SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Veteran war horse Whitmore will face off against three other Grade 1 winners in Saturday’s 41st running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Forego presented by America’s Best Racing at Saratoga Race Course.
The seven-furlong event for older horses over the main track is named in honor of one of the greatest racehorses of all time, who won eight Eclipse Awards during a storied racing career. Owned by Martha F. Gerry’s Lazy F Ranch, Forego was named Horse of the Year for three straight years (1974-76) while displaying versatility having won stakes at distancing ranging from seven furlongs to 2 miles. Forego won some of New York’s most historic races on multiple occasions including the Woodward (1974-77); the Met Mile (1976-77); the Brooklyn (1974-76).
Boasting a record of 35-14-11-3 and lifetime earnings of over $3.1 million, Whitmore will attempt to join Groovy (1986-87) and Quick Call (1988-89) as the only horses to win multiple editions of the Forego.
A winner of the 2018 Forego over subsequent Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup winner City of Light, Whitmore boasts six graded stakes victories including three triumphs, in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park [2017-18 and 2020]. In addition to wins in the 2017 Grade 3 Maryland Sprint at Pimlico and Grade 2 Phoenix at Keeneland, the 7-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect has also scored four straight editions of Oaklawn’s Hot Springs, winning every year since 2017.
Owned by trainer Ron Moquett in partnership with Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Partners, Whitmore arrives at the race off a runner-up finish to Volatile in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt on July 25 at the Spa. Moquett originally intended on training up to the Phoenix at Keeneland en route to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where Whitmore has finished a respective second and third in the last two runnings.
“I always leave it up to the horse,” Moquett said. “We came out of the last race fresh and in good shape, so I decided I’d run him once before the Phoenix instead of having to work him back a couple times. The thing about New York in Grade 1s is that they always show up, so you got to bring your ‘A’ game. It’s a talented group of trainers and big group of owners that want to win.”
Whitmore has breezed twice over the Churchill Downs main track since the Vanderbilt, most recently breezing five-eighths in 1:02.60 on August 22.
Moquett said a clean trip is the key to a positive result for Whitmore.
“That’s the main thing,” Moquett said. “Pace makes the race as we’ve seen in a lot of these races. He’s always good enough to make a big difference but you want him to do it without being put at a disadvantage.”
Whitmore has displayed the ability to perform well wherever Moquett sends him having won over six different tracks, including Oaklawn Park where he has won nine of his 14 victories.
“I’ve always been able to draw the line through that excuse,” Moquett said. “I hear gamblers say that he’s an Oaklawn horse, but people forget that we ran behind the champion sprinter Roy H in the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill. He’s run against Mitole, where he had to go up against the track bias at Santa Anita and make up ground to run third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last year. So, he’s always been a horse that’s been able to put up a strong effort anywhere.”
At the age of 7, Whitmore will attempt to become the oldest horse to win the prestigious Spa sprint.
“He likes to run,” Moquett said. “I’ve had some horses that you can tell aren’t interested in racing after a while, but the horse always makes the decision of what they do in our barn. So, we ask the questions and with Whitmore, he’s always answered that he wants to go have fun and run.
“He’s nobody’s pet,” Moquett continued. “He shows up with his work boots and lets you do whatever you do that takes care of him. He’s just okay with chilling out at the back of his stall. He’s a very smart horse.”
Jockey Luis Saez, who previously rode Whitmore to a runner-up effort in 2019 Count Fleet behind Mitole, will return from post 2.
“A lot of riders have ridden Whitmore and a lot of riders have had success with him, we were happy we were able to snatch up Saez,” Moquett said.
Looking to become a Grade 1 winner at the Spa at ages 2, 3, and 4 is Red Oak Stable and Madaket Stables’ Mind Control, who was third in the Vanderbilt last out.
Trained by Gregg Sacco, the 4-year-old son of Stay Thirsty was an upset winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful in September 2018 and went on to take the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens presented by Runhappy the following year at the Spa.
Since the Vanderbilt, Mind Control has trained forwardly for Sacco at his Monmouth Park base, recording a trio of breezes over the New Jersey oval. He recently went five eighths in 1:01.20 on August 22.
“He came out of the Vanderbilt in great shape,” Sacco said. “He had three works at Monmouth and each one was right on queue. We’re really happy where he’s at with his training and the way his attitude is going into the Forego.”
Mind Control was entered in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Phillip H. Iselin at Monmouth Park, but scratched in favor of the Forego.
“We took a look at it,” Sacco said of the Iselin. “We had [multiple stakes winner] Bal Harbour entered in there as well for [owner] Mr. Brunetti [of Red Oak Stable] and he wanted to take a look at the race, so we entered just to see what was in there and decided to go with our original plan of running in the Forego.”
A five-time graded stakes winner, Mind Control began his 2020 campaign with scores in the Toboggan and Tom Fool (both Grade 3 events at Aqueduct) before finishing a distant sixth over a sloppy going at Belmont Park in the Grade 1 Runhappy Carter on June 6 en route to the Vanderbilt.
Sacco was proud of his horse’s effort in the short but compact Vanderbilt field, where he was only 1 ½ lengths beaten to Volatile.
“Volatile is arguably the best sprinter in the country and Mind Control ran a dynamite race,” Sacco said. “It wasn’t our original plan to cut him back to six furlongs. He didn’t run his race in the Carter, but he didn’t care for the track. He didn’t really benefit from that, so we wanted a solid race like the Vanderbilt in preparation for the Forego.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, a two-time winner of the Forego, has been aboard Mind Control for four of his five graded stakes wins and will retain the mount from post 10.
Trainer Chad Brown will saddle Grade 1 winner Complexity and lightly-raced Fortin Hill.
Owned by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables, Complexity arrives off an allowance optional claiming victory going a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.
The 4-year-old son of Maclean’s Music will seek a triumphant return to Grade 1 form having won the Grade 1 Champagne in October 2018 at Belmont Park over eventual Runhappy Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Code of Honor.
Jockey Jose Ortiz has been aboard for all but one of Complexity’s seven lifetime starts and will be aboard from post 6.
OXO Equine’s Fortin Hill is the only Forego contender with no prior experience against stakes company but has won three of his four lifetime starts. The son of Mucho Macho Man was a recent allowance winner at Belmont Park going the Forego distance, where he bested stakes winner Amundson while registering a 101 Beyer.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. attempt a ninth stakes win of the meet when piloting Fortin Hill from post 11.
Mr. Amore’s Firenze Fire, who was second in last year’s Forego, will seek his first Grade 1 triumph since taking the 2017 Champagne during his 2-year-old campaign.
Trained by Kelly Breen, the Florida-bred son of Poseidon’s Warrior is a six-time graded stakes winner dating back to the Grade 3 Sanford in July 2017, which was his lone victory at the Spa. During his 3-year-old season he recorded two graded stakes victories including a nine-length triumph in the Grade 3 Dwyer, where he garnered a career-best 107 Beyer, and a close win in the Grade 3 Gallant Bloom at Parx. Firenze Fire was victorious in his seasonal bow, which took place in the Grade 3 General George on February 15 at Laurel Park.
Breaking from post 8, Firenze Fire will receive the riding services of Junior Alvarado, who piloted 2013 Forego winner Strapping Groom.
After scoring his first career Grade 1 victory with Vexatious in the Personal Ensign earlier this month, trainer Jack Sisterson will send out three contestants for the Forego on behalf of Calumet Farm.
Everfast, a runner-up in last year’s Grade 1 Preakness Stakes to War of Will, defeated winners for the first time last out in a seven-furlong tilt at the Spa, winning by 2 ½ lengths as the favorite.
The son of Take Charge Indy worked a half-mile in 49.20 seconds over the Oklahoma training track on August 22.
“He’s coming in extremely well,” Sisterson said. “I think it was the best breeze I’ve seen form him. Typically, he can be a lazy horse on his own. I really believe he came out of the win better than he did than going in. He really stepped up his game training wise and he’s telling us he’s ready for another opportunity at a Grade 1.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. will look to be the first jockey to win three straight editions of the Forego since Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey (2001-03) as he pilots Everfast from post 1.
Lexitonian was close to tasting a Grade 1 win last out with a late-closing second in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar. The winner of last year’s Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico displayed different tactics last out and made up ten lengths coming from well off the pace.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” Sisterson said of the chestnut son of Speightstown. “He made up some ground late in the Bing Crosby. He shown a new dynamic of running. He really likes to be forwardly placed and runs well with some pressure around him. California speed is a different kind of speed, he got ran off his feet earlier and picked up his momentum later on.”
Lexitonian will be ridden by Jose Lezcano from post 3.
Rounding out Sisterson’s trio is True Timber, who seeks his first stakes triumph after having acquired graded stakes black type seven times.
The 6-year-old son of Mineshaft boasts earnings just over the million-dollar mark and made his debut for Sisterson off a five-month layoff against tough allowance optional claiming company going 6 ½ furlongs on July 12 at Keeneland.
Formerly conditioned by Kiaran McLaughlin, True Timber has placed twice in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and the Grade 3 Bold Ruler at Belmont Park.
“He’s a beautiful looking horse and he was sent to us in great shape,” Sisterson said. “We just gave him a break after running some tough races. We allowed him to put his feet where he wanted to from a training standpoint. He moved forward each week. It was a perfect allowance spot at Keeneland bringing him back. It was a difficult race. From a standpoint of him finishing third it was a steppingstone.”
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who was aboard True Timber for his maiden victory in December 2016 and piloted the horse to a pair of graded stakes placings in the Grade 3 Jerome and Grade 3 Withers, will be reunited with True Timber from post 5.
Four-time New York-bred stakes winner Funny Guy will attempt to become the first horse bred in the Empire State to win the Forego since Palace in 2014.
Owned by Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable and Swick Stables, the 4-year-old Big Brown colt won the John Morrissey on July 30 at the Spa going the Forego distance. He made his seasonal bow in the Commentator on June 12 at Belmont Park, where he recorded a career best 101 Beyer. Funny Guy was sixth in his lone open company start in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby last September and will look to give trainer John Terranova and co-owner Gatsas Stables their first win in the Forego since Shadow Caster won in 2000.
Jockey Joel Rosario will attempt his ninth stakes win of the meet when piloting Funny Guy from post 4.
Rounding out the field are Live Oak Plantation’s Win Win Win [post 7, Javier Castellano] and R. A. Hill Stable’s Majestic Dunhill [post 9, Manny Franco], both of whom are stakes winners on both dirt and turf.
Mitole wins the 2019 Forego
The Forego is slated as Race 8 on Saturday’s 11-race card, which offers a first post of 1:10 p.m. Eastern. Saratoga Live will present daily television coverage of the 40-day summer meet on FOX Sports and MSG Networks. For the complete Saratoga Live broadcast schedule, and additional programming information, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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Entries for Saturday, August 29
Photo: Whitmore wins the 2020 Count Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn. Credit: Coady Photography