Forte Adds Blinkers for Final G2 Jim Dandy Tune Up

July 22, 2023

Forte (outside) works in company with Emmanuel over Saratoga’s main track (NYRA/Coglianese)

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NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— 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.”

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