Kentucky Derby favorite Forte wins his 3-year-old debut Saturday in Gulfstream Park's Fountain of Youth. Photo by Jamie Newell, courtesy of Gulfstream Park
March 6 (UPI) -- The 2022 juvenile champion, Forte, returned to action with a smashing victory in Saturday's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, retaining his spot as the favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby.
The race was one of three major Derby preps during the weekend, with the others, in New York and California, doing less to clarify the picture for the Run for the Roses.
There also was a bounty of turf action in weekend racing, especially at Gulfstream Park, and we have results from Super Saturday in Dubai, Group 1 action in Australia, early 3-year-old returns from Japan and the final Fast-Track Qualifiers from the British All-Weather Championships.
Away we go.
The Road to the Roses
Forte, the 2022 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Eclipse Award winner, finally got back on the track in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and it was worth the wait.
The Violence colt drafted comfortably behind rivals, swept wide around them into the stretch and won as jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. pleased. Rocket Can and Cyclone Mischief were second and third, respectively, but nothing on the track looked competitive with Forte.
The Todd Pletcher trainee earned his accolades with three straight Grade I victories to finish 2022, culminating in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile win. As he brought the colt back from the Fountain, Ortiz said, "He's much better than last year."
Pletcher said the decision to wait for the Fountain to start Forte's 3-year-old season. "We kind of carefully laid it out and put him in a program that would put him in the condition to be ready to run and still having room for improvement and room to continue to develop. I think we were able to accomplish that," he said.
The 50 points he earned with the win boosted Forte back to the top of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard, a spot he relinquished while waiting to make his first 3-year-old start.
As noted here Thursday, even though four of trainer Tim Yakteen's five starters in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II San Felipe were transfers from the Bob Baffert barn, the best of the bunch was one he trained all along -- Practical Move.
The Practical Joke colt, making his first start since winning the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity in December, found a gaping hole on the rail at the top of the stretch and drove through to win by 2 1/2 lengths and moved into the second spot on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard.
Geaux Rocket Ride finished second in the San Felipe with a late move in just his second career start and Skinner was third. The best of the former Baffert runners, Hejazi, made the early going and finished fourth.
"I want to leave the canvas blank now and we'll make the call later, but I think he will have one more start before the [Kentucky] Derby," Yakteen said.
It's tough to draw conclusions from Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct. There was no clear favorite, the track was muddy and a loose horse shot to the front after losing his rider at the start, adding to the excitement.
Then 23-1 long shot Raise Cain blasted clear of the field in the final furlong to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Another long shot, Slip Mahoney, rallied from 13th to finish second with 30-1 chance General Banker completing a 50-cent trifecta that paid $367.24.
Raise Cain, with Jose Lezcano up for trainer Ben Colebrook, won for just the second time in his sixth start. He was second in the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds, albeit 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
At any rate, Raise Cain, another sired by Violence, ran the one-turn mile in 1:38.09 and earned 50 points on the Derby leaderboard, moving into the fifth slot on the Churchill Downs leaderboard.
Saturday's $150,000 John Battaglia Memorial on the Turfway Park all-weather produced another upset as Congruent rallied from last of 12 to win going away by 3 1/2 lengths. Scoobie Quando was second, Bromley third and the favorite, Gilmore, faded to get home sixth.
Congruent, a Tapit colt trained by Antonio Sano, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.02 with Sonny Leon aboard. He won the Laurel Futurity last October but hadn't shown much since.
The Path to the Oaks
Shidabhuti ran by odds-on favorite Asset Purchase in the stretch run in Saturday's $200,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct and kept rolling, winning by 2 lengths over that rival. Capella was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.
Shidabhuti, a Practical Joke filly, got 1 mile on a muddy track in 1:39.03, remaining perfect after three starts. Dylan Davis rode for trainer Chad Brown, who also handles Asset Purchase.
At Gulfstream Park, Dorth Vader pulled off the upset of the weekend in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Davona Dale Stakes, drawing off from a pace-pressing trip to win by 4 3/4 lengths at odds of almost 48-1.
Guns n' Graces was second at 28-1 and the favorite, Red Carpet Ready, reported a tiring third.
Dorth Vader, a Florida-bred daughter of Girvin, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.23. She won the Sandpiper Stakes at 6 furlongs at Tampa Bay Downs Dec. 3 in her first try outside state-bred competition, but then was sixth in the Gasparilla Stakes at 7 furlongs in her most recent effort.
Faiza, the odds-on favorite, stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Santa Ysabela Stakes at Santa Anita, dueled for the lead around the turn and finally worked clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths from And Tell Me Nolies. Blessed Touch was third.
Faiza, a Girvin filly trained by Bob Baffert, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.66 with Flavien Prat up. She remains undefeated after four starts, three of them graded stakes, but forfeited 50 Kentucky Oaks points because of the Churchill Downs' Baffert ban.
Botanical took the lead when asked by jockey Chris Landeros in Saturday's $150,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park and shook loose from six rivals to win by 6 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite.
The Medaglia d'Oro filly, trained by Brad Cox, scored her third straight win, all on the Turfway all-weather.
Classic / Dirt Mile
Stilleto Boy was along in the final sixteenth to upset Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, outfinishing Proxy to win by a neck. The favorite, Defunded, led most of the way, but couldn't survive the late rallies and settled for third.
Stilleto Boy, a 5-year-old Shackleford gelding, got the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:01.96 with Kent Desormeaux riding for trainer Ed Moger Jr.
Stilleto Boy finished a well-beaten third in the 2022 "Big Cap" and had just a single win in six intervening starts. He was last seen finishing third in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28, one slot behind Defunded.
Endorsed swept to the lead a furlong and a half out in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II WinStar Gulfstream Park Mile and prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Charge It. Simplification rallied five-wide to finish third.
Endorsed, a 7-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, got the 1 mile on a firm surface in 1:35.25 with Tyler Gaffalione up, winning for the third straight race for trainer Michael Maker. He was third in the Gulfstream Mile a year ago.
White Abarrio, last year's Florida Derby winner, finally got back to the winner's circle after an allowance race on Saturday's Gulfstream Park program.
The Race Day colt had gone six starts without a win since his big day, but had no trouble with nine foes going 7 furlongs, rallying three wide to win by 4 1/2 lengths for jockey Tyler Gaffalione and trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.
In his previous outing, White Abarrio reported eighth in the Pegasus, beaten 13 1/2 lengths.
Turf / Turf Mile
Gold Phoenix split rivals at mid-stretch in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and outfinished Du Jour to win by a neck. Cabo Spirit was up for third as the early leaders all faded through the lane.
Gold Phoenix, one of four in the eight-horse field trained by Phil D'Amato, finished the mile in 1:34.45 with Kazushi Kimura getting his first Grade I win at Santa Anita.
A 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding Gold Phoenix had a good year in 2022 with two wins, three seconds and three thirds before finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Value Engineering was always close to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park, got to the front entering the stretch and powered home first by 3/4 length over Marwad.
Master Piece was third, with the favorite, Highest Honors, fourth.
Value Engineering, a 7-year-old Lemon Drop Kid gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:14.20. Jose Ortiz rode for trainer Mike Maker.
Dude N Colorado pressed the early pace in Saturday's $200,000 Colonel Liam Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, got to the lead entering the stretch and held off the late bid of Webslinger to win by 1/2 length. Boppy O was another 1/2 length back in third.
Dude N Colorado, a British-bred colt by Uncle Mo, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.05 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding for trainer Todd Pletcher, posting his second win from four starts.
Emmanuel rallied from mid-field in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park and was along to win by 1/2 length from Steady On. Fort Washington came with a late rush but settled for third, another neck back.
Emmanuel, a 4-year-old More Than Ready colt trained by Todd Pletcher, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:40.31 with Javier Castellano in the kip. It was his fifth win from eight starts and backed up a last-out victory in the Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes at the same trip Feb. 4.
Wonderful Justice worked his fetlocks off to wrest the lead from Reckoning Force in deep stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds at Fair Grounds, and then had all he could do to hold that lead by a neck over Myredwhiteandblue at the finish. Reckoning Force held third.
Wonderful Justice, a British-bred colt by Justify, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:49.19 with Colby Hernandez up for trainer Brad Cox.
Filly & Mare Turf / Turf Mile
Quattroelle rallied five-wide from well back in the pack to take Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita by 1/2 length over Macadamia, with Closing Remarks third.
The favorite, Kitty Katana, set the early pace, but then was pulled up and later walked off the course. Quattroelle, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.74 with Hector Berrios up for trainer Jeff Mullins. It was her second straight win after the Grade III Megahertz Stakes on Feb. 4.
Mylady hit the gate at the start of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream Park and started last of 10. She saved ground around the course, swung around rivals on the turn and passed them all to win by 3/4 length over Higher Truth, with Transient third and the favorite, Virginia Joy, fourth.
Mylady, a 4-year-old, German-bred filly by The Grey Gatsby, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:15.14 with Edgard Zayas in the irons. It was her second North American start after a promising career in Europe. Brown trains the first-, second- and fourth-place finishers.
Danse Macabre stalked the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park, took the lead with a furlong to run and survived a rough finish to win by a head over Papilio.
The favorite, Cairo Consort, put in a late bid from well back but could only get show money, a nose farther back.
Danse Macabre, a daughter of Army Mule, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.27 with Adam Beschizza riding for trainer Kelsey Danner.
Faith in Humanity, making just her fourth career start and first since last September, led all the way to a minor upset win in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The 4-year-old, French-bred filly by Lope de Vega was all out in the late going to hold off White Frost by a neck. Princess Theorem was third. Faith in Humanity, with Joel Rosario up for trainer Brown, finished 1 mile in 1:34.12.
Motorious challenged for the lead crossing the dirt track in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III San Simeon Stakes at Santa Anita and drew clear through the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Anarchist.
Motorious, a 5-year-old, British-bred gelding by Muhaarar, scampered 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside course in 1:11.34 for jockey Flavien Prat.
Sunday's $100,000 Baffle Stakes down the hill was restricted to 3-year-olds with Johannes rallying from near the back to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Wizard of Westwood. Johannes, a Nyquist colt from the Tim Yakteen barn, reported in 1:13.07 with Umberto Rispoli riding.
Little Vic stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct, swung out to the four path turning for home and got by the leaders to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Runninsonofagun was second with the favorite, Nakatomi, another neck in arrears.
Little Vic, a 4-year-old Practical Joke colt, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:09.73 with Carlos Olivero up.
Around the world, around the clock
What did we learn about World Cup night lineups from Super Saturday results? Some contenders did emerge but, on balance, there was little to frighten off the looming international invasion.
The $12 million Group 1 World Cup: Salute the Soldier and Bendoog finished 1-2 in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3. But the best competitor on the grounds at the course and distance, Algiers, was not in the mix and Bendoog might be better placed in the Godolphin Mile.
The $6 million Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic: The Group 2 Dubai City of Gold also lacked the local star as Godolphin's reigning Breeders' Cup winner, Rebel's Romance, was sidelined with a minor injury.
He's expected back for the big one so Global Storm and Kemair, who finished 1-2 while picking up the baton for their stablemate, likely will head elsewhere.
The $5 million Group 1 Dubai Turf: The key race here was the Group 1 Jebel Hatta, where Godophin also was expected to shine. But the race turned into a massive traffic jam on the backstretch with dire consequences for the chances of many runners.
Alfareeq had all he could do to beat El Drama. Look for him, and Godolphin's Master of the Seas, who closed brilliantly to get third, to move along to the big race.
The $1 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup: Nothing on Super Saturday pointed to this 2-mile staying race.
The $1 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile: Trainer Bhupat Seemar saddled the first- and third-place finishers in the Group 3 Burj Nahaar, Discovery Island and Royal Mews, respectively, and told interviewers he might have three or four starters in the Mile.
The $1 million Group 2 UAE Derby: Go Soldier Go came with a rush to land the Al Bastikiya Stakes for 3-year-olds by a head from Mr Raj with American import Ami Please third. Go Soldier Go is a likely starter in the Derby, which at this point does not look like a strong race.
The $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen: Sound Money, previously trained by Chad Brown in New York, came off a long layoff to dominate the Group 3 Mahab al Shimal and looks like a strong contender for the big dirt sprint on World Cup night. The Golden Shaheen, however, usually attracts a good international crowd.
The $1.5 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint: Godolphin's Al Suhail and a brilliant 3-year-old, Al Dasim, won the two turf sprints on the Super Saturday program, but both now might be put away for spring and summer campaigns in Europe.
Legarto and Communist split Saturday's dueling Guineas down under.
Legarto, with Michael Dee up, just edged fellow long shot Attrition in the Group 1 Australian Guineas with the favorite, Jacquinot, relegated to sixth, 1 3/4 lengths adrift of the winner. Legarto, a New Zealand-bred filly by Proisir, now has three wins from four starts for her connections.
The Group 1 The Agency Randwick Guineas was an all-long shot affair with a pair of 15-1 chances, Communist and Lindermann, reporting 1-2 and the favorite, Aft Cabin finishing 1 3/4 lengths aft of the winner in fourth.
Communist, a Russian Revolution gelding, scored just fourth win with Zac Purton dropping in from Hong Kong to apply the winning ride.
Purton made the trip even more worthwhile as he rode another long shot, Artorious, to win the Group 1 Furphy Canterbury Stakes at Randwick.
Artorious was making his second start back in Australia after a 2022 trip to England that saw him finish third in both the Group I Platinum Jubilee at Royal Ascot and the Group I Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
Native Australian Purton is unhappily riding out a suspension in Hong Kong, where he is the runaway leading rider, and has talked openly for months about the possibility of changes in his career.
France / England
The All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifier program wound up its long run with weekend races in France and England.
Loubeisien, a 4-year-old Kheleyf colt, is under consideration for Finals Day on Good Friday after winning the Prix Anabaa at Chantilly Saturday, a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 All-Weather Sprint Championships.
Trainer Christophe Ferland said Loubeisien's "two options are the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai if he is invited, or the All-Weather Championships final at Newcastle."
At Lingfield Park on Saturday, Iconic Moment defeated stablemate New Definition in a Fast-Track Qualifier and may now bid to try the £150,000 All-Weather Three-Year-Old Championships.
The Harry Angel colt remains undefeated after three starts, all on all-weather tracks, but also holds an entry for the QIPCO 2000 Guineas, so the picture is not entirely clear.
It's early innings yet for the 3-year-old Classics contenders, but weekend action saw some formful results from the colts and something less from the fillies.
Tastiera, Top Knife and One Direct, three of the four favorites, came home in that order in Sunday's Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho Deep Impact Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse.
Tastiera, a Satono Crown colt, won by 1 length over Top Knife, by Declaration of War. Tastiera now has two wins from three starts. The race is a Japanese 2000 Guineas Trial.
On Saturday at Nakayama, long shots Mozu Meimei and Kona Coast reported 1-2 at the end of the Grade 2 Tulip Sho, a 1000 Guineas Trial, with the favorite, Dura, finishing 15th. Mozu Meimei, by Real Impact, was dispatched at double-digit odds despite having two wins and a third from three previous starts.
Dura had two wins as a juvenile before finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies. She was badly impeded at the top of the stretch when starting a move from far back in the field.
Meanwhile, back in the States
Summer Shoes led all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory over Kaboom Baby in Saturday's $150,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares. The favorite, Connie K, weakened to finish third.
Summer Shoes, a 5-year-old mare by Commander's Shoes, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.68 with Chel-c Bailey riding.
Gar Hole shot to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for state-breds and wasn't caught, winning by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Twisted Dixie and Bandit Point completed the trifecta.
Gar Hole, a 5-year-old Shortleaf Stable gelding by Tekton, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.00 with Ricardo Santana Jr. at the controls.
Big Chopper battled to the front late in Saturday's $75,000 Edward J. Johnston Memorial for Louisiana-breds and held on to win by a nose over the onrushing odds-on favorite, Who Took the Money.
Big Chopper, a 4-year-old colt by Shackleford, ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:42.18.
Fort Polk worked to the lead nearing the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $75,000 Red Camelia Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares and held off A G's Charlotte to win by 1/2 length.
Fort Polk, a 7-year-old Behindatthebar mare, ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:42.31.
Senor Buscador drew clear of five overmatched rivals in the final furlong of Sunday's $100,000 Curribot Handicap for New Mexico-bred, winning by 4 lengths over Limonite. The 5-year-old son of Mineshaft ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.75 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.
Corrina Corrina chased down pacesetting Bye Bye Brandy in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Peppers Pride Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and prevailed by 1/2 length over that stubborn foe, running 1 mile in 1:37.43 with Ken Tohill up.
The race is named for the New Mexico-bred mare who retired in 2008 with a record of 19-0 -- all in the Land of Enchantment.