Forte powers to victory in the Fountain of Youth

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CSM/Shutterstock (13792996i) , 2023, Hallandale Beach, Florida, USA: Forte #4 ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr. wins the Fountain of Youth Stakes (Grade 2) at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida on th, 2023. Liz Lamont/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM Horse Racing Fountain of Youth Stakes Day, Hallandale Beach, USA – 04 Mar 2023

Forte powers to victory in the Fountain of Youth

Forte, last year’s two-year-old champion, made a statement Saturday.  

After a stellar campaign last year encompassing an Eclipse Award and three Grade 1 victories, including the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, everyone knew that Forte belonged in any discussion of Kentucky Derby hopefuls. The only question that remained was if he had moved forward as the calendar turned and he entered his three-year-old campaign. There have been many precious two-year-old champions that were unable to capitalize on their early promise as three-year-olds.

That question was answered emphatically in Saturday’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2).  

In his first start off a four-month layoff, Forte bumped with other horses on the break, then tucked into the rail just behind the leaders in the backstretch. On the turn, he moved out four wide and answered the call of jockey Irad Ortiz and unleashed an explosive move to blow by leaders Cyclone Mischief, Rocket Can, and Mage in a jump at the head of the stretch. He was four and a half lengths clear and under control at the wire.

Any concerns about the effects of his layoff can be put to rest, The Champ is back, and he is sharp.

A month ago, Rocket Can won the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes defeating many of these same horses with little trouble, but today, Forte proved to be in another class.  

With the fifty points he captured today, Forte has regained his spot atop the Road to the Derby leaderboard with 90 points total. He has secured his place in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, and he is likely to target the Grade I Florida Derby on April 1 for his next start and final Derby prep.

Up to this point on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, no clear-cut front-runner had emerged. A new contender has stepped forward each week, while other hopefuls have failed to deliver on expectations. Horses like Arctic Arrogance have fallen short, and longshots like Confidence Game have ruled the day.

But, after this performance by Forte, the search for a true Derby favorite might be over. It is true that no juvenile champion has won The Run for the Roses since Nyquist in 2016, and it is too early to crown Forte the next Super Horse, but the first step in building a legend is creating the hype, and that has certainly been accomplished.

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