Fast Bullet shot to the lead coming out of the gate and turned back a late bid from entrymate Justin Phillip to win the 35th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 RTN True North Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park, the first of four graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes Day undercard.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for Zayat Stables, the 5-year-old son of 2004 sprint champion Speightstown zipped through an opening quarter-mile in 22.48 seconds with Off the Jak and Laurie’s Rocket in close pursuit. Shaking free of those pursuers on the turn, Fast Bullet repelled a challenge from Justin Phillip, who drew within striking distance at the top of the stretch and pulled clear by 2 ½ lengths for his first stakes win.
His time for six furlongs over the main track, which was rated “good,” was 1:08.27.
“I’d watched his races and he always breaks a little slow, but he broke well today,” said winning jockey Joel Rosario. “He’s really fast and he took me to the winner’s circle.”
It was the fourth victory in five starts, and first of 2013, for Fast Bullet, whose only two races as a 4-year-old were an optional claiming victory at Betfair Hollywood Park, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 109, and a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. At age 3, he was 2-for-2, winning a maiden race and a first-level allowance.
“Bob sent him in and said he was ready to roll,” said Tonja Terranova, assistant to Baffert, who one race earlier won the $150,000 Easy Goer stakes for 3-year-olds with Power Broker. “He came in here and trained great the last few days. He was ready, just like Bob said he was.”
The entry, sent off at 4-5, returned $3.60 for a $2 win bet. With the winner’s purse of $240,000, Fast Bullet’s bankroll increased exponentially to $327,000.
Laurie’s Rocket finished third, 4 ½ lengths back, followed by Off the Jak, Sage Valley, and last year’s True North winner, Caixa Eletronica. Reload was scratched.