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Reigning juvenile champ Forte gets back on the board with win at Saratoga

Forte (center) wins the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, taking command among American 3-year-olds. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association
Forte (center) wins the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, taking command among American 3-year-olds. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association

July 31 (UPI) -- Forte went all out, and then some, to win Saturday's Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, but in the end. the 2022 juvenile champion got the job done to lay firm claim to the top spot among American 3-year-olds.

It was the other end of the spectrum for budding superstar Auguste Rodin in the King George in England -- a last-place finish and befuddlement for his connections.

Among all that, Elite Power continued his domination of the American sprint ranks in a busy weekend in that division.

Senor Buscador upset the Grade II San Diego Handicap.

Sunday's Bowling Green Stakes on the Saratoga turf was an eventful event, indeed, while trainer Phil D'Amato dominated the grass feature out west. And early results from the 2-year-old ranks continued to trickle in.

The Chosen Vron (right) wins the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
The Chosen Vron (right) wins the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club

The dramatic finish to the King George at Ascot in England headed the international action, which also includes Group 1 action in France, Germany and South Africa.

As seems to be the case almost every weekend in this zany year, the 3-year-olds take the spotlight again.

The 3-year-olds

Forte, the 2022 juvenile champion, had to muscle his way to running room at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, and then needed every step of the way home to get his nose in front of pacesetting Saudi Crown.

Angel of Empire, the horse Forte pushed out of his way, settled for third, even after the stewards reviewed the video and made no change to the order of finish.

Forte, a Violence colt trained by Todd Pletcher for Mike Repole and St. Elias Stables, finished the 1 1/8 miles in the slop on a nasty, blustery day at the Spa in 1:49.61 under Irad Ortiz Jr.

Pletcher said he felt the addition of blinkers helped Forte stand his ground in traffic on the turn and added he wasn't surprised others in the race tried to keep him from getting racing room at that key moment.

"We were expecting some race tactics. I think once he was able to get himself in the clear and the horse on the lead (Saudi Crown) kept drifting out, out, out and maybe into the eight path at one point, Irad said that compromised him a little bit from moving forward sooner," Pletcher said.

Many of the other claimants to 3-year-old honors sat out the race so the outcome didn't actually settle any scores in the division. That will have to wait for next month's Grade I Travers over the same track -- or perhaps even the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita.

But Forte, who was forced to scratch from the Kentucky Derby and then finished second in the Belmont Stakes, put up his marker as the one to beat next time around.

Pletcher has won the Travers, the "Midsummer Derby," twice, with Flower Alley in 2005 and Stay Thirsty in 2011. Both won the Jim Dandy en route.

"It's exciting and we've been fortunate that both our Travers winners came out of the Jim Dandy," Pletcher said Sunday morning after reporting all was good with Forte. "We'd love to do it again."

Sprint

Grade I sprint races a continent apart both produced stretch-duel finishes and likely contenders for November's Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Elite Power found his best stride in the final sixteenth of Saturday's $350,000 Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, reeling in free-running Gunite with a sustained drive that found him in front in the final strides.

It was another 6 1/4 lengths to pacesetter Dean Delivers in third.

Elite Power, a 5-year-old son of Curlin racing in the Juddmonte colors, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:09.22 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up for trainer Bill Mott.

It was his eighth straight win, including last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint and the rich Grade III Riyadh Dirt Sprint in Saudi Arabia in February. Elite power won the Eclipse Award as the champion sprinter of 2022.

"It looked like Gunite certainly had the jump on him turning for home," Mott said. "Great, great, great effort on this horse." Mott said the $500,000 Grade I Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 26 "certainly would be a possibility" for Elite Power.

At Del Mar, The Chosen Vron took the inside route in the stretch run of Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes and outfinished Anarchist and the favorite, Dr. Schievel, by a pair of heads.

The Chosen Vron, a 5-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.24 for jockey Hector Berios.

The Chosen Vron finished fifth in the 2022 Pat O'Brien Stakes at Del Mar, and then reeled off a seven-race winning streak, extended to eight with the Bing Crosby victory. None of the previous seven came in graded stakes and some were in races restricted to California-breds.

Trainer Eric Kruljac addressed the decision to run The Chosen Vron against top-level open company:

"If the next Cal-bred race had been on the dirt, I probably would not have gone today," Kruljac said. "I went back and forth and my foreman told me he would shoot me if I didn't run. So I thought we might take a shot."

New York Thunder blitzed down the stretch like lightning in Friday's $200,000 Grade II Amsterdam Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, drawing away from four rivals to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Deer District got a nose in front of the favorite, Drew's Gold, to finish second.

New York Thunder, a Kentucky-bred Nyquist colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.65 with Tyler Gaffalione up. He now is 4-for-4 and has won on dirt, turf and all-weather tracks for trainer Jorge Delgado.

Lightening Larry chased down pacesetting Wondrwherecraigis in deep stretch to win Saturday's $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park by 1/2 length over that rival.

Lightening Larry, a 4-year-old colt by Uncaptured, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.29 with Daniel Centeno in the irons for trainer Jorge Delgado. He returned exhibiting soreness and was vanned off after the race but Delgado reported Sunday the colt seemed fine.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Beguine led comfortably all the way to a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Alma North Stakes at Laurel Park.

The 4-year-old Gun Runner filly, with Jevian Toledo in the kip, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.83 to win her first stakes race.

She has been in the mix at higher levels, finishing second in the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn Park last year and fifth in the Grade II Bed o' Roses at Belmont Park in her most recent.

Turf

Nine-year-old Channel Maker scored a rare win with a front-running effort in Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga -- but only after some drama.

As Channel Maker was cruising along on the lead through the third turn, 2022 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Rebel's Romance clipped heels with a rival while making his move, stumbling and dislodging jockey Richard Mullen.

Rebel's Romance ran on, was nabbed by an outrider and walked off the course as Channel Maker was enjoying the winner's circle. Verstappen was second, 2 lengths behind the winner and a head in front of Never Explain.

Manny Franco guided Channel Maker through 1 3/8 miles on good turf in 2:15.21. Mullen was taken to a local hospital for observation.

"The old man came through. He ran really well," winning trainer Bill Mott said. "Adam [Wachtel, a part-owner] and I were debating which race to go in.

"There was another race later in the meet and Adam wanted to give him a try in here, so we give him the assist for making the call to give him the shot. The pace scenario was good for him today."

There was drama even before the race as Equibase, the industry data agency, mistakenly listed Soldier Rising as scratched early Sunday. After that misstep, early wagers were refunded and he ran for purse money only, but lost all chances when caught in traffic behind Rebel's Romance's issue.

On Sunday at Del Mar, the $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes turned into the Phil D'Amato Show as the trainer's four horses finished 1-2-3-4 at the end of the 1 1/8 miles.

Gold Phoenix and Balnikhov both rallied from off the pace to finish first and second behind pacesetting Masteroffoxhounds.

Count Again, the favorite in the nine-horse field, came from last to finish fourth. Gold Phoenix, an Irish-bred, 5-year-old gelding by Belardo, finished in 1:48.62 over firm turf.

D'Amato has been plotting schedule scenarios all year for his turf stars with an eye firmly on the Breeders' Cup World Championship races to be held in his back yard at Santa Anita in November.

Del Mar's veteran publicity officials said long-time track denizens could not recall another major stakes race in which a trainer saddled the first four finishers, so visitors are served notice for three months down the road.

Turf Sprint

Amy C rallied outside rivals to win Friday's $100,000 Daisycutter Handicap for fillies and mares at Del Mar by 1/2 length over Tony Ann. Princess Adaleigh was third.

The favorite, Twilight Gleaming, was cut off while making an inside move at the top of the stretch and finished an unlucky seventh. She was moved up to sixth, ahead of the miscreant, Wide West -- small consolation.

Amy C, a 5-year-old British-bred mare, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.49 with Umberto Rispoli in the irons, winning for the third time from her last four starts.

Classic

Senor Buscador rallied five-wide, coming from last of nine, to post a 13-1 upset win in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. Slow Down Andy shadowed the early pace made by Brickyard Ride, then finished second as Brickyard Ride settled for third.

The favorite, Defunded, raced evenly but lacked any late punch and settled for fourth.

Senor Buscador, a 5-year-old son of Mineshaft, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.54 with Geovanni Franco riding for trainer Todd Fincher.

He now has won half his 16 starts, but was eighth, defeating only one rival, in last year's San Diego. It was the first Del Mar stakes win for Fincher, who made his bones on the New Mexico circuit.

Shortly before Mike Repole celebrated Forte's win in the Jim Dandy, he was watching another of his charges, Be Better, be better than three rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Laurel Park.

The 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt came four-wide into the stretch to make up the ground and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Nimitz Class. With Sheldon Russell in the irons for trainer Brittany Russell, Be Better ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast strip in 1:49.68.

At Woodbine, Tyson improved his record to four wins from five starts with a front-running score in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Seagram Cup.

The 4-year-old Tapit colt was headed midway through the stretch run by Carrothers but found another gear and relegated that rival to second, 3 lengths back at the finish.

Tyson, with Rafael Hernandez up for trainer Josie Carroll, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.16. Tyson was coming off a victory in the Grade III Dominion Day Stakes.

His only loss in five outings was a Grade III Eclipse Stakes June 4. All of his races have been on all-weather tracks including his career debut at Gulfstream Park.

Distaff

Occult swung five-wide on the turn in Saturday's $250,000 Monmouth Oaks and quickly put paid to the chances of her nine rivals.

With Feargal Lynch in the irons, the Into Mischief filly quickly opened a big lead and coasted home first by 10 1/4 lengths. Foggy Night was best of the rest, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Riding Pretty. Occult, trained by Chad Brown, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.74.

Occult won the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct in her third start, then was fifth in the Grade III Gazelle. She improved to finish third in the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park in June, tipping her move forward for the Monmouth race.

Juvenile Turf

No Nay Mets bounced back from a ninth-place finish in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot to post the easiest of wins in Sunday's $100,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park.

With Paco Lopez up for trainer George Weaver, No Nay Mets was bumped leaving the gate but hustled up to the lead and kicked away to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Ship Cadet and Shea D World completed the trifecta.

The 5 furlongs on good turf took 57.91 seconds. The Irish-bred No Nay Never colt started his career with a victory in the Royal Palm Juvenile Stakes at Gulfstream Park in May.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Amidst Waves pressed the early leader in Saturday's $100,000 Colleen Stakes on the Monmouth Park grass, dueled around the turn and drew away in the final furlong to win by 1 1/4 length. Lady d'Oro was along for second, 1/2 length in front of Crown Imperial.

Amidst Waves, with Feargal Lynch riding for trainer George Weaver, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.68 seconds. The Midshipman filly won backed up a victory at Belmont Park June 11.

Around the world, around the clock

England

The highly touted 3-year-olds had no impact on the thrilling finish of Saturday's £1.25 million Group 1 King George V and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot as 6-year-old Hukum dueled with 4-year-old Westover through the final yards before winning by a head.

King of Steel, second in the Epsom Derby, was the best of the younger generation, finishing third but 4 3/4 lengths adrift of the winner.

The favorite, dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin, was never in the race and was eased home by jockey Ryan Moore.

The regally bred colt was beginning to look like a replacement for the late Galileo after winning the Epsom Derby and Irish Dergy for the Coolmore lads, but finishing an official 126 3/4-lengths last in the key King George won't help the reputation.

Four-year-old filly Emily Upjohn also disappointed under Frankie Dettori, finishing seventh.

Hukum, an entire son of Sea the Stars, looked better than ever despite his relatively advanced age and an 11-months absence due to a serious leg injury.

The King George was just his second start back and followed a first-up win in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard at Sandown, where he reported 1/2 length better than 2022 Derby winner Desert Crown.

Trainer Owen Burrows, per Racing Post, said Hukum "has never been better. ... What a race, what a spectacle. It lived up to the hype and I'm a bit hoarse from shouting, but what can you say about him? He's an absolute star."

Auguste Rodin's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, described his colt's flop as "a very unusual run ... I think he's fine, but I don't know what happened there. In the next few days something might come to light. Ryan said he never fired up at all."

Germany

Nation's Pride, idle since finishing third behind Lord North in the Group 1 Dubai Turf in March, went quickly to the front in Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis Bayerisches Zuchtrennen at Munich and wasn't for catching.

The highly regarded German Derby winner, Fantastic Moon, was second as the favorite but 3 lengths adrift of the winner. Skalleti, coming off a Group 2 win in Rome, was another 3 lengths behind in third.

"Nations Pride is a very good horse," said winning rider William Buick, according to Racing Post.

"He hadn't run for a while, but this race was a good opportunity for him. He's a specialist at this trip and the German Derby winner is a good horse who received a lot of weight from us. We had to be really good to beat him and he really was."

Godolphin did not announce plans for the 4-year-old Teofilo colt, but the world clearly is open to him as he already has victories in the Jumeirah Derby in Dubai, the Grade I Saratoga Derby and the Grade III Jockey Club Invitational at Aqueduct. He finished fifth in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland.

France

Mqse De Sevigne took the lead inside the 100-meter mark in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Rothschild for fillies and mares at Deauville and held on gamely to deny stablemate Life In Motion by a short neck.

Both are trained by Andre Fabre -- Mqse De Sevigne for Baron Edouard de Rothschild and Life In Motion for Godolphin.

The winner, a 4-year-old Siyouni filly, had been knocking on the chateau door with three straight runner-up finishes, all of them by close margins, to start the 2023 campaign. She finished seventh in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera Longines to wind up 2023 following two more seconds.

South Africa

Sunday was a day of upsets, infused with the supportive presence of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, at Greyville Racecourse in Durban.

On a program with four Group 1 races, the feature, oddly, was the Group 3 World Pool Gold Cup. That went to the highly regarded Future Pearl while all four Group 1 races were won by long shots.

Sandringham Summit was a daylight winner in the Champion Stakes, sponsored by the HKJC's World Pool, which also carried the races to bettors around the globe.

The favorite, Lucky Lad, trailed home last of 13. Isivunguvungu got away clean in an otherwise messy start and edged Surjay and Thunderstruck in the 6-furlong Mercury Sprint.

Princess Calla took the lead in the stretch and saw off the late-running favorite, See It Again, by 1 1/2 lengths in the HKJC Champions Cup at 1 1/8 miles. And Bavarian Beauty, at 20-1 odds, won the Douglas Whyte Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with a dream trip up the rail into the straight.

The big day also was a bit of a reunion and a farewell as fans honored Douglas Whyte, a former champion apprentice jockey in South Africa who went on to win 13 consecutive riding titles in Hong Kong and then became a successful trainer.

Also on hand was Lyle Hewitson, another former local champ has begun to find success in Hong Kong and booked a full card of rides on his return home.

Bidding farewell with a courtesy appearance was Do It Again, a two-time winner of the Group 1 Durban July. His six appearances in that race, the last coming earlier this month, is a record not likely to be matched soon. He won that race twice and added a third and three fourths.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has been supporting the struggling South African racing industry for the past several years as it attempts to win concessions from the European Union to its restrictive export protocols, which have dried up international involvement.

Meanwhile, back in North America

Laurel Park

Talk to the Judge led the way in Saturday's $75,000 Miss Disco Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-old fillies and held on to win by a held from Liquidator.

Talk to the Judge, a daughter of Golden Lad, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.81 with Victor Carrasco up.

Super Accelerate powered past pacesetting easy action in the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Star De Naskra Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds by 1/2 length with Coffeewithchris third.

Super Accelerate, an Accelerate colt, finished in 1:22.54 with Horacio Karamanos in the irons.

Charles Town

Great Spirit pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Sylvia Bishop Memorial for 3-year-old, West Virginia-bred fillies, got to the front in the stretch and won off by 2 1/2 lengths.

Lucky Blonde found her best stride late to get up for second. Great Spirit, a daughter of Great Notion, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.44 with Jose Montano up.

Prairie Meadows

Calebs Lady had to battle for the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Iowa Stallion Futurity for state-bred 2-year-old fillies but, once in front, she gamely edged clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over first-time starter Freedom to Speed.

Calebs Lady, by Caleb's Posse, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.87 with Alberto Pusac up.

Woodbine

Patches O'Houlihan, the odds-on favorite, ran off with Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Lake Superior Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds. The Reload gelding, with Daisuke Fukumoto in the irons, led all the way and won by 8 1/2 lengths.

The Robert Tiller trainee got 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.96. The race originally was carded for the turf.

The companion $100,000 (Canadian) Thunder Bay Stakes for 3-year-old Ontario-sired fillies, also moved to the all-weather, was won in similar fashion by Foolish Games and jockey Omar Marino.

Her margin was 1 1/4 lengths, with Hot Cargo second. Foolish Games, also by Reload, finished in 1:11.06.