July 25, 2024

Forte draws rail, installed as 7-5 favorite in seven-horse Travers

Forte (left) fights gets up late to win the Jim Dandy (Photo by Angelo Lieto/Coglianese Photos)

Saturday’s 154th running of the $1.25 million Travers (G1) will feature the three winners of the Triple Crown races, but champion and multiple Grade 1 winner Forte will go favored in the 1 1/4-mile Midsummer Derby at Saratoga.

The Travers headlines a 13-race program that includes five Grade 1 stakes, and Forte enters off a nose decision in the July 29 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga that netted him a career-best 107 Brisnet Speed rating. Todd Pletcher trains the Violence colt for Repole Stable and St Elias Stable, and the stalker will break from the innermost post with Irad Ortiz Jr.

“He’s a very seasoned horse,” Pletcher said of the rail draw. “He’s been experienced in all kinds of positions. He doesn’t mind the inside, similar to what he did (when winning) the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).”

Named champion two-year-old male, Forte was the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby (G1) after opening his three-year-old season with wins in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), but he scratched due to a foot abscess. The dark bay returned from a 10-week layoff with a runner-up in the Belmont S. (G1), snapping a five-race win streak, but Forte gamely rebounded in the Jim Dandy and has been tabbed as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the Travers.

“You’re never going to make up for not getting to run in the Kentucky Derby, but it would be some sort of a consolation prize to win the Travers against the three Classic winners,” Pletcher said.

Belmont (G1) winner Arcangelo comes next on the morning line at 5-2. A winner of three straight, including his stakes debut in the Peter Pan (G3) in mid-May, the gray Arrogate colt returns from a 3 1/2-month layoff for Jena Antonucci, and Arcangelo retains the mount of six-time Travers winner Javier Castellano, who was also the regular rider of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage.

“The quality of field is going to be a lot of fun and great for racing fans,” Antonucci said. “We are so blessed to have such a versatile colt that we can really back into any kind of (pace) scenario. It is a blessing that we aren’t tied to having to have one setup to be able to find success. Super excited for a great day of racing for the industry, for the fans. Let’s go win a race.”

Luis Saez picks up the assignment on Mage, who returned from a freshening with a runner-up in the Haskell (G1) on July 22. Listed as the 4-1 third choice, the chestnut son of Good Magic is eligible to improve off the comebacker for Gustavo Delgado, and Mage will be rallying late.

“I’m happy with the post (4) – it’s a good number,” Delgado said. “It’s a mile and a quarter, so everyone will have time to get position. We’re excited. He had a strong gallop this morning and he is feeling good. It’s a very strong field and we’re happy to be here and be a part of it.”

Preakness (G1) winner National Treasure, sixth in the Belmont last out, figures to show speed with regular rider John Velazquez. Three-time Travers winner Bob Baffert will remove blinkers on the 8-1 co-fourth choice.

“He’s been working well without them. We’ve had them off him before, but I think he’s maturing now,” Baffert said.

Grade 3 winner Disarm, a close fourth in the Jim Dandy, is also pegged at 8-1. Joel Rosario guides the late runner. Scotland earned his first stakes win when leading all the way in the restricted Curlin S. in late July, and the Bill Mott-trained gelding promises to show speed with Junior Alvarado. Grade 1 victor Tapit Trice, fifth in the Haskell, completes the field.