LEXINGTON, Ky. – Most of the pre-race attention in Friday’s $1,840,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland was focused upon Cave Rock, but the odds-on favorite proved no match in the latter stages for Forte, who swooped past to record a 1 1/2-length victory.
Owned by Mike Repole and St. Elias Stable, Forte was exiting a victory in the Oct. 9 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over the same track. Todd Pletcher, now a 13-time Breeders’ Cup winner, trains the son of Violence, and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. notched his 15th win in the championship two-day event.
“Obviously delighted with everything,” Pletcher said. “He got a beautiful trip. Just kept coming. I think we (top two finishers) both got a fair run at it today.”
“He got that two-turn experience (in the Breeders’ Futurity) and it paid off today,” Pletcher said. “He’s much more professional today. We learned a little something and we tweaked off the last race and it paid off coming here.”
Forte left the starting gate as the 5-1 second choice in the 10-horse field. The dark bay colt settled just off the speed, rating about four lengths back in fifth as the field made its way down the backstretch. Hurricane J broke on top from his innermost post, but 1-2 Cave Rock also showed high speed and led narrowly through opening splits in :22.90 and :47.01.
Cave Rock surged clear entering the far turn, leading by nearly two lengths after three-quarters in 1:11.77, and Forte was starting to launch his bid. Forte powered six wide into the stretch, rapidly advancing to collar Cave Rock along the rail.
The prohibitive favorite tried to battle back in deep stretch, but Forte had too much momentum and won going away.
“Beautiful trip,” Ortiz said. “I broke good, saved some ground around the first turn and took my time down the backside. I started making my move around turn. I hit him once and he responded. He deserves all the credit.”
Forte completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43.06.
American Pharoah (G1) and Del Mar Futurity (G1) hero Cave Rock, an open-length winner of his first three starts, held second by 2 1/4 lengths over stablemate National Treasure. Blazing Sevens came next in fourth and was followed by Curly Jack, Verifying, Hurricane J, Congruent, Wound Up, and Lost Ark.
Forte earned 30 points in the Kentucky Derby qualifier, increasing his total to 40 after earning 10 in the Breeders’ Futurity. He’s now won 3-of-4 starts, the lone setback being a fourth as the favorite in the Sanford (G3) in his second outing.
Bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm, Forte is the first foal to race from the stakes-winning Blame mare Queen Caroline. He was purchased for $110,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale.