Stakes surprises were the theme on the first Friday of the Saratoga meet. City Man outperformed his 12.30-1 odds to score a graded breakthrough in the $175,000 Forbidden Apple (G3). Morning-line favorite Twilight Gleaming was scratched from the $150,000 Coronation Cup, opening the door for debut winner Empress Tigress to pass her initial stakes test.
Forbidden Apple (G3)
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Peter Searles, and Patty Searles’s City Man was overlooked after a pair of losses, but found conditions much more congenial at the Spa. Exploding from off the pace with Joel Rosario, the New York-bred handed trainer Christophe Clement a particularly meaningful win.
“It’s fun to win the Forbidden Apple, because I did train Forbidden Apple,” Clement said of the race honoree, a millionaire whose signature win came in the 2001 Manhattan (G1).
Clement also won the 2017 edition of the Forbidden Apple with Disco Partner. Ironically another New York-bred, millionaire Disco Partner twice placed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
Although City Man has yet to reach that level, the five-year-old son of Mucho Macho Man is a solid performer in both the state-bred ranks and open company. After a sharp victory in the listed Danger’s Hour S. at Aqueduct in his April 9 reappearance, he ranked as the 2.05-1 favorite in the Fort Marcy (G2), where he’d finished second in 2021. But yielding ground caused him to run well below form in a distant fourth. Back among New York-breds for the May 30 Kingston S., he was a traffic-stymied seventh.
“It was very unlucky last time; he was trapped,” Clement said. “Today, it worked out. Great trip. He’s been a bit unlucky lately, so it was fun to have a good trip and he won well.”
City Man broke from post 9, but Rosario was able to drop back and maneuver into a ground-saving seventh. Up front, a contested pace was unfolding as forecast. Yes and Yes carved out splits of :23.31, :47.23, and 1:10.90, until the pressing Get Smokin took over at the top of the lane. The new leader held a tenuous advantage as Atone and Public Sector arrived on the scene.
By that point, City Man had improved position, switched out, and had all the daylight he needed in a seam to the inside of Public Sector. Quickening much better than that 2.65-1 shot, City Man put the race away by a decisive 2 3/4 lengths. The dark bay sped the firm-turf mile on the inner course in 1:33.76 and returned $26.60.
Atone came out on top of the blanket finish for the minors, with his nose in front of third-placer Public Sector. Get Smokin was another half-length back in fourth, edging 2.20-1 favorite Set Piece, who had a tough task negotiating traffic from last. Mira Mission checked in sixth, followed by Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Sanctuary City, Scuttlebuzz, Clear Vision, and Yes and Yes. Analyze It and the main-track-only Art Collector were withdrawn.
“I was very comfortable,” Rosario said of his trip aboard City Man. “For a second, I was between horses passing the three-eighths, but he was handling everything fine. He put in a good run today.
“Turning for home when we started moving, I got lucky and got out in front of them. Chad’s horse (the Brown-trained Public Sector) was outside me, and it looked like every time I asked him (City Man) to do something, he was moving forward.
“Sometimes, he’s a funny horse (in traffic), but he was OK with that today. He did great.”
City Man’s fifth career stakes laurel improved his record to 22-6-4-3, $653,050. In addition to the Danger’s Hour, he took the 2020 Gio Ponti S. versus open rivals. His other stakes credits have come in the New York-bred scene – wins in the 2019 Funny Cide S. and 2021 West Point S. along with placings in the Bertram F. Bongard S., Albany S., Ashley T. Cole S., and Mohawk S.
Bred by Moonstar Farm in the Empire State, City Man is out of the City Zip mare City Scamper. He brought $20,000 as a weanling at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Fall Sale. As a juvenile at OBS April, he sold for $185,000 to Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, which co-owned sire Mucho Macho Man.
Augustin Stable’s Empress Tigress was taking a substantial class hike off her debut romp at Woodbine May 22, and moving from Tapeta to turf. The placement by trainer Jonathan Thomas paid off, as the sophomore filly extended her record to 2-for-2.
Without the imposing presence of the speedy Twilight Gleaming, Empress Tigress worked out an ideal pace-attending trip. The 3.60-1 chance broke alertly, then let Mystic Eyes go through an opening quarter in :21.77 on the firm Mellon turf. Empress Tigress, perched on her rival’s flank, made her move by the half in :44.33 and pulled clear.
“This is the first time on the grass and she definitely loved the grass,” jockey John Velazquez said. “He (Thomas) told me she was going to break really well, but to try and sit off for a little bit the first part, and she settled. By the quarter-pole, I made sure she got her run in and she went on.”
Deep-closing Poppy Flower launched a strong rally, but Empress Tigress held her at bay by a half-length while finishing 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.70. Poppy Flower ran a terrific race in defeat, considering that she’d broken through the gate prematurely and dislodged Jose Ortiz before being re-loaded.
Derrynane was a troubled third, and 9-5 favorite Static Fire likewise had a complex passage in fourth. Next came Artos, Lady Scarlet, Mystic Eyes, and the eased Sweet Solare. Joining Twilight Gleaming on the scratched list were Marissa’s Lady, Benbang, and main-track-only Everyoneloveslinda.
Empress Tigress has bankrolled $115,243 from her two starts. A black-type win is valuable for the daughter of Classic Empire and the Tale of the Cat mare Tigress Tale, a descendant of Hall of Famer Heavenly Prize.
“The scratch (of Twilight Gleaming) definitely reinforced staying in for sure,” Thomas said of taking a swing at the stakes. “A filly like Twilight Gleaming coming out made it an easier decision to stay in. She was training well and you only get these opportunities so many times, so you have to take advantage of them.
“She’s so fast. I don’t see any reason to change that at the moment (and try to go further). She might stretch out but she’s so fast and I’m happy to have her.”
Empress Tigress was bred by Springhouse Farm in Kentucky. After RNA’ing for $37,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, the chestnut commanded $410,000 from bloodstock guru Donato Lanni as an OBS Spring two-year-old.