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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Yaupon proved to be a savage front-runner as he led gate to wire and overcame a rival’s attempts to savage him during the stretch run of Saturday’s $600,000 Forego Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
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Yaupon, the 2/1 favorite under Ricardo Santana Jr., led narrowly over Firenze Fire at every point of call during the 7-furlong fast main track sprint, but the excitement hit a perilous crescendo halfway home.
Firenze Fire and jockey Jose Ortiz fought hard along Yaupon’s right side when the elder 6-year-old Firenze Fire made several sudden attempts at biting first the leader, then the jockey aboard him.
“That was kind of scary,” said Santana Jr. “That never happened to me before and the only thing I can think is don’t stop riding.”
Ortiz struggled but eventually pulled Firenze Fire off Yaupon, slowing enough that the pacesetter was able to hold safely in the shadow of the wire before winning by a head in 1:21.74.
“I know the horse really well,” Santana Jr. said. “Today, there was no speed in the race, so I decided to go and he’s a firing horse, so thankfully we got the victory today.”
Ironically, Firenze Fire was on the receiving end of a very similar situation en route to winning the 2018 Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx when Whereshetoldmetogo attempted to savage him in the stretch.
“Honestly, it was really weird, I’ve never been in that (position) before,” Ortiz said. “He got me too close to the horse when he did that. The (gallop-out) was perfect; he came back in great order, I think he should’ve won that race.”
Chance It rallied to nose out Mind Control for third. Whitmore, Mischevious Alex, Doubly Blessed, and Lexitonian – who stumbled badly at the start and never recovered – completed the order of finish.
Following the race, trainer Ron Moquett announced that Whitmore – the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) champion – would retire.
Yaupon’s win was his second straight following the Lite the Fuse Stakes at Pimlico and improved the Steve Asmussen-trained Uncle Mo colt’s record to 8-6-0-0 with $703,264 earned.
“It’s very exciting to have a winner of the Forego for the Heiligbrodts, but the finish made it that much more dramatic,” Asmussen said. “I will watch that replay many times in my future. For that to happen in a Grade 1 at Saratoga with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable.”
Yaupon returned $6 to win, $4.40 to place, and $3.50 to show. Firenze Fire brought back $7.90 to place and $5.20 to show. Chance It paid $6.10 to show.
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