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Aaron discusses the contenders for the 2023 Belmont Stakes (G1) from Belmont Park & gives an early preview of the field. Is this Tapit Trice’s race to lose? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte breezed Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track in his first workout since scratching on the morning of the May 6 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby as the morning-line favorite.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and piloted in the breeze by Irad Ortiz, Jr., the son of Violence worked in company with New York-bred stakes winner Let Her Inspire U, covering a half-mile over the muddy going in 50.31 seconds.
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“It looked super. I’m really pleased with the way he went. He was well in hand throughout and galloped out nicely,” Pletcher said. “We were playing it by ear with the weather, but the training track dried out nicely.”
Ortiz, Jr. won the Grade 3 Gallorette aboard Whitebeam on Saturday’s Preakness card in Baltimore and guided Blazing Sevens to a close runner-up finish in the featured Grade 1 event won by National Treasure.
“Irad is a dedicated young man,” Pletcher said. “He drove back last night so he could be here this morning. He had a huge smile on his face afterwards and his comment to me was – ‘this made my day.’”
Forte entered the Kentucky Derby at the top of the leaderboard with 190 points that he accrued for victories in November at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and at Gulfstream Park in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby this spring. He boasts a record of 7-6-0-0 with total purse earnings in excess of $2.4 million.
Pursuant to HISA Rule 2241(a), Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby. In order to be successfully removed from the list he will have to breeze in front of a regulatory veterinarian and produce a negative blood sample result following that work which generally takes five days to be returned.
Pletcher said the required breeze for the vet could take place on Friday.
“He’s in excellent condition and doing well here at Belmont,” Pletcher said. “We got that first breeze in that we were looking for and he’s scheduled to come back and breeze again on Friday if conditions permit. We’ll come back with a five-furlong move on the main track and continue on towards the Belmont.”
Pletcher said he was disappointed not to be able to showcase Forte’s talents in the Derby.
“I feel bad for the connections and for the horse not getting the opportunity to run in the Derby, but the timing was bad and we just have to turn the page and move on,” Pletcher said. “I’m just thankful the horse is doing great and we’re looking forward to running in the Belmont.”
Pletcher could have as many as four Belmont Stakes starters, including his Derby runners Tapit Trice [7th] for owners Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable, and Spendthrift Farm’s Kingsbarns [14th]. Also under consideration is Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Prove Worthy, a Curlin chestnut who graduated at third asking traveling 10-furlongs on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
Tapit Trice worked a half-mile in 49.04 Friday over Big Sandy.
“Tapit Trice breezed very well on Friday and Kingsbarns will probably breeze this Friday,” Pletcher said.
Prove Worthy, out of the graded-stakes placed First Samurai mare Endless Chatter, was purchased for $325,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“He handled the stretch out to a mile and a quarter really well,” Pletcher said. “He’s one we always thought would continue to improve as he matures and the distance is something he would be capable of getting. He’s light on experience, so we’ll play it by ear and see how the field is shaping up before making any decisions there.”
Entries for the 155th Belmont Stakes will be taken on Tuesday, June 6. Among the other possible starters are Grade 3 Peter Pan-winner Arcangelo [Jena Antonucci], Sir Barton-winner Arabian Lion [Bob Baffert]; Grade 1 Preakness-winner National Treasure [Baffert], Grade 3 Gotham-winner Raise Cain [Ben Colebrook]; multiple graded stakes-placed Red Route One [Steve Asmussen]; and Grade 2 Risen Star runner-up Sun Thunder [Ken McPeek].
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