Top Sprinters Face Off in True North Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

June 3rd, 2018

Some of the best male sprinters in the country are set to face off in the June 8th $250,000 True North Stakes (gr. II), one of five stakes races scheduled for the Friday card at Belmont Park.

In fact, every one of the eight starters in this six-furlong sprint have won stakes races, and six of them have won at the graded stakes level, hinting that a top-notch effort will be required to win the True North.

Such efforts are familiar territory for Imperial Hint, who enjoyed a near-perfect 4-for-5 campaign in 2017 that included a win in the Smile Sprint Stakes (gr. III) and a runner-up effort in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). The son of Imperialism looked as good as ever while winning the Horse Races Now Sprint Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in March, but subsequently faltered over a sloppy track in the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II), finishing sixth in a sub-par performance. The return to a dry track could help him rebound on Friday.

In contrast, Limousine Liberal is in a great form, having battled through a fast pace to win the Churchill Downs Stakes in determined fashion. But that race, of course, took place at Churchill Downs, where Limousine Liberal boasts a 6-for-8 record. Away from Churchill, Limousine Liberal is just 2-for-13, and he's 0-for-5 outside of Kentucky, introducing questions about his affinity for shipping away from his favorite track.

Joking won the True North two years ago as part of a four-race win streak that culminated with a late-running triumph in the 2016 Vosburgh Invitational (gr. I). But for various reasons, the Charlton Baker-trained gelding has not run since then and will enter the True North off a 20-month layoff, a major question mark given that he’s now nine years old.

Shipping in from California is Bobby Abu Dhabi, a determined winner of the Kona Gold Stakes (gr. II) last time out, while Whitmore—who counts graded stakes wins in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Maryland on his record—will attempt to add New York to his list of conquered racing circuits.

Recruiting Ready looked sharp winning a 6 ½-furlong allowance race at Belmont last month with an eye-catching 105 BRIS speed figure, and the two-time stakes winner will have top jockey Mike Smith in the saddle while stepping back up in class. Completing the field are Westwood, recent winner of the Runhappy Stakes at Belmont, and Always Sunshine, who won the Maryland Sprint Stakes (gr. III) at Pimlico two years ago.

The True North is the eighth race of the day, with a post time of 4:42 p.m. Eastern.