Forte Cruises To Victory In Hopeful Stakes In Spa’s Closing Day Finale - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Forte Cruises To Victory In Hopeful Stakes In Spa’s Closing Day Finale

Forte captures the G1 Hopeful under Irad Ortiz Jr. at Saratoga

Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Forte roared back from an unplaced finish last time out to score a convincing win over Gulfport in the 300,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) for 2-year-olds Monday, closing day at Saratoga.

A Violence colt ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte won by three lengths and finished the seven-furlong test in 1:22.58 on a sloppy (sealed) track.

Behind horses through a :45.57 half mile as even-money favorite Gulfport led the way, Forte willingly responded when called upon and seized the lead at the five-sixteenths pole as Gulfport floated out about five wide on the off track. Forte knuckled down in the run to the finish line with Gulfport in pursuit and scored the clear victory.

Gulfport, ridden by Flavien Prat, outfinished Blazing Seven by nine lengths for second.

In his previous start, Forte was fourth in the Sanford July 16 at Saratoga. A 7 3/4-length debut winner May 27 debut for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher at Belmont Park, Forte closed from seventh of 12 in the Sanford, but could not get to winner Mo Strike, who finished fourth in the Hopeful.

Forte, who returned $15.80, was bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm. His dam is the Blame mare Queen Caroline. Forte's connections paid $110,000 to acquire him from the Eaton Sales consignment at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

                                                                        G1 Hopeful Quotes

Todd Pletcher, winning trainer of Forte (No. 2, $15.80): “He came really energetic into the paddock, but it was a good energy, though. You could tell he was kind of enjoying the rain and playing in the slop and splashing in the puddles in the paddock. I love the way he kicked away from the pony, he warmed up awesome.

“Last time, he wasn't able to get extracted into the clear until really, really late. When he did, he showed some interest. He came back and trained really well with some older horses. His last breeze was with Bal Harbour who won earlier on the card. There were a lot of good indications that he was going to rebound and run to his capabilities, but you never know until you see it. I felt like the added distance was in his favor and he's a nice colt.

“We were looking for the outside but if you watch the head on, the outside was way, way out there. So, there was no other option other than to stay in. We tried to stay off the rail a little bit even though he was on the inside. There were puddles down in there and we wanted to get on the best part of the racetrack. Watching the head on, they were pretty spread out.”

On running over a sloppy track: “I thought he would handle it well. We've never breezed him in it, but the way he galloped over it, I thought he would handle it. Pedigree wise, I thought he'd handle it well, too.”

On next start: “Our first reaction was to go to the [Grade 1, $500,000] Champagne [on October 1 at Aqueduct Racetrack], but we'll talk to Vinnie [Viola of St. Elias Stable] and Mike [Repole of Repole Stable] and come up with a game plan. The Champagne is a race we've always thought highly of and that would be first on the radar.”

On the meet: “We had an awesome meet. Our team did an excellent job and worked super hard from Day One to the last day. To win the races that we've won, that's awesome. We were excited coming into the meet to have the opportunity to train some horses like we have. To see them deliver was great. Nest had a tremendous meet to win two Grade 1s. Life Is Good won the [Grade 1] Whitney, the [Grade 1] Personal Ensign with Malathaat and a 2-year-old Grade 1 win today. I couldn't be happier.”

Mike Repole, winning co-owner of Forte (No. 2): “This is what we're about. Vinnie, Todd and I made a big investment last year. The team from Jim Martin, Ed Rosen, Danielle Bricker, and Jacob West. This is what we do. It's been fun, Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] has been winning some big races for us, Todd and I have been friends for a long, long time. It's been a lot of fun.

“It was a great meet, or the best meet probably I've had. I won the Coaching Club and Alabama with Stopchargingmaria [in 2014]. I've run in this race, ran second with Stay Thirsty, so to win this race is special. It's called the Hopeful for a reason.”

Irad Ortiz Jr., winning jockey aboard Forte (No. 2): “It feels great. All the connections were here and they were waiting for this race. To end [the meet] with this win is great. Everybody is happy.

“They ran away from me a little bit and my horse doesn't have that kind of speed. I didn't panic, I knew we'd be in the back. I kept him in the race and in the turn I started working on him. He started to pick it up slowly, but he picked it up. At the top of the stretch, I hit him [with the crop] a couple times and he responded really well. I knew I had a chance to win, so I just kept him busy.”

On a strong pre-race warmup: “He was enjoying the time out there. He saw the water and was playing in it, so I thought maybe he'd like the slop. Todd [Pletcher] told me to warm him up good before the race, I just tried to follow instructions and it worked out good.”

Flavien Prat, aboard runner-up Gulfport (No. 4): “He broke well. I got myself in a good spot. When I got to the five-sixteenths pole, he kind of went out and as soon as he saw the winner [No 2, Forte] coming through the inside, he kind of went out more.”

Winning margin: three lengths

Final time (seven furlongs): 1:22.58

Fractions: 22.74, 45.57, 1:10.17

Full order of finish: 2-4-6-5-3-1


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