SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Trainer Todd Beattie and his horse Fabulous Strike's first victory at Saratoga was well worth the wait.
Fabulous Strike, forced to scratch from last year's $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap due to a foot injury, needed most of the stretch to wear down a stubborn pace-setting Go Go Shoot to win Sunday's $250,000 Vanderbilt by one length. Go Go Shoot, a 15-1 longshot, finished second by 1 1/4 lengths over Kodiak Kowboy. Benny the Bull, Eaton's Gift, and Fatal Bullet completed the order of finish.
"I waited a year for this," said Beattie, who had run only one other horse at Saratoga. "It couldn't be any better. I don't know how it could get any better than this, being around all the respected peers, my family, and everybody else that's around and watching; pretty big thrill."
The stretch drive perhaps was a little too thrilling.
With Go Go Shoot, under John Velazquez, taking the initiative and sprinting to a one-length advantage after a quarter in 22.03 seconds, jockey Ramon Dominguez had to settle for a stalking position with Fabulous Strike.
Dominguez was content to chase Go Go Shoot through a half-mile in 44.52, but turning into the stretch, Go Go Shoot was not stopping and Fabulous Strike did not appear to be gaining. Dominguez kept busy on Fabulous Strike and the 6-year-old gelding collared Go Go Shoot 70 yards out from the wire for the one-length score. Fabulous Strike covered the six furlongs in 1:08.69 and returned $4 as the favorite.
"We kind of take it for granted that we always expect him to blow the field way -- at least I do -- so anytime that somebody kind of challenges him it raises concern," Dominguez said. "But I was very happy with the way he ran. He is a machine, he really is."
Bruce Levine, the trainer of Go Go Shoot, had instructed Velazquez to make the lead at all costs. At the sixteenth pole, Levine thought he was going to pull the upset.
"I thought I had them," Levine said. "Nobody was really running and he cut the corner and I thought I had it. It's a nice horse that beat me."
Fabulous Strike, a son of Smart Strike owned by Walter Downey, won for the 14th time in 23 starts and will likely be pointed to the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park on Oct. 3.