A foot bruise derailed Kentucky Derby (G1) plans for Forte, who returned from a 10-week layoff to record a respectable second in the Belmont S. (G1), and the champion juvenile male will look to make a serious case for three-year-old divisional honors during the second half of the season. He’ll get started against four rivals in Saturday’s $500,000 Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga.
A couple of races earlier on the program, champion male sprinter Elite Power will try to stretch his win streak to eight in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1).
Forte strung together five consecutive stakes wins, including a one-length triumph over subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Mage in the Florida Derby (G1), before a wide second in the Belmont. Trainer Todd Pletcher will add blinkers for the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, and Irad Ortiz Jr. retains the mount on the dark bay son of Violence.
Disarm broke his maiden at Saratoga by open lengths last summer, and the chestnut Gun Runner colt returns to the Spa on the upswing for Steve Asmussen, recording his first stakes win in the June 11 Matt Winn (G3) at Ellis Park. Fourth in the Kentucky Derby two back, the stalker keeps Joel Rosario in the saddle.
Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Angel of Empire, third in the Kentucky Derby and a dead-heat fourth in the Belmont, is one of three for Brad Cox. Flavien Prat will be back up on the late runner. Grade 3 winner Hit Show also finished fourth in the Belmont, and the early/presser adds the services of Luis Saez. Saudi Crown, who opened his racing career with maiden and entry-level allowance wins before a nose second in July 1 Dwyer (G3), completes the Cox trio.
Elite Power is the one to beat among seven runners in the six-furlong Vanderbilt. After emerging last fall with victories in the Vosburgh (G2) and Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), the five-year-old son of Curlin opened 2023 with convincing wins in the Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G3) and True North (G2). Irad Ortiz rides for Bill Mott.
Gunite, a stylish winner of a deep Aristides S. at Churchill Downs on June 3, is the main rival. A four-time stakes hero last season, the Gun Runner colt appears to have kept progressing at age four for Steve Asmussen. Gunite will seek to make a major impact from just off the pace with regular pilot Tyler Gaffalione.
Dean Delivers invades from Gulfstream off consecutive stakes wins, rolling on the front end in the Smile Sprint (G3) last out. Grade 3 winner Little Vic is also part of the mix.