Bribon will try to get back on the winning track in the True North.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Bribon will try to get back on the winning track in the True North.
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Coglianese Photos

Bribon, Custom for Carlos Clash in True North

The 2009 Metropolitan Handicap winner seeks turnaround against nine rivals.

One year after his sensational back-to-back triumphs in the Westchester Stakes (gr. III) and Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I), Bribon seeks to get back to his winning ways in the $250,000 True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 5.

The six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up attracted a field of 10 and is one of five rich graded stakes races on the undercard of the Belmont Stakes. It is race 8 on the program with a 4 p.m. EDT post.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Derrick Smith’s 7-year-old gelding Bribon opened the year with an attempt to win the Barbados Gold Cup at Garrison Savannah race course in Bridgetown, Barbados. After finishing second by a neck to Sterwins in the grass race, Bribon returned to Belmont to defend his Westchester title and finished fifth as the heavy favorite after a rank start and troubled trip.

Rather than go on to try and repeat in the Met Mile, Pletcher decided to give Bribon a little more time to reach top form and pointed toward the True North.

Quality Road  running had nothing to do with the decision not to run in the Met,” said Pletcher’s assistant trainer, Jonathan Thomas. “It was basically based on the Westchester. He trained very well for the Westchester, but the performance was disappointing. But the horse never showed any hint of being knocked off form. The horse is training great.”

Bribon has won nine of 32 career starts and victory in the Truth North would make him racing’s newest millionaire. To win, he will have to defeat nine other crack sprinters, headed by rising star Custom for Carlos .

Trained by Eddie Kenneally for Homewrecker Racing and Avalon Farm, the More Than Ready  colt makes his Belmont debut. He has had a terrific start to his 4-year-old season, winning the Mr. Prospector (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park over a sloppy track and the Count Fleet Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn. Sandwiched between those two races was a terrific battle with Wall Street Wonder in the Toboggan (gr. III) at Aqueduct, which Custom for Carlos lost by a neck.

Six furlongs is Custom for Carlos’ favorite distance, and he has maintained his form since May last year.

“Hopefully, he’ll take to Belmont Park’s surface, and I think he will,” Kenneally said. “The thing with sprinters is it’s hard to keep them in top form from one race to the next.”

Two California horses, Gato Go Win and Fantasy Free, are shipping across the country for the True North.

Gato Go Win, a 4-year-old son of the Storm Cat stallion City Place, has blossomed since his transfer into the barn of trainer Robert Troeger, who opened his own stable last year. He comes off a nose loss to Ventana in the Potrero Grande Handicap (gr. II) April 3 over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride, and the race has proven to be a key heat with two runners coming back to win.

“We want to see if he’ll handle dirt,” Troeger said.     

Fantasy Free is a gelded son of Free House finding his best form as a 5-year-old. Trainer A.C. Avila claimed the horse for $22,500 in December. Fantasy Free won the restricted Tiznow in April at Hollywood in the 41st start of his career.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sends out Darley Stable’s Elusive Warning, a recent two-length winner in a stakes race at Delaware Park.

Elusive Warning finished fourth in both the Tobaggan and Carter handicaps. McLaughlin said he sent the horse “Over to Delaware thinking a little bit lesser company and get him back in the winner’s circle for a confidence booster for trainer and horse. He ran well at Delaware, and we hope he can duplicate that race and be competitive Saturday.”

Starlight Partners’ Checklist comes off a powerful 11 1/4-length victory April 17 in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old son of Gone West has hit the board in each of his three stakes starts.

$250,000 True North Handicap (gr. II, Race 8, 4 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. More Than a Reason (KY), R Maragh, 113, R Persaud
2. Custom for Carlos (KY), J Lezcano, 118, E Kenneally
3. Bribon (FR), G K Gomez, 118, T A Pletcher
4. Strasbourg (KY), J Castellano, 112, T Albertrani
5. Snapshot (KY), K J Desormeaux, 114, W I Mott
6. Formidable (KY), C H Velasquez, 115, H A Jerkens
7. Elusive Warning (KY), A Garcia, 115, K P McLaughlin
8. Checklist (KY), J R Velazquez, 114, T A Pletcher
9. Fantasy Free (CA), R A Dominguez, 114, A C Avila
10. Gato Go Win (FL), M E Smith, 115, R Troeger