September 26, 2023

Forte splashes to Hopeful upset

Forte wins the 2022 Hopeful at Saratoga (Coglianese Photography)

Forte relished the slop on closing day of the Saratoga meet on Monday, rallying to defeat even-money favorite Gulfport in the $300,000 Hopeful S. (G1).

Rating in fifth down the backside in the field of six juveniles, Forte improved his position on the far turn, advanced inside of long-time leader Gulfport when that rival drifted out entering the stretch, and outstayed that foe to win by three lengths.

Owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, Forte covered seven furlongs in 1:22.58 and paid $15.80. Forte was the fourth Hopeful winner for trainer Todd Pletcher and the first for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

Gulfport, who set a solid pace of :22.74 and :45.57, had a nine-length gap on third-place finisher Blazing Sevens. Completing the order of finish were Mo Strike, Bourbon Bash, and Western Ghent.

This was the second win in three starts for Forte, who captured his May 27 debut by 7 3/4 lengths going five furlongs at Belmont. However, he entered the Hopeful off a fourth-place effort behind Mo Strike in the July 16 Sanford (G3), in which he started as the favorite.

“Last time, he wasn’t able to get extracted into the clear until really, really late. When he did, he showed some interest,” Pletcher said. “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.”

Bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm, Forte was sold for $110,000 at Keeneland September. By Violence, he is out of the multiple stakes winner Queen Caroline, by Blame. Forte hails from the same female family as champions Essential Quality and Folklore.

Bernard Baruch H.

Earlier in the card, Emaraaty sprung a $14.60 upset of the $200,000 Bernard Baruch H. (G3) for meet-leading trainer Chad Brown and jockey Flavien Prat. Emaraaty led wire-to-wire to win by 3 1/2 lengths over City Man, covering 1 1/16 miles on the good inner turf in 1:41.36.

A seven-year-old gelded son of Dubawi, Emaraaty is owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables, and Michael Caruso. He had been unplaced in all of his prior stakes attempts, including a fourth-place finish in the 2019 edition of the Bernard Baruch.