After a less-than-ideal trip resulted in a second-place finish in the Bashford Manor Stakes, Copper Bullet delivered a professional effort to win the $200,000 Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Coors Light on Aug. 13 at Saratoga Race Course.
Under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., the Steve Asmussen-trained 2-year-old son of More Than Ready raced in third, went three wide around the turn, and took over in the stretch to win by four lengths over Hollywood Star. It was the second win and first graded score for the colt owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing.
"He ran a good race today. He really did," Asmussen said. "It was an excellent draw for him. He was a little playful in the paddock, but once he got on the track, he was all business. I was a little concerned with how fast they were going, but I think the racing experience that he's had showed up. ... 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 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."
In the 6 ½-furlong test for juveniles, 1.75-1 favorite Barry Lee and Mo Diddley dueled for the lead as Copper Bullet ran wide just off the leaders. Barry Lee maintained a narrow advantage through fractions of :21.73 and :44.72 for a half-mile.
Around the turn, Copper Bullet moved up alongside Barry Lee and Mo Diddley and went three wide into the stretch. Ortiz kept the colt engaged and the pair drew away from the rest of the field. The final time was 1:16.45 over the fast main track.
Hollywood Star rallied in the stretch to finish second. Tempestad came in third and Bal Harbour finished fourth. Crea's Bklyn Law, Diamond Oops, Mo Diddley, Barry Lee, and Vino rounded out the order of finish.
"Last time he missed the break, but this time I was in the clear," Ortiz said. "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."
Off as the 3.55-1 second choice, the winner returned $9.10, $4.50, and $3.60 across the board.
Copper Bullet was a $200,000 purchase by Winchell Thoroughbreds from the Lane's End consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Copper Bullet finished second in his debut in April at Keeneland. He returned the next month at Churchill Downs and broke his maiden by eight lengths in a dominating, front-running score in a five-furlong race before competing in the Bashford Manor.
Copper Bullet now has two wins and two seconds from four starts, with earnings of $177,800.