06/06/2013 12:15PM

True North sees contrast in styles with Caixa Eletronica, Fast Bullet


ELMONT, N.Y. – Caixa Eletronica and Fast Bullet are as different as two horses can get. About the only thing the two have in common is that they’ll both be in the starting gate for Saturday’s $400,000 True North Handicap at Belmont Park.

The six-furlong True North drew a field of seven speedsters that includes Justin Phillip, who will race coupled in the wagering with Fast Bullet as the Zayat Stables entry. Laurie’s Rocket, Reload, Off the Jak and Sage Valley complete the compact lineup.

The late-running Caixa Eletronica is an old pro, the East Coast-based 8-year-old gelding having already started 62 times with 20 victories under his belt, including a last-to-first triumph in the 2012 True North. The aptly named Fast Bullet, who makes his home in Southern California, has used his abundant speed to capture three of his four lifetime starts, with his lone setback and only previous try against graded-stakes competition resulting in a sixth-place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Caixa Eletronica has not started since finishing a disappointing fifth in defense of his title in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic. A former claimer, he rallied from 14 lengths off the lead to outfinish Justin Phillip by a half-length to win last year’s True North. Caixa Eletronica, who banked more than $1.1 for owner Mike Repole in 2012, lost five consecutive starts after his victory in the True North before ending the season with a decisive four-length triumph in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight.

“We’ve got a favorable post position, and hopefully we’ll get a favorable pace scenario where he can kind of sit back and make a run,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “You can ride him a number of different ways, but I think he’s at his very best when you let him settle and make a run like he did in this race last year. He had no excuse in the race at Charles Town. I thought he had a good prep here and trained well into it. He just didn’t fire at all that night, which is kind of strange for him.”

Pletcher was not concerned about the prospect of catching a wet track for the True North.

“I don’t think anything bothers him,” Pletcher said.

Fast Bullet has not started since winning a second-level optional claiming race by 7 1/4 lengths at Hollywood Park on Dec. 6.

“He’s had limited starts,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s just had a lot of minor things go wrong, none serious enough to require any surgeries. But he runs hard when he does run and usually comes out firing off a layoff. I worked him six furlongs from the gate last week to sharpen him up a little, but you can only get them so ready. Any time you get a wet track it can change the complexion of a race. He’s never run on a wet track, and you really don’t know how they’re going to handle it until they handle it.”

Justin Phillip took the lead in early stretch of last year’s True North but proved no match for the furious late surge of Caixa Eletronica. He also fell just short of winning the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on a muddy track last summer at Saratoga, when he was beaten a neck by Poseidons Warrior.

Justin Phillip, who closed out his 2012 campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, has won both of his last two starts, including the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Off the Jak, whose former stablemate Giant Ryan broke down during the running of this race last spring, should help assure a lively pace on Saturday, along with the red-hot Sage Valley who brings a four-race win streak into the True North.