(Forte before the 2023 Kentucky Derby / Photos by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte added blinkers to cover a half-mile in 50 seconds flat in company in his final work ahead of next Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy presented by DK Horse, at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Forte, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, went in company with four-time graded stakes winning stablemate Emmanuel. It was Forte’s second breeze this summer at Saratoga after covering a half-mile in 48.90 last Friday.

The dark bay son of Violence, a last out second in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 10, won Gulfstream Park’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4 and Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 1. He entered the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs as the morning-line favorite but was scratched the morning of the race with a bruised foot.

Pletcher said he decided to make the equipment change following last week’s work.

“In the Florida Derby, he lost concentration a little bit around the far turn and fortunately enough he was able to rally and get up in time. He sort of did the same thing in the Belmont,” Pletcher said. “We thought in his breeze last week, he was kind of more focused on what the horse next to him is doing rather than what he should be doing.

“Irad and I had a conversation after that work about possibly trying some blinkers on him,” Pletcher continued. “We galloped him in them one day this week and it seemed like that went fine. Irad felt like he was a little more focused on what he was asking him to do rather than what the horse next to him was doing. If we were going to try an equipment change, we felt like the Jim Dandy would be the race to do it in and not wait until the Travers if we felt we needed to make a change.”

Pletcher said the blinkers made a noticeable difference.

“He was locked in and more aggressive going to the pole and then he settled in a really good rhythm,” Pletcher noted. “But when Irad asked him, he responded right away. He didn’t seem to care what his workmate was doing as much.”

Pletcher said WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel remains on target for the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on August 12, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita.

The dark bay son of More Than Ready began his career on dirt, finishing third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass last April at Keeneland.

“He worked well. He does well on the dirt for a horse with a really strong turf career,” Pletcher said. “We’ve talked about [going back to dirt] a few times, but there’s so many good opportunities on the grass that we’re just staying focused on that for now.”

Also breezing for Pletcher on Saturday was Stonestreet Stables’ homebred Julia Shining, who went a half-mile in 50.22 over the main track. The daughter of Curlin and full sister to Pletcher’s dual Champion Malathaat last raced when third in the Grade 1 Ashland in April at Keeneland.

Pletcher did not rule out a start in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 19 going 1 1/4 miles at Saratoga.

“She’s really starting to come around. She’s just getting going but looking good so far,” Pletcher said. “You never know, the Alabama might be in play if things were to go perfectly. The one thing is I know she wants the mile and a quarter. If she wants it under that scenario having not run since the Ashland is the question.”

Pletcher visited the Saratoga winner’s circle on Friday here with Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Bright Future, who bested nine-furlong allowance company over the main track following a distant eighth in the Grade 2 Brooklyn

going 1 1/2 miles on June 10 at Belmont.

In Friday’s test, the 4-year-old Curlin chestnut stalked the early foot of graded stakes-placed Speed Bias and took command in upper stretch to draw away a 4 3/4-length winner. The win garnered a 100 Beyer Speed Figure and could warrant a start in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup going 1 1/4 miles on September 2 at Saratoga.

“That was a very strong race for him,” Pletcher said. “I don’t really have a great explanation [for the Brooklyn], he just didn’t fire that day. You assume it was the mile and a half, but the way he ran yesterday you’d think a mile and quarter would be fine. We’ll see how he comes out of it. The Jockey Club could be an option.”


Hit Show, Angel of Empire breeze in company for G2 Jim Dandy

The graded stakes-winning pair of Hit Show and Angel of Empire breezed five furlongs in company Saturday over Saratoga Race Course’s Oklahoma dirt training track for trainer Brad Cox as both horses eye a start in the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy presented by DK Horse on July 29 at the Spa.

Under clear skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, the pair stepped onto the fast track right at its 5:30 a.m. opening with Flavien Prat aboard Angel of Empire and Luis Saez in the irons atop Hit Show. The two walked in tandem midway up the stretch before turning back around to assume their starting position and taking off with matching strides. Angel of Empire was positioned to the inside of Hit Show with the two completing their exercise on nearly even terms.

Cox said this week’s work was almost identical to their work last week when the two covered five-eighths in 1:00.90.

“I had them in a minute and four [fifths] this weekend and last. It was really good and very similar to what we saw last week,” said Cox. “I loved that work and I loved this work. They work well together and it went so well last week, I didn’t want to change much. I was very happy with what we saw.”

Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show and Albaugh Family Stables’ Angel of Empire were last seen dead-heating for fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets where the former attended the pace and the latter closed from eighth-of-nine.

Hit Show is in search of his second graded coup after winning the Grade 3 Withers in February at Aqueduct Racetrack, while Angel of Empire looks for his third after wins in the Grade 2 Risen Star in February at Fair Grounds and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park ahead of a third in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

Also on the Saturday work tab for Cox was multiple Grade 1-winning turf sprinter Caravel, who went a half-mile solo over the Oklahoma turf training track ahead of an anticipated start against males in the Grade 3, $300,000 Troy on August 5. The 2022 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion worked just after 10 a.m. under regular exercise rider Kelvin Perez.

“It was really good and again, it was similar to last week,” Cox said, noting the mare’s half-mile breeze in 48.88 on July 15. “I was super happy this morning. Kelvin was on her and does a great job with her. He was on her last year. She’s very professional.”

Gary and Mary West’s West Will Power, winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster last out on July 1 at Ellis Park, could come under consideration for the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney on August 5 at the Spa. Cox said he would like to see one more work from the son of Bernardini before making a firm decision on his next outing, which could also come in the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 2.

West Will Power worked a half-mile in 51.40 on July 15 at Churchill Downs in his first work back since the Stephen Foster.

“He’s good and breezed a little slow on his own – he can do that sometimes, but overall, super good,” Cox said. “The Whitney is on the table and we’ll see how things go with his next work. It depends on who goes in there and what he does next week. We could always circle back to the Jockey Club as well.”

Cox looked on at Gold Square’s Slip Mahoney schooling in the Saratoga paddock Saturday morning ahead of his first outing off a two-month respite in Sunday’s second race, a salty one-mile allowance for 3-year-olds and up with a field that includes the Todd Pletcher-trained Mount Up and the Bill Mott-trained Set Sail.

The grey son of Arrogate makes his first start since being gelded after finishing an even fourth in the Long Branch on May 13 at Monmouth Park, a change Cox said seems to be for the better.

“He’s been good. He’s got some energy, but we’re excited to get him started again,” said Cox. “I think his works have been a little more consistent in the mornings leading up to this than they were prior to him being castrated. I’m super happy with what I’ve seen.”

Slip Mahoney, who finished a rallying second in the Grade 3 Gotham, will exit post 2 in rein to Luis Saez as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.


Appleby trainees Rebel’s Romance and Mysterious Night arrive for Spa turf stakes

Trainer Charlie Appleby bolstered his Saratoga raiders with a pair of talented Group/Grade 1-winners in Rebel’s Romance and Mysterious Night, who arrived here Friday to join their Godolphin stablemate Silver Knott.

Rebel’s Romance, a 5-year-old Irish-homebred son of Dubawi, completed his 2022 campaign on a four-race win streak, posting Group/Grade 1 scores in the Grosser Preis von Berlin in August at Hoppegarten, the Preis von Europa in September at Cologne and the Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Keeneland.

He was last seen finishing seventh in his seasonal debut in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on March 25 at Meydan Racecourse.

“He’s getting better with age as all Dubawis seem to do. A Group 1-winner, a Breeders’ Cup-winner and he’s not ran since Dubai World Cup night which was his first start back this year. It wasn’t an ideal run, but he’s in good form,” said Chris Connett, Appleby’s travelling assistant.

Rebel’s Romance is pointing to the 11-furlong Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green on July 30 with an eye towards the 12-furlong Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Sword Dancer on August 26, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf in November at Santa Anita Park.

Mysterious Night, a sophomore Irish-homebred son of Dark Angel, took the Group 3 Prix Francois Boutin in August at Deauville and completed his juvenile campaign with a 5 3/4-length score over Appraise in the Grade 1 Summer in September at Woodbine.

The bay gelding has made two off-the-board starts this year in England, including a last-out 12th in the Group 3 Jersey on June 24 at Royal Ascot.

Mysterious Night is pointing to the Grade 2, $500,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, a one-mile test for sophomores on August 4.

“A change of scenery might rejuvenate him. He won his Grade 1 up in Canada last year, so hopefully it will suit him getting back on a flat left-handed track,” Connett said. “He’s a nice stamp of a horse. When you see him out on the track together with Rebel’s Romance, he’s going to look a little small – but that’s just because Rebel’s is so big. He’s very well put together and athletic.”

Silver Knott, a 3-year-old Lope de Vega colt, will also target the Hall of Fame. The dual Group 3-winning bay made two starts this summer at Belmont, finishing third in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Pennine Ridge in June and a prominent fifth in the 10-furlong Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational on July 8.

“Stepping back in trip might help him. He seemed to empty out in that last race,” Connett said.

While Rebel’s Romance and Mysterious Night are expected to clear quarantine on Sunday, Silver Knott stayed in New York and shipped up to Saratoga after the Belmont Derby.

“He had a very easy week after the race – hand walked and jogged on the main track,” Connett said. “He’s been getting back into some regular canters and we’ll stretch his legs a little bit more on Tuesday.”


Maiden winner Kodiac Wintergreen to try $500K Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies

Bregman Family Racing’s Kodiac Wintergreen rallied impressively to graduate at second asking, arriving in the final strides to notch a three-quarter length score in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for juveniles fillies on Thursday over firm Spa turf.

Trained by Rusty Arnold, the Kodiac bay improved on a closing runner-up effort to the George Weaver-trained Amidst Waves in a five-furlong maiden special weight on June 11 over the Belmont turf.

“She’s been a filly we’ve liked since Day One. She was at Wavertree with Ciaran Dunne and he sent her to me with a lot of praise,” Arnold said. “She trained really good into her first race, ran a little green and got outrun. George Weaver ran a really nice filly there that beat her.”

The regally-bred filly, out of the Pivotal mare Humble And Proud, is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Glorious Empire and multiple stakes-winner Love Reigns. Both of those siblings enjoyed Spa success with Glorious Empire taking the 2018 editions of the Grade 2 Bowling Green and Grade 1 Sword Dancer, while Love Reigns captured last year’s Bolton Landing.

Arnold said Kodiac Wintergreen could prove to be an important filly for Bregman Family Racing, nom de course for Alex Bregman, a third baseman and two-time All-Star and World Series-winner for the Houston Astros.

“She’s got quite a bit of family and I think it’s going to be one of the mares he puts in his broodmare band,” Arnold said.

Arnold said Kodiac Wintergreen will stretch out to one mile for her next start on September 10 in the $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Fillies.

“I’m going to stretch her out a bit. She’ll go to Kentucky Downs and run a flat mile. It’s hard to pass,” Arnold said. “She came out of the race good, and she’ll get home on Monday.”

Ashbrook Farm and Upland Flats Racing’s dual graded-stakes winner Red Carpet Ready exited her distant seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Victory Ride on July 8 at Belmont in good order.

The sophomore daughter of Oscar Performance captured the Grade 3 Forward Gal in February at Gulfstream Park and added the Grade 2 Eight Belles to her ledger in May at Churchill Downs. Those efforts were split by a distant third-place finish as the mutuel favorite in the Grade 2 Davona Dale in March at Gulfstream.

“She’s doing well. I haven’t breezed her yet. That race was kind of a puzzler to me. She threw one in Florida like that where we thought she’d run well and she didn’t,” Arnold said. “We brought her back home and did a lot of diagnostics on her and she’s fine. She’s training and I’ll probably breeze her next week.”

As a result, Arnold said he won’t bring Red Carpet Ready to Saratoga for a re-match with

Victory Ride-winner Maple Leaf Mel in the Grade 1, $500,000 Test on August 5.

“At this time, I don’t have a place I want to run her. She’s not going to come for the Test,” Arnold said. “That’s a really nice filly [Maple Leaf Mel] that won that race. We’re better than we ran and we need to figure out the reason why – and that’s what we’re doing right now.”