There is something about a savage finish
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Yaupon turned back a furious challenge from Firenze Fire to capture a dramatic renewal of Saturday’s Grade 1, $600,000 Forego, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses at Saratoga Race Course.
Yaupon, with Ricardo Santana, Jr. up, and Firenze Fire, piloted by Jose Ortiz, ran one-two throughout the 42nd edition of the Forego with a determined Firenze Fire savaging his rival inside the final sixteenth of a mile, biting at the halter of Yaupon, who pulled away to secure the win by a head.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Yaupon set splits of 23.09 seconds and 45.70 on the fast main track, with Firenze Fire at his flank and multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Control saving ground in fourth inside Doubly Blessed.
Firenze Fire took dead aim racing outside of Yaupon out of the turn and the rivals threw it down the length of the stretch with Yaupon securing his first Grade 1-win in a final time of 1:21.74.
“It’s very exciting to have a winner of the Grade 1 Forego for the Heiligbrodts. But the finish made it that much more dramatic,” Asmussen said. “I will watch that replay many times in my future. For that to happen in a Grade 1 at Saratoga with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable.
“Honestly, I watched it from the apron down the stretch. I was worried he was going to bite Ricardo,” he added. “We’ve had some not ideal finishes this year and you’re not there until you get to the wire. Everybody’s always known what a brilliant horse he is, the talent that he’s shown, and for him to show up today on a stage and beat five Grade 1 winners was amazing.”
It was the second Forego victory for Asmussen, who captured the 2019 running with the Heiligbrodt-owned Mitole, who went on to win that year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint en route to Eclipse Award honors as Champion Male Sprinter.
Yaupon, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt, is undefeated in three starts at the Spa after winning a first-level allowance last July ahead of making the grade in the Grade 2 Amsterdam. He completed his sophomore season with a win in the Grade 3 Chick Lang in October at Pimlico before an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland.
A $255,000 purchase at the 2019 OBS June 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age Sale, Yaupon finished eighth in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March at Meydan to launch his campaign ahead of a swift score in the six-furlong Lite the Fuse at Pimlico on July 4 that garnered a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
Santana, Jr. said he felt he could command the race throughout.
“The last time I took him back, but I know the horse really well. Today, there was no speed in the race, so I decided to go and he’s a firing horse so thankfully we got the victory today,” Santana, Jr. said.
Santana, Jr., who picked up his third Forego win after scores with Whitmore  and Mitole, said he tried to focus on the task at hand in deep stretch.
“That was kind of scary. That never happened to me before and the only thing I can think is don’t stop riding,” Santana, Jr. said.
In winning the Grade 3 Gallant Bob in September 2018 at Parx, Firenze Fire was savaged in deep stretch by Whereshetoldmetogo.
This time around, with Firenze Fire the aggressor, Ortiz said the loss of momentum cost his charge the race.
“I had perfect position,” Ortiz said. “I stayed next to him [Yaupon] and I thought I had him beat, but you saw what happened inside the sixteenth [when] my horse tried to bite the other horse and I really had to get a hold of him to get him away from him.
“Honestly, it was really weird, I’ve never been in that [position] before,” he added. “He got me too close to the horse when he did that [savaging Yaupon]. The [gallop-out] was perfect; he came back in great order, I think he should’ve won that race.”
Chance It closed to finish third by a nose over Mind Control. Rounding out the order of finish were Whitmore, Mischevious Alex, Doubly Blessed and Lexitonian, who stumbled at the start.
Whitmore, who was pulled up after the wire and vanned off, was reported to be in good order by trainer Ron Moquett.
Bred in Kentucky by Betz Lamantia, Coco Equine, and Magers & Burns, Yaupon banked $320,000 in victory while improving his record to six wins from eight starts. He returned $6 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the $120,000 Better Talk Now, a one-mile inner-turf test for sophomores who have not won a stakes at one mile or over. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Race Course Press Release
Photo: Yaupon (inside) and Firenze Fire (outside), (Joe Labozetta Photo)