million in career earnings with the victory, carried top weight of 118 pounds in the True North, conceding three to five pounds to his six rivals. He is trained by Todd Pletcher.
Morning-line favorite Custom for Carlos was scratched the morning of the race after trainer Eddie Kenneally reported that the 4-year-old colt sustained a leg gash in a stall mishap overnight.
At the break it was another Pletcher runner, Checklist, who snared the early advantage, battling with Formidable through early splits of :22.29 for the opening quarter and :45.60 for the opening half. Snapshot and Elusive Warning gave chase. Jockey Garrett Gomez got Bribon going on the turn as they rallied to within striking range as the field turned for home.
The outcome was not in doubt down the lane as Bribon, last after the first quarter-mile, swept to the lead at the eighth-pole while charging down the center of the track. The five-furlong split was :57.66. Snapshot held second, finishing 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Checklist.
“There were quite a few horses with speed and I just needed to find a place for him to settle into a simple rhythm and then quicken when I asked him," Gomez said. "The only concern was that he’d never run shorter than a mile. He picked them up with ease and came home with ease – just the way you'd like.”
“I thought with Quality Road going to the Met Mile, it could open a lot of options for Bribon," Pletcher said. "He’s just a very versatile horse.
"I thought Checklist ran huge. I think the track may not be real speed-favoring."
Pletcher said the Vanderbilt (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 8 is a possibility for both Bribon and Checklist.
"We’ll play it by ear,” he said.
Bribon returned $7.50, $3.90, and $2.90. Snapshot paid $5 and $3.40, and Checklist paid $2.80 to show.
Out of the Arazi mare Rowat Arazi, Bribon and was bred in France by Darpat. The victory marked his 10th from 33 career starts and boosed his earnings to $1,038,763. He holds a solid 4-3-1 mark from nine starts at Belmont Park.