Benny the Bull is back. The 2008 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter looked like his old self Saturday in his first race since last July, doing everything but repeat in the Grade II True North Handicap. The 6-year-old closed powerfully for second, 1ÂÂ¼ lengths behind odds-on Fabulous Strike. The time of 1:07.85 on a good track was only .19 of a second off Artax's track record.
For a few strides in upper stretch, it appeared as if Benny might extend his winning streak to six. "He ran great, but the speed wasn't stopping," jockey Edgar Prado said. "I mean, 1:07 - how often do you see that?"
Fabulous Strike ($3.80) dueled with Sixthirteen through wild fractions (:21.85, :43.62) before getting three lengths clear after 5 furlongs in :55.28 under Ramon Dominguez.
Also on the undercard:
Gio Ponti ($9.20), ridden by Garrett Gomez and trained by Christophe Clement, went from last to first to take the Grade I Manhattan Handicap by 1ÂÂ½ lengths over 14-1 Marsh Side. Gio Ponti ran 1ÂÂ¼ miles on yielding turf in 2:02.91 for his sixth win in 10 grass starts . . . Diamondrella ($21.20) rallied widest to upset 3-5 favorite Forever Together by 1ÂÂ¾ lengths in the Grade I Just a Game for fillies and mares. Diamondrella, trained by Angel Penna Jr., ran a mile on yielding turf in 1:36.49 . . . Gabby's Golden Gal ($28.40), trained by Bob Baffert, led throughout a 1ÂÂ¾-length win in the Grade I Acorn for 3-year-old fillies. She ran a mile in 1:34.79 . . . Munnings ($9) surged late to dominate the Grade II Woody Stephens by 5ÂÂ¼ lengths. He ran 7 furlongs in 1:20.63 on a track upgraded to fast after the True North.
Across the pond
If you travel to Doncaster, England, in September, you might see a 3-year-old going for the Triple Crown. Sea the Stars is two-thirds of the way there after rallying for a 1ÂÂ¾-length victory in the 1ÂÂ½-mile English Derby at Epsom Downs. He's the first to hit the 2,000 Guineas-Derby double since Nashwan in 1989. The last English Triple Crown winner was Nijinsky in 1970.