Nordic Truce wins Transylvania Stakes

The time Nordic Truce has spent at Keeneland has rarely been uneventful.

While stabled at the race course as a 2-year-old last summer, the colt got loose on the track and fell while running back to the barn, resulting in a bit of road rash that temporary halted his training.

Nordic Truce had a much more enjoyable experience Friday, when he wore down pacesetter Strike the Tiger in the final strides to win the Grade III, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes by a neck in stakes-record time.

The win came in front of 24,734 on the opening day of the Spring Meet.

Though his juvenile accident prevented Nordic Truce from making his career debut until last November, the son of Yes It's True has not taken a wrong step in any of his three starts.

The Transylvania marked the third win for the colt, who established a stakes mark when he covered the 11⁄16 miles in 1:41.31 over a turf course rated firm.

"(The fall) wasn't any big deal but we did have to stop his training and we brought him back slowly after that," said Ben Colebrook, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. "It was just an unfortunate deal and that's what set him back, otherwise he probably would have been a little bit more advanced.

"Early on, we always kind of thought he could be our best 3-year-old colt and so far he has showed us he is."

Unlike his last-to-first rally in the Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 16, Nordic Truce rated closer to the front on Friday, sitting well back in fourth as Strike the Tiger and Macias dueled neck and neck through swift opening fractions of :22.78 and :45.80.

"I didn't get the trip I wanted. We went too fast," said jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard Strike the Tiger. "I didn't think I would last, but he gave me everything."

Despite those blazing figures, Strike the Tiger was still gamely in front as the seven-horse field rounded the far turn and even drew clear by 2 lengths entering the stretch.

That determined effort was not enough, however, as jockey Julien Leparoux angled race favorite Nordic Truce out at the head of the lane and drove him home under a strong left-handed whip to get up in the last few jumps.

"I was pretty happy to see what they were going in front of him," Colebrook said of the fast early fractions. "When it came time to run, he just fired."

Strike the Tiger was impressive to hold for second, edging out the late-running Guys Reward by a nose.

Owned by Ammerland Stud, Nordic Truce increased his career bankroll to $131,220. Though all of his starts have come on turf, Colebrook didn't rule out other options.

"He trains good enough on the dirt so (Clement) may try him on dirt one day, but that is just speculation," he said. "But there are plenty of races for nice 3-year-olds and you have to consider all of them now."