In three starts this year, Gary Hartunian's Roy H has done no wrong, and his most recent was his most impressive.
Shipped from California to New York by trainer Peter Miller for the $250,000 True North Stakes (G2), the 5-year-old More Than Ready gelding defeated a pair of top sprinters with ease in the six-furlong test at Belmont Park.
Video: True North S. (G2)
Under jockey Paco Lopez, Roy H swept by a trio of tiring early leaders on the outside, pulled clear in the stretch, and held off a late drive by Stallwalkin' Dude to win by 2 1/2 lengths. He finished off the six furlongs in 1:08.59.
His three wins in 2017 have come on three different types of surface. The first was a conditional turf allowance by 2 1/2 lengths down the Santa Anita Park hillside turf course April 8 and the second was by 7 1/4 lengths over a wet-fast dirt strip in an off-the-turf allowance sprint May 6, also at Santa Anita.
"If you don't know the horse, you might think this was an ambitious spot for him," Miller said. "If I were to just look at the (past performances), I would have thought so. But this horse was a graded stakes horse from day one. Unfortunately, a lot of little things prevented him from being that. But he showed what he's about today, and I think you're going to hear a lot more from Roy H."
Chief Lion set the early pace, under pressure from Green Gratto and Holy Boss through a :22.28 first quarter. After a half-mile in :44.82, Roy H was already in command by a half-length, as he got the jump on Stallwalkin' Dude, who was also stalking early.
"He was ready," Lopez said. "I didn't want to make the lead. I was in good position this time. I waited and let him go, and he finished very well. I had a good break and the horse put me right there. It was an easy ride."
Whitmore, who came into the True North on a five-race win streak and undefeated in six starts at the distance, closed from last in the eight-horse field to pick up show honors, another 3 3/4 lengths behind.
"I was a little scared, because he can blow the turn," said jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode Whitmore, the 6-5 favorite. "I've always been happy when he gets a position on the inside of horses. That (outside) position doesn't work for him. He blew the turn today and that's why he lost the race."
Bred in Kentucky by Ramona Bass, out of the Elusive Quality mare Elusive Diva, Roy H now has a 4-3-1 record from 14 starts and pushed his earnings to $294,765 with his first stakes win Friday.