Ok, maybe the title is a bit too much, but in my opinion the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga this weekend is a much more appealing race than the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes. I believe the Woodward is Mucho Macho Man‘s to lose. In the Forego, there are a handful of horses who could win the race. Let’s break it down.
1. Jersey Town (KY) – Edgar Prado – 124 – Barclay Tagg
This six year old Speightstown horse hasn’t won since capturing the Hill ‘N’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap (G1) at Aqueduct on November 27, 2010. It’s not as bad as it sounds since he missed considerable time after that win. He didn’t pop up again until July 31 in the Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth Park. He finished 2nd. He finished 2nd again in the Forego Stakes (G1), 3rd in the Kelso Handicap (G2) and 6th in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile to finish 2011. Decent performances considering that lengthy absence for the first half of the year. Unfortunately, he would miss another 4 1/2 months before returning late May to finish 2nd in the Sir Shackleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Wouldn’t you know it, bad luck ensued once again on this horse. He would miss another 4 1/2 months before finishing 6th earlier this month in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1). He has spent most of his career at long sprints or a mile. You would have to think wear and tear would be a factor with him moving forward. Several injuries, long absenses and getting older makes me want to pass on it. At least give us one more race to see if he can hold it together.
2. Shackleford (KY) – John Velazquez – 124 – Dale Romans
The word heart in the dictionary might just have this guys name next to it. Last year, this true middle distance horse kept going strong despite running in all three grueling triple crown races and each follow up such as the Haskell Invitational and Travers Stakes. His performance in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was a welcome result to everyone who knew this colt should have been at this distance after his attempts over the summer. He finished a solid 2nd behind a superb performance by Caleb’s Posse. He was given a much needed three months rest and returned to finish 7th in Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park going 1 1/8 miles. Not sure what the plan was there, but giving him the rest then pushing him to go long distance was not a smart move. I believe Romans finally realized this and entered him the seven furlongs Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. He finished 3rd behind Jackson Bend and Caleb’s Posse in a five horse field. He led the entire race until the last 1/16 mile. His best race since winning the Preakness last year was his win in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) going seven furlongs. He sat off the leader for the first half mile then took over as they turned for home and won by a length over late charging Amazombie (2011 Sprint Champion). He returned 23 days later to score again in the Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile). This time, he would go wire to wire defeating Caleb’s Posse by a nose, as well as, To Honor and Serve, Caixa Eletronica and Jackson Bend who are all in this field on Saturday. His last effort in the six furlongs Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) was the first time I’ve ever seen him not be a factor from the start. He was either injured or they just wanted to get a good gallop out of him. He is a beast and don’t take that last effort as he is starting to drop off. He will show up and put forth the routine strong performance.
3. Isn’t He Perfect (KY) – Ramon Dominguez – 124 – Richard Dutrow, Jr.
This is the one horse that I feel is overmatched in this race. He hasn’t been in a graded race since finishing 9th in last year’s Pennsylvania Derby on September 24 at Parx Racing. He has won a couple of condition Allowance Optional Claiming races at Belmont Park, then runner-up twice in a couple of stakes races, but the jump to Grade 1 company that includes several multiple graded winners is going to be too much for him to handle.
4. Jackson Bend (FL) – Junior Alvarado – 124 – Nick Zito
The little engine that could, actually did once Zito shortened the distance for him. In his first sprint since being a two year old, he won the James Marvin Stakes to kick off the Saratoga meet last year and was only 1/2 second off the track record. Since that time, he has won the Forego Stakes, Hal’s Hope Stakes and Carter Handicap while missing the board just once in eight races. He finished 2nd to Uncle Mo in the Kelso, as well as, 3rd in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He comes to play each and every race. Last time out in the James Marvin Stakes (G3), he was affected by the slower pace early on as Pacific Ocean was allowed to get out by himself and wire the field. The field this Saturday possesses much more speed and he should once again be in the mix.
5. Pacific Ocean (KY) – Joel Rosario – 124 – Richard Dutrow, Jr.
After missing nearly seven months since winning the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (G3) last November, this Ghostzapper horse felt the ill effects of the layoff when trying to go gate to wire in the six furlongs True North Handicap (G2) in June. He went to the lead but faded to 6th by the end. Last out in the James Marvin Stakes (G3) he went to the lead again and was able to separate himself from the rest of the field. The 1/4 mile in 23.19 helped his cause to have enough late to win. He won by 1 3/4 lengths in a final time of 1:22.52. He will not get the same courtesy on the front end like he received last time. He will have to deal with Shackleford and Emcee, which is not going to make life easy.
6. Emcee (KY) – Alan Garcia – 124 – Kiaran McLaughlin
This speedball is a lightly raced four year colt by Unbridled’s Song who has won 3 of 6 career races. However, those three do not include any of his attempt in graded company. He has hit the board in those three, but in each he has been on or near the lead and faded. Last time, in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, he got the lead and posted fractions of 21.99 and 44.61 for the first 1/2 mile. He did hold the lead at the top of the stretch but was caught by eventual winner Poseidon’s Warrior and Justin Phillip. Going an extra furlong will not bode well for this colt. I believe he will force the issue with Shackleford and pay for it. I don’t see him winning but could hang around to finish on the board.
7. Caixa Eletronica (KY) – Javier Castellano – 124 – Todd Pletcher
This poor seven year old has been asked way too much of him in 2012. He’s raced 8 times in four states at four different distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. Pletcher must have been drinking the week prior to the Whitney Handicap. What was he thinking putting that horse into a 1 1/8 miles race against a tough field of proven long distance runners. I don’t count the win in the Charles Town Classic as a reason to think this horse can go 1 1/8 miles against stiff competition. He is back at the distance that has made him successful at the graded levels but you wonder if age and travel have caught up to him now. He has been prone to pulling off the upset, but this is a tough field to pull it off.
8. Hamazing Destiny (KY) – Rajiv Maragh – 124 – D. Wayne Lukas
The late running six year old hasn’t been able to break through a win a Grade 1 or 2 race in his career but he has been able to place in a few. Winner of the Maryland Sprint Handicap (G3) at Pimlico in May needs a serious speed duel up front in any given race to have a chance. Most of his races in the last two years have been at six furlongs, so the extra furlong could be a bonus especially if the speed up front is as quick as we expect. If it does happen, he should be able to get up to be included in exotics.
As you know, I always look to horses who’ve seen success at the highest level, especially when it has been recent success. The class of the field are Shackleford and Jackson Bend. Between the two, they have won four graded races in 2012 with three of them versus Grade 1 or 2 competition. Shackleford has shown at seven furlongs he can compete on the front end if the pace is hot and stick around at the end, as well as, rate off the speed if need be. Jackson Bend prefers to stay well off the pace and make a strong late move. I believe Shackelford will sit 3rd early behind Pacific Ocean and Emcee and make a move as they turn for home. The pace will be quick enough for Jackson Bend to catch up near the end and be a serious threat to Shackleford. It should be a close call at the wire with either one taking the win. I like Hamazing Destiny to come from far behind to get up for 3rd with Jersey Town as a longer shot to nab 4th.
2nd: Jackson Bend
3rd: Hamazing Destiny
4th: Jersey Town
As always, feel free to comment on this race below. Do you agree with us or do you have a different outlook for this race?
Click here to view the other races happening this weekend.