Yaupon gamely persevered in Saturday’s $600,000 Forego S. (G1) at Saturday, overcoming runner-up Firenze Fire’s repeated attempts to savage him in the stretch. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr., Yaupon held by a head after the wild incident.
“That was kind of scary,” Santana said of the savagery. “That has never happened to me before and the only thing I think is don’t stop riding.”
“I was worried he was going to bite Ricardo,” Asmussen added. “For that to happen in a Grade 1 at Saratoga with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable.”
Off as the 2-1 favorite, Yaupon sped to the fore at the break and led by a half-length during the opening stages. Firenze Fire drew alongside nearing the conclusion of the far turn, and a thrilling duel appeared to be on, but the dynamic changed when Firenze Fire began trying to bite his rival.
“Jose (Ortiz) told me that if he had just done that (savaging Yaupon) in one little instance, he could have corrected him, but (Firenze Fire) was strong and he couldn’t get him off the other horse,” said Kelly Breen, trainer of Firenze Fire.
“I had perfect position; I stayed next to (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,” Jose Ortiz explained.
Owned by Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, Yaupon notched his first Grade 1 win, and fourth overall stakes tally, when completing the seven-furlong distance in 1:21.74.
The four-year-old Uncle Mo colt won his first four starts last year, including the Amsterdam S. (G2) at Saratoga and the Chick Lang S. (G3) at Pimlico, before finishing eighth as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland.
After opening 2021 with an unplaced effort in the Golden Shaheen S. (G1) in Dubai, Yaupon came back from a freshening to win the July 4 Lite the Fuse S. at Pimlico. He’s now earned $600,261 from an 8-6-0-0 record.
Firenze Fire, the 8-1 sixth choice among eight runners, wound up 2 1/2 lengths better than 19-1 Chance It in third. Mind Control was another nose back in fourth. Whitmore, who was vanned off after the race, came next under the wire and was followed by Mischievious Alex, Doubly Blessed, and Lexitonian.
Bred in Kentucky by Betz, Lamantia, CoCo Equine, Magers and Burns, Yaupon was purchased for $255,000 at the 2019 OBS June two-year-old sale. He’s out of the Grade 1-placed Vindication mare Modification.