Copper Bullet gives Asmussen his first Saratoga Special win since Kantharos in 2010
The first time he saw graded stakes company, Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton’s Copper Bullet had to be steadied in the turn and wound up second. This Sunday, the 2-year-old son of More Than Ready was back with a vengeance for trainer Steve Asmussen, pulling away in the stretch to win the G2 Saratoga Special by four lengths. Ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Copper Bullet covered 6 1/2 furlongs on Saratoga’s fast main track in 1:16.45.
The win was the third on the card for Ortiz, and Asmussen’s first in the Saratoga Special since Kantharos in 2010.
“I had a good post,” Ortiz said. “He broke good and put me in perfect position. Last time he missed the break, but this time I was in the clear. I let him be comfortable and when I asked him, he was there for me. The other horses had a little bit more speed than me, but he’s a big horse. He’s fast but I didn’t want to go that fast early. I just wanted to stalk and the trip worked out perfectly. When I asked him he responded and did a great job. He finished good and I think he can go farther. We’ll see what Steve [Asmussen] and the owners decide from here.”
Copper Bullet was extremely quick from the outside stall in the nine-colt field, getting the first call out of the gate. He was quickly joined up the inside by favored Barry Lee, as well as Mo Diddley and Bal Harbour. As the angling for position settled down in the first quarter mile, Mo Diddley took up a half-length lead on the rail over Barry Lee, with Copper Bullet in the three-path. They clocked a :21.73 quarter, and both Barry Lee and Copper Bullet began to close in on Mo Diddley through the far turn.
Approaching the stretch Mo Diddley, Barry Lee and Copper Bullet were on nearly even terms as the half-mile time of :44.73 flashed onto the board. As the juveniles changed leads to race for the wire, Copper Bullet showed a solid turn of foot to distance himself from Mo Diddley as Barry Lee began to fade. Under a firm ride from Ortiz, Copper Bullet continued to extend his advantage through the wire, crossing it four lengths in front of runner-up Hollywood Star. Tempestad checked in third, and Bal Harbour was fourth.
“He ran a good race today, he really did,” said Asmussen. “It was an excellent draw for him. He was a little playful in the paddock and stuff, but once he got on the track, he was all business. He broke very sharply, [they went] 21 and three[-fifths] down the backside, so I was a little concerned with how fast they were going, but I think the racing experience that he’s had showed up.”
Bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm, Copper Bullet was a $ 200,000 yearling at the Keeneland September sale. He ran second on debut at Keeneland, but broke his maiden in his second start beneath the twin spires by an eye-opening eight lengths. In the G3 Bashford Manor, Copper Bullet was bothered and forced to steady near the quarter pole, finishing second to Ten City. Overall, the colt has won two of his four starts, and earned over $ 175,000.
“He broke well and then they ran up inside him and I didn’t think Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] was given any options [to save ground] from there,” Asmussen continued. “I think with the way the race unfolded, it’s good that he’s had a few races. He caused most of his own trouble that day [in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor] by not breaking like he’s capable of and then trying to compensate for it. But, he broke well today, settled off of those horses that were going very fast and he went through the wire with good energy and in a nice final time. He’s looked like the real deal and it’s good to see him win a race at this level.”
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