Bear Stables’ Fatal Bullet set himself up nicely for another try in next month's Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), holding on for a hard-fought, half-length victory in the $250,000 Phoenix (gr. III) (VIDEO) on opening day at Keeneland Oct. 9.
A 4-year-old gelded son of Red Bullet, Fatal Bullet dueled with longshot Ez Dreamer all the way around the track, took a short lead at the top of the lane, and wore down his rival in deep stretch. He then had to hold off a late charge by Capt. Candyman Can, who came from well off the pace to get second by a neck.
Eurico Rosa Da Silva rode Fatal Bullet to his second graded stakes victory in a final time of 1:09-flat on Polytrack. The win gave him an automatic berth to the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, a race in which he finished runner-up to Midnight Lute a year ago.
"We're thrilled, can't wait to go (to the Breeders' Cup)," said winning trainer Reade Baker.
Fatal Bullet never got a breather in the Phoenix, as he battled with Ez Dreamer and Julien Leparoux through testing fractions of :22.27 and :44.77. Pressing from the outside, Fatal Bullet finally edged in front when they straightened away but still had to fight off Ez Dreamer’s determined challenge through the stretch.
Capt. Candyman Can, winner of the King’s Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 29, was well back in the early going under Javier Castellano, moved into striking position four-wide rounding the turn, and continued to close ground on Fatal Bullet in deep stretch before running out of room.
Ez Dreamer was third, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Sing Baby Sing, who won last year's Phoenix.
"He's a very nice horse. I'm very proud of him," said Rosa Da Silva of the winner. "The horse ran a great race. He tried 100%. He was very relaxed and very brave at the end."
Fatal Bullet, who was bred in Florida by Adena Springs and out of the Regal Classic mare Sararegal, won for the ninth time in 11 starts on synthetic surfaces. He opened his season with a victory in Woodbine’s Bold Venture Stakes and last out was sixth in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) Aug. 9 at Saratoga. Overall, he is 9-2-0 from 14 lifetime starts. The win made the bay a millionaire.
Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, Fatal Bullet paid $4.40, $2.60, and $2.40. The exacta (7-4) returned $16.20 and the trifecta (7-4-3) was $108.20