A star-studded cast of seven talented sprinters led by grade I winners Fabulous Strike and First Defence will do battle in the $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 27 at Belmont Park.
The six-furlong Vosburgh will be run as race 8 and is one of five grade I events on the Belmont program. Post time is scheduled for 4:46 p.m. EDT. Heavy rain is expected in the New York area that day, which could favor a few runners.
Tea Party Stable’s Fabulous Strike won the Vosburgh a year ago with a resounding 5 3/4-length victory under Ramon Dominguez. The Pennsylvania homebred has battled illness and foot problems since that win and has started just once this season. The 5-year-old gelded son of Smart Strike won the June 21 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Stakes at Delaware Park after a nearly nine-month layoff. Trainer Todd Beattie entered Fabulous Strike in the July 26 Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) but had to scratch him because of a foot injury.
When healthy, Fabulous Strike is dangerous on the lead. The two-time graded stakes winner has won 10 of 15 lifetime starts and earned $677,832. Dominguez will get the call and they will break from the inside post. Fabulous Strike won by 11 lengths in his last start on a muddy track, which came in December of 2006 in the Christmas Stakes at Mountaineer.
Juddmonte Farms’ homebred First Defence was seventh in the 2007 Vosburgh, but is in the midst of an outstanding 4-year-old campaign. The Unbridled's Song colt has won three of five starts this season, including a resounding 6 3/4-length score in the Forego (gr. I) last out. Trained by Bobby Frankel, First Defence also won the grade III Jaipur Stakes on Belmont’s yielding turf in June. He has won twice on the Belmont dirt in four tries. Channing Hill will ride.
Zayat Stables’ J Be K has established himself as one of the top 3-year-old sprinters in the nation this year after winning three graded stakes events. The son of Silver Deputy has captured the Bay Shore (gr. III), Woody Stephens (gr. II) and Jersey Shore (gr. III) stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen. He enters off a tiring six-place finish in the King’s Bishop (gr. I) Aug. 23 at Saratoga. Je Be K won convincingly in his only start on an off track in his season debut at Fair Grounds.
"He’s a nice horse with a good disposition and he’s one of the best 3-year-old sprinters in the country right now,” said Asmussen's assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who has been overseeing J Be K’s training. "He’s most effective at three-quarters of a mile to a mile, and he’s proven that. He had been training fine going into the King’s Bishop, but not as well as he’s been training since then. He bounced out of the race in great shape. There has been more snap and more energy in his works, which have been really, really good.”
Formerly in the barn of Asmussen, Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Kodiak Kowboy now runs for trainer Larry Jones. The 3-year-old Posse colt won the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) by a head July 28 at Saratoga before finishing fifth in the King’s Bishop. Earlier this season, Kodiak Kowboy lost to Macho Again by a half-length in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. Gabriel Saez will be in the irons.
Shadwell Stable’s Lucky Island had won four in a row before finishing off the board as the odds-on favorite in the Forego. Ridden by Alan Garcia, the 4-year-old colt was pinched at the break and never could recover. Among his wins this season were the Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) and Tom Fool Handicap (gr. II), both at Belmont. The latter was a 4 1/4-length victory on a muddy track. Bred in Argentina and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Lucky Island turned in a bullet work Sept. 14 at Belmont, getting four furlongs in :47.04.
“The Forego was a disappointment,” said Artie Magnusson, assistant to McLaughlin, of Lucky Island. “He lost all chance at the start. He was caught flat-footed, which was okay, but then a few steps out there was checking. First Defence ran a great race, and I thought we might have a chance to get second, but it didn’t happen. He’s been training very well since then and we expect a good performance.”
Completing the field are West Coast shipper Black Seventeen and Live Oak Plantation’s Rockerfeller, who comes off a victory in the Teddy Drone Stakes Aug. 3 at Monmouth.
(gr. I, Race 8, 4:46 p.m.), 3 & Up, Six Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Fabulous Strike (PA), 124, Ramon A. Dominguez
2. J Be K (KY), 122, Rafael Bejarano
3. Lucky Island (ARG), 124, Alan Garcia
4. First Defence (KY), 124, Channing Hill
5. Kodiak Kowboy (KY), 122, Gabriel Saez
6. Rockerfeller (FL), 124, Eddie Castro
7. Black Seventeen (FL), 124, Clinton L. Potts