After Fabulous Strike turned in a dazzling performance in the June 6 True North (gr. III), trainer Todd Beattie said he was leaning toward giving the 6-year-old gelding some well-deserved time off. But as they say, the horse will tell you what it wants, and the son of Smart Strike has spoken loud and clear.
“I was thinking of just waiting until the Vanderbilt (gr. II, Aug. 9, Saratoga), but he is just doing really good,” said Beattie. “If I thought another race would compromise his chances for that race I wouldn’t go, but he’s been so sharp. He’s at 1,257 pounds and anything over 1,200 means he’s carrying his weight well. So we’re going to push forward.”
Fabulous Strike’s sharp five-furlong work on June 28 at Penn National was the final piece Beattie needed to see before entering him in the $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II) July 5 at Belmont Park, where he will face four rivals and carry top weight of 123 pounds in the seven-furlong sprint. Post time is set for 5:17 p.m. EDT.
Fabulous Strike, a Pennsylvania homebred of Walter Downey’s Tea Party Stable, was a tough luck runner-up in both the General George (gr. II) at Pimlico and Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct to begin his 2009 campaign, but rebounded in a huge way in the True North.
The dark bay or brown horse set what seemed like suicidal fractions in the six-furlong race, getting a half-mile in :43.62 while being pressed hard by Sixthirteen. Champion Benny the Bull loomed large at the top of the lane and came barreling after him in upper stretch, but Fabulous Strike had enough to hold on in a sensational time of 1:07.85.
“It was a great effort,” said Beattie of Fabulous Strike, who has a 4-0-1 record from six starts at Belmont.
With a record of 13-4-0 from 22 starts, four graded stakes victories, and earnings of more than $1.1 million, Fabulous Strike has already had a terrific career. But with a win or two this summer he might put himself into contention for an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top sprinter. If all goes well, Beattie wouldn’t be opposed to sending him back to Santa Anita for the Breeders’ Cup, where he ran a disappointing fifth a year ago in the Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) on the Pro-Ride surface.
“We haven’t ruled it out,” Beattie said. “I wouldn’t say we’re planning on it, but we’ll see what happens. He didn’t run poorly last year, he was only beaten six lengths. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I don’t want to make excuses, although I don’t think the inside (post) was ideal for him and he didn’t break as well as he normally does.
“Let’s just say I would probably do things differently if we went back this year. I would probably go out there a little earlier this time and maybe breeze him a little faster. It’s not that he doesn’t like (synthetic surfaces). He trains well at Presque Isle and he travels well. I think I would change things up next time.”
Fabulous Strike, who will have Ramon Dominguez aboard once again and break from post 1, will have to take down Munnings, an impressive winner of the Woody Stephens (gr. II) on the same day as the True North. Munnings, a 3-year-old Speightstown colt trained by Todd Pletcher, split horses at the top of the stretch in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens and romped home by 5 1/4 lengths. It was his first win since breaking his maiden last summer at Saratoga.
Munnings, who will be ridden by John Velazquez, gets an 11-pound weight break from Fabulous Strike.
“It’s ambitious to try older horses at this time of year, but it’s our best option to keep him at a distance he likes and at a track he likes,” said Pletcher, who saddled Trippi to a Tom Fool win in 2000. Trippi is one of only three sophomores to win the race.
Also in the mix is Driven by Success, a 4-year-old Precise End gelding who finished third in both the Carter and in the Met Mile (gr. I). He is trained by Bruce Levine.