Forbidden Kingdom Reigns in GII Hernandez

December 30, 2023

Comebacking Forbidden Kingdom all business under Flavien Prat in Grade II, $200,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Race Moved From Hillside To Flat Course Due To Early Morning Rains

Mike Willman/Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.—Considered a top-tier Derby prospect early last year but winless in his last six starts, Richard Mandella’s Forbidden Kingdom came back running following a nearly six month freshening to take Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes by a half-length while negotiating 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.92. The Hernandez, originally scheduled at about 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, was moved off the hill due to early morning rain that measured four tenths of an inch. 

Ridden for the first time by Flavien Prat, Forbidden Kingdom, who was trying turf for the second time, showed an abundance of natural speed out of the gate and had a half-length advantage on eventual runner-up Dancing Buck three furlongs from home.

Turning for home, Forbidden Kingdom, running at the rail, raced head and head with Dancing Buck to the sixteenth pole, where Forbidden Kingdom was able to establish a half-length edge, which held to the wire.

A winner of the prestigious Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 5, 2022 and subsequently a well beaten sixth as the even money favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Forbidden Kingdom had been idle since fourth in the Grade II Triple Bend Stakes here on May 27.

Off today at 4-1 in a field of 12 three-year-olds and up, Forbidden Kingdom paid $10.60, $6.40 and $5.80.


A 4-year-old colt by American Pharoah out of the Five Star Day mare Just Louise, Forbidden Kingdom, who is owned by Spendthrift Farm, LLC and MyRacehorse, notched his third career Grade II victory and improved his overall race record to 12-4-3-2. With today’s winner’s share of $120,000, he increased his earnings to $679,500.

Ridden by Edwin Maldonado for Richard Dutrow, Dancing Buck, who broke from post position 12, ran too good to lose as he pressed the winner throughout, never threw in the towel and was easily second best, finishing 1 ¾ lengths in front of Turn On The Jets.

Off at 13-1, Dancing Buck paid $13.20 and $9.60.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez for Phil D’Amato, Irish-bred Turn On The Jets, who was attentive to the pace, was off at 6-1 and paid $5.80 to show while holding off Daniel’s Magic by a neck.

Fractions on the race were 23.99, 48.19 and 1:09.16.

Grade II, $200,000 Joe Hernandez Stakes Quotes

Forbidden Kingdom ruled with Flavien Prat aboard. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
Forbidden Kingdom ruled with Flavien Prat aboard. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Jockey Quotes
Flavien Prat, Forbidden Kingdom, Winner: “He was training really well coming into the race. We were very confident. He got me into the race right away and used all his speed. From there we were able to get some fractions and he kicked home well.”

Trainer Quotes
Richard Mandella, Forbidden Kingdom, Winner: “I always thought that he would like the grass but when I ran him as a two-year-old on it, he didn’t do that good. He didn’t know what he was doing back then. We’ve also been on kind of a losing streak with him a while, so my confidence level was not great. He’s always trained like a really good horse, and he is a really good horse. He fought an intestinal problem a year ago and it took I’m a while to get over it. I think now we are back in the game.

“I can’t say enough about Spendthrift Farm and MyRacehorse to tell me to take the time that I wanted and do it right. Get him back slow and here’s what you get. That’s what racing is all about. It is not, What is this month’s bottom line? It is trying to make the best thing out of what you’ve got.

“I’m going to enjoy this moment for as long as I can.” 

Well done Jon. TY. twitter.com/pastthewire/st…

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