Bribon Seeks Rebound in True North

One year after his sensational back-to-back triumphs in the Grade 3 Westchester and Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, Derrick Smith’s 7-year-old gelding Bribon seeks to recapture old glory Saturday in the 32nd running of the Grade 2, $250,000 True North Handicap at Belmont Park.


The six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up attracted a field of 10 and is one of five rich graded stakes races on the undercard of the 142nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Stakes.


Trained by Todd Pletcher, Bribon opened the year with an attempt to win the Barbados Gold Cup at Garrison Savannah race course in Bridgetown, Barbados. After finishing second by a neck to Sterwins in the grass race, Bribon returned to Belmont to defend his Westchester title and finished fifth as the heavy favorite after a rank start and troubled trip.


Rather than go on to try and repeat in the Met Mile, Pletcher decided to give Bribon a little more time to reach top form and pointed toward the True North.


“Quality Road running had nothing to do with the decision not to run in the Met,” said Pletcher’s assistant trainer, Jonathan Thomas. “It was basically based on the Westchester. He trained very well for the Westchester, but the performance was disappointing. But the horse never showed any hint of being knocked off form. The horse is training great.”


Bribon has won nine of 32 career starts and victory in the Truth North would make him racing’s newest millionaire. To win, he will have to defeat nine other crack sprinters, headed by rising star Custom for Carlos.


Trained by Eddie Kenneally for Homewrecker Racing and Avalon Farm, the More Than Ready colt has had a terrific start to his 4-year-old season, winning the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park and the Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn. Sandwiched between those two races was a spine-tingling battle with Wall Street Wonder in the Toboggan on March at Aqueduct, which Custom for Carlos lost by a neck.


Six furlongs is Custom for Carlos’ favorite distance, and he has maintained his form since May last year.


“Hopefully, he’ll take to Belmont Park’s surface, and I think he will,” Kenneally said. “The thing with sprinters is it’s hard to keep them in top form from one race to the next. They’re different than route horses. We had a horse named Kelly’s Landing, who would run like that; he’d run huge and then he’d regress. We give [Custom for Carlos] plenty time between races. This is just his fourth start of that year. That’s important; they need that. It’s a tough race; it’s Grade 2. He’s had good works prepping for the race, and it’s the race we’ve been pointing for.”

Two California horses, Gato Go Win and Fantasy Free, are shipping across the country for the True North.


Gato Go Win, a 4-year-old son of the Storm Cat stallion City Place, has blossomed since his transfer into the barn of trainer Robert Troeger, who opened his own stable last year.


Gato Go Win comes off a nose loss to Ventana in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap on April 3 at Santa Anita, and the race has proven to be a key heat with two runners coming back to win.


“We want to see if he’ll handle dirt,” Troeger said. “He’s run two big races this year. He ran a big second to Ventana. We always wanted to try him back there in New York.”     


Fantasy Free is a gelded son of Free House finding his best form as a 5-year-old. Trainer A.C. Avila claimed the horse for $25,000 in December, and Fantasy Free won the Tiznow in April at Hollywood in the 41st start of his career.


Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sends out Darley Stable’s Elusive Warning, a recent two-length winner in a stakes race at Delaware Park.


Elusive Warning finished fourth in both the Tobaggan and Carter handicaps, and McLaughlin said he sent the horse “over to Delaware thinking a little bit lesser company and get him back in the winner’s circle for a confidence booster for trainer and horse. He ran well at Delaware, and we hope he can duplicate that race and be competitive Saturday. He hopefully has a future as a stallion in New York, and he’s a good looking horse.”


Starlight Partners’ Checklist also will contest the True North coming off a powerful 11¼-length victory April 17 in an optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old son of Gone West has hit the board in each of his three stakes starts.


Also scheduled to run are Strasbourg, a Padua Stables-owned son of Friends Lake stepping out of allowance company for trainer Thomas Albertrani; More Than a Reason, a versatile 11-time winner for C.P. Racing Stables and trainer/part-owner Randi Persaud; Snapshot, a recent fifth-place finisher in a Grade 3 sprint on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico for owners Martin and Pam Wygod and Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott; and Formidable, who exits a close-up fourth-place finish in a strong sprint stakes on the grass in April at Churchill Downs for owner Robert Clay and Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens.

The field for the Grade 2, $250,000 True North:








More Than a Reason (KY)

R. Maragh


Randi Persaud



Custom for Carlos (KY)

J. Lezcano


E. Kenneally



Bribon (FR)

G. Gomez


T. Pletcher



Strasbourg (KY)

J. Castellano


T. Albertrani



Snapshot  (KY)

K. Desormeaux


W. Mott



Formidable (KY)

C. Vaelazquez


H.A. Jerkens



Elusive Warning (KY)

A. Garcia


K. McLaughlin



Checklist (KY)

J. Velazquez


T. Pletcher



Fantasy Free (CAL)

R. Dominguez


A. Avila



Gato Go Win (FLA)

M. Smith


R. Troeger







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