Forte Overhauls Heavy Favorite Cave Rock In Breeders' Cup Juvenile - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Forte Overhauls Heavy Favorite Cave Rock In Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Irad Ortiz, Jr. celebrates Forte’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Cave Rock was touted as one of the most likely winners on Breeders' Cup weekend, and indeed, the dual Grade 1-winning 2-year-old colt went off at odds of 2-5 in Friday's $2 million Juvenile.

On the track, however, it was Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's Forte who was able to make a big move late and run down the favorite for a 1 1/2-length victory. Piloted by Irad Ortiz, Jr. on behalf of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, the son of Violence paid $12.04 to win. With a win already over the Keeneland surface in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity, Forte doubled up at the Lexington oval with a final time of 1:43.06 for 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track.

“Obviously delighted with everything,” Pletcher said. “He got a beautiful trip. Just kept coming. I think we both got a fair run at it today (referring to being second choice to Cave Rock).”

The victory is the 13th for Pletcher in the Breeders' Cup and third in this race. His previous winners were Uncle Mo in 2010 and Shanghai Bobby in 2012. It is the first victory in the race for Ortiz and 15th overall in the World Championships, and it was the second Breeders' Cup Juvenile win for owner Mike Repole, who won with Uncle Mo 12 years ago.

The victory also earns Forte 30 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Runner-up Cave Rock and third-place finisher National Treasure, both trained by Bob Baffert, will not earn Derby points due to the trainer's ban from Churchill Downs, which extends through Kentucky Derby 2023.

“Forte ran a great race and came and got us,” Baffert said of beaten favorite Cave Rock. “I knew they went very fast early and I thought Juan (Hernandez) did a good job. He stayed away when they were going fast and slowed it down. He didn't switch leads until way late. He got tired and that other horse came running. He ran a big race. There is a reason why he won three in a row. He'll get a lot out of it. He's a big, strong horse. It's a different kind of surface, but he had every chance to win, even though he was going fast. I noticed today that the track is drying out. It's not as fast as the old Keeneland-type tracks. They showed up. They ran well.”

Cave Rock was challenged early on by 70-1 longshot Hurricane J, pressing the favorite through fractions of :22.90 and :47.01. Curly Jack and Forte remained third and fourth early on until National Treasure rushed up halfway down the backstretch take over second position.

Jockey Juan Hernandez kept Cave Rock four paths off the rail down the backstretch, likely in an effort to keep the colt from engaging with Hurricane J on his inside. Cave Rock dropped back down to the rail around the far turn and was in the lead turning for home.

Forte was along the rail in fifth, about four lengths off the lead around the far turn, when Ortiz put him under a drive and angled out to make his run. Ortiz kept Forte well out in the center of the track as the colt blew past Cave Rock. The favorite faltered in the stretch, refusing to change leads until nearly the sixteenth pole.

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At that point it was too little, too late, as Forte and Ortiz kicked clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Cave Rock had to settle for second, while National Treasure hung on to finish third.

“Beautiful trip,” said Ortiz. “I broke good, saved some ground around the first turn and took my time down the backside. I started making my move around turn. I hit him once and he responded. He deserves all the credit.”

It did appear as if Ortiz used his whip as many as eight times during the running of the Juvenile. Under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority rules, in place for the Breeders' Cup for the first time this year, eight strikes would amount to a class 3 violation. Sanctions for Ortiz would include a one-day suspension and a fine consisting of 10 percent of the rider's share of the purse.

The full order of finish is as follows: Forte, Cave Rock, National Treasure, Blazing Sevens, Curly Jack, Verifying, Hurricane J, Congruent, Wound Up, and Lost Ark. Lost Ark walked across the wire, but appeared fine; he was unsaddled and walked home under his own power.

Bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm, Forte is the first foal out of the five time stakes-winning Blame mare Queen Caroline. Forte commanded a final bid of $110,000 when consigned by Eaton Sales at the Keeneland September sale. He won impressively on debut in May, then ran fourth in the G3 Sanford Stakes. Forte returned to win both the G1 Hopeful and G1 Breeders' Futurity ahead of the Breeders' Cup.

In the Futurity, Forte ran a bit greenly late in the stretch, but there was nothing but professionalism in Friday's Juvenile.

“He got that two-turn experience (in the Breeders' Futurity) and it paid off today,” Pletcher said. “He's much more professional today. We learned a little something (from the Breeders' Futurity) and we tweaked off the last race and it paid off coming here.

“The last time, he made the lead pretty comfortably, but he got to waiting and laying on the horse next to him so today, if we were lucky enough to get in a position to get (the lead), we wanted to give ourselves plenty of space and not get close to the horse next to him.”

Now, the colt's career record stands at four wins from five starts with earnings of $1,595,150.

Forte defeats Cave Rock in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile

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