08/08/2009 11:00PM

Things look good for Fabulous Strike

Barbara D. Livingston
Fabulous Strike (right) beat Benny the Bull in the True North, and the pair will meet again Sunday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Even the eternal optimist that is trainer Rick Dutrow understands the tall task his champion sprinter Benny the Bull has taking on the divisional leader Fabulous Strike in Sunday's $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

"Fabulous Strike has got the outside post, he's not a need-the-lead type, he should get the trip of a lifetime," Dutrow said. "We're up against it running against Fabulous Strike; he's a really good sprinter and he should have everything going his way."

Fabulous Strike, an 11-time stakes winner, makes his Saratoga debut in Sunday's Grade 2 Vanderbilt, a six-furlong race that tops an exceptionally strong 11-race card that includes four stakes and the return of Grade 1 Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap winner Bribon in an allowance race.

The Vanderbilt has the look of a Grade 1. The field includes Fabulous Strike, Benny the Bull, Grade 1 winner Kodiak Kowboy, Grade 2 winner Eaton's Gift, 2008 Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Fatal Bullet, and the multiple listed stakes winner Go Go Shoot.

Fabulous Strike, who had a history of drawing inside posts, drew the outside for the second straight race. In the True North, Fabulous Strike was right on the pace through a half-mile in 43.62 seconds and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the late-running Benny the Bull.

Unlike the True North, when there was just one other speed horse, the Vanderbilt has three potential front-runners in Eaton's Gift, Fatal Bullet, and Go Go Shoot.

"The nice part of being on the outside is Ramon [Dominguez] can play it by ear," said Todd Beattie, trainer of Fabulous Strike. "We've never done it with him, but he might be more comfortable on the outside stalking."

Beattie has been pleased with how Fabulous Strike came out of the True North and how he's trained at his Penn National base. Though this will be the first time Fabulous Strike has run at Saratoga, he has won over eight different tracks.

"He's handled a lot of tracks," Beattie said. "Other than the synthetic tracks, he hasn't had to carry his track with him."

After the True North, Benny the Bull went to Calder and finished second to Eaton's Gift in the Smile Sprint Handicap. Dutrow felt Benny the Bull ran big that day and came out of it well.

"We blew him out [Friday] morning, and it looks like he's ready to run," Dutrow said.

While the Vanderbilt is viewed as a prep for the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 5, Beattie said Fabulous Strike is not under consideration for that seven-furlong race. He would likely run next in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont and then possibly the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita or the De Francis Dash at Laurel.

Kodiak Kowboy is targeting the Forego, and his trainer, Larry Jones, wants to get the horse another run over this track beforehand. Kodiak Kowboy is 2 for 3 at Saratoga, including a win in the Grade 2 Amsterdam last year. Kodiak Kowboy is coming out of a four-length victory in the Don Levine Memorial Handicap at Philadelphia Park on July 27.

"I'm not saying that this race doesn't matter to us because it does - if we can pull this off Saturday then that's a huge feather in his cap," Jones said. "But it not being his very best distance, we want to make sure we're at our very best for the Forego, which is at our best distance.''

Fatal Bullet finished second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year and won his lone start this year three weeks ago at Woodbine. Trainer Reade Baker was planning to run the synthetic specialist in this weekend's Bing Crosby at Del Mar, but he had transportation issues. His worst race came in his lone dirt start.

Go Go Shoot is coming off two sharp front-running scores at Monmouth Park for owner Mike Repole and trainer Bruce Levine. Eaton's Gift, who makes his first start for trainer Chad Brown, completes the field.