09/27/2008 12:00AM

Crunch time for Fabulous Strike


ELMONT, N.Y. - After being forced to miss last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint with Fabulous Strike, trainer Todd Beattie has thought of little else than trying to make it to that race this year with his freakishly fast though frequently fragile horse.

Limited to just one start in 2008, Fabulous Strike will try to earn his way into next month's $2 million Sprint at Santa Anita when he heads a seven-horse field entered for Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park.

Unlike last year, the Vosburgh is not part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In program. But a victory would virtually assure Fabulous Strike a spot in the Sprint field - especially if he is able to duplicate his performance from a year ago in this race when he beat a solid field and won by 5 3/4 lengths.

Off that effort, many penciled in Fabulous Strike as the Sprint favorite, but the colt was forced to miss the race due to a severe respiratory illness.

"From the time I had to cancel that Breeders' Cup trip last year I never quit thinking about trying to get back in that spot again," Beattie said. "I'm sure we haven't seen the best out of this horse. I think we're in a position where we could see quite a bit this week."

Fabulous Strike's lone race this year came on June 21 when he beat two horses in a minor stakes at Delaware Park. He was forced to miss the Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga on July 26 when he tore off a chunk of his frog - the shock-absorbing part of a horse's hoof - in his left front foot.

Fabulous Strike has only three works leading into this, but Beattie said the horse gallops so strongly in the mornings that he doesn't see fitness as an issue.

"I feel confident I got enough conditioning into him and have him where we need to be," Beattie said.

Though Beattie insists Fabulous Strike can rate, the fact he drew the rail Saturday - as he did in last year's Vosburgh - means Fabulous Strike most likely will have to be sent again under Ramon Dominguez.

Last year, Fabulous Strike won a pace battle with Talent Search. This year, he figures to be tested by any number of horses, including J Be K, Black Seventeen, First Defence, or even Rockefeller.

Rockefeller has proven versatile enough to win from on or off the pace. He comes off a front-running victory in the Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 3 where he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 112. He is trained by Marty Wolfson, a Florida-based trainer who has had success shipping in for Grade 1 stakes in New York.

Lucky Island, who substitutes for his sidelined stablemate Abraaj, is 2 for 2 at Belmont, winning the Bold Ruler from off the pace and the Tom Fool from on the lead. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the only reason Lucky Island went to the lead in the Tom Fool was because the muddy track that day was favoring speed. It is very possible the track could be wet again on Saturday.

In last month's Forego, Lucky Island suffered his first defeat since being put on Lasix when he stumbled at the break and was pinched back.

Kodiak Kowboy, trained by Larry Jones, was impressive winning the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga over Desert Key before encountering a troubled trip when fifth in the Grade 1 King's Bishop.

"We were sitting in a very nice spot we thought in the King's Bishop, nothing ever opened, and it wound up getting ugly," Jones said. "We feel like with the sweeping turns at Belmont, it's not tough to give up a little bit of ground. We've got to get a better trip."