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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach, FL,  March 5, 2023 – Analysts are fond of recalling the now famous Wayne Lukas line about handicappers have opinions but horses have the answers.

It has another application, too, about turf writers and handicappers having questions. Well, Forte answered questions about readiness, sharpness, affinity for Gulfstream Park and his transition at 3, in Saturday’s G2 Fountain of Youth.

Now to paraphrase Oaklawn Park race caller Vic Stauffer, Forte was both strong and straight as he motored down the lane in Hallandale, no more bearing in as he launches passed another field.

Obviously, Todd Pletcher, winning his fourth race on the day, had him perfectly prepared. Once again, the colt was his professional self, extricating himself from a minor speed jam at lower first turn, saving ground on a deep inside, tipped four wide, and rolled on, Irad Ortiz Jr. shutting him down inside the final sixteenth.

Forte also helped Pletcher come close to finalize the site of his final Derby prep. Known for trying repeating patterns that worked in the past, The Blue Grass probably topped the list, Forte having won two Grade 1s there.

The Florida Derby likely is his top choice, providing an additional fifth week between final prep and big dance. Additionally, Pletcher might as well try in win a sixth Florida Derby in the last 10 years en route to becoming the 25th Florida Derby runner to win the roses.

As for the Eastern-based competition, most will probable seek to run where Forte is a no-show. And should the champion repeat as expected, and should the brilliant Arabian Knight win the Arkansas Derby, another East-West showdown would loom on May’s first Saturday.

East vs West. Speed vs Stamina. Now that would be another one of those history-defining racing matchups worth anticipating.

Trips Dictate San Felipe and Gotham Results 

Tim Yakteen, former and current assistant to Bob Baffert, won a “Win and In” Derby prep with one of his owner charges, Practical Move, sitting a perfect rail trip beneath Ramon Vasquez, remaining on the fence and getting through approaching headstretch, for a comprehensive G2 San Felipe score.

Well done by Yakteen and staff, who had the colt set for his first start since taking the G2 Los Al Futurity DEC 17. Post race, Yakteen said he matured physically from 2 to 3 and would have one more pre-Derby ran …  

The Pegasus World Cup Invitational had its form confirmed when third finisher Stilleto Boy returned to win the Santa Anita Handicap for Ed Moger and Kent Desormeaux…

Gold Phoenix won the G1 Kilroe Mile for Phil D’Amato, aka the Chad Brown of the West, and Kazushi Kimura, who saved ground throughout and found a seam in the lane…

In a race marred by the unseating of J.D. Acosta from formerly undefeated Parx shipper Howgreatisnate. Raise Cane proved much the best to win the G3 Gotham Mile by 7-1/2 lengths over a sealed, muddy surface.

Aided greatly by extremely fast fractions, Jose Lezcano asked entering the far turn, and the second Violence colt to win a prep on Saturday (Forte) responded with a big move splitting horses, had to check while In close quarters briefly, before making the winning run after tipping out for room. He needed 26 3/5 seconds to get the one mile trip…

Strong Fountain of Youth Undercard

Up to the Mark [3rd race]showed a bold turn of late foot to win a preliminary allowances; stakes bound sooner of later … Tough beat for those who back first-time starter Let It Ride [4th] setting hot, pressured pace on dead inside going seventh-eighths, beaten in the last jump by Bill Mott-trained newcomer ScotlandWhite Abarrio [7th] appreciated the turn-back to 7 furlongs and the class relief to win an NX2-optional in 1:22.05, rolling on yesterday’s sun-dulled strip …

Turf has given Emmanuel [G3 Canadian Turf] a new lease on life at 4, winning his second straight on the lawn, overcoming some difficultly in the running with newly found late kick … Danse Macabre [G3 Herecomesthebride] was ridden as if she was the best horse and rewarded Adam Beschizza’s confidence with a 3-psth stalk all effort, challenged by a fresh challenger in midstretch but wouldn’t let her by. Good job by rider and trainer Kelsey Danner, filly with a future …

The difference maker in the G2 GP Mile is that Endorsed had more recent conditioning as was coming off a mile race as opposed to odds-on Charge It who was backing up from a two-turn 1-1/16 miles. He was sharper and clearly best…

Dorth Vader [Davona Dale] was a reach but not an impossible winner, having run fast twice prior to yesterday’s mile run. She hounded favorite Red Carpet Ready throughout and beat her on the square, taking Grade 2 by open lengths. Guns n’ Graces roared home for the place. The final quarter went in a pokey 27.02 seconds…

Gulfstream Park handle Saturday was $32.6 million, falling short of last year’s record mark of $36.1 million. Hard to argue with numbers that high, and totally unreasonable to expect that this money pit is bottomless. Once again, good racing was good business.

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