11 Could Be Forte’s Lucky Number

March 31, 2023

Forte emphatically making his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth. (Lauren King)

Derby Dispatch

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte has been the talk of the Road to the Kentucky Derby for nearly six months and now the 3-year-old will have his final stop before the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park. 

Forte, who was tabbed as the heavy 4-5 favorite, drew post No. 11 of 12 in the Florida Derby. The 1 1/8-mile race has a post time of 6:40 p.m. (all times Eastern). 

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Forte made his seasonal debut four weeks ago in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (GII) where he defeated eight rivals by 4 1⁄2 lengths. The son of Violence jumped onto the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the Oct. 8 Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland where he gamely held off Loggins by a neck. One month later, Forte rallied from four lengths off the early pace in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) to win by 1 1⁄2 lengths and cement juvenile championship honors. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. has been aboard Forte for all six of his lifetime starts. Forte’s only blemish on his résumé is a fourth-place finish in the Sanford (GIII) on July 16 at Saratoga. 

Drawn one spot to Forte’s inside is SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan’s Fort Bragg. Tabbed as the 5-1 second choice on the morning line odds, Fort Bragg finished third in the Los Alamitos Futurity and fifth in the San Felipe (GII). The Tim Yakteen-trained son of Tapit was originally entered in last Sunday’s Sunland Park Derby (GIII) but his connections opted to run in the Florida Derby. Joel Rosario will have the call. 

Drawn in post 12 is West Paces Racing and Stonestreet Stables’ Remsen (GII) winner Dubyuhnell. Trained by Danny Gargan, Dubyuhnell enters the Florida Derby from a seven-week absence following an enigmatic eighth-place finish in the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs. Dubyuhnell will be ridden by Jose Ortiz. 

Fans can watch and wager on the Florida Derby on www.TwinSpires.com, the official wagering provider of Churchill Downs Incorporated and the Kentucky Derby. 

Florida Derby Quotes  

Todd Pletcher trainer, Forte: “The Fountain of Youth couldn’t have gone any better for us. When Irad and I spoke before the race we kind of had a certain plan in mind and sort of had laid out where we hoped he would be. As you know a lot of times when the gate opens things can change and you have to be prepared to adjust to that but really the race unfolded almost exactly the way we thought it would and we were in exactly the position we hoped we would be. 

“The real key is when called upon, he was there. Irad’s gotten to know this colt really well. He’s rode him in every start, and he’s worked him quite a few times. I think part of what we’ve been trying to do in the mornings is sort of replicate his running style, sitting of a horse just a little bit and then teaching him to finish up and kind of stay focused. As impressively as he’s won a couple of these races, he’s kind of come to the wire with his ears up taking everything in. Obviously, as these races get a little more difficult, he’ll need to stay focused.” 

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