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

Fred Faour: In a surprising move, Forte could return for the Preakness

While Mage won the Kentucky Derby, the horse that probably would have taken the race – Forte – was sidelined Saturday morning. Forte is trained by Todd Pletcher, who generally skips the Preakness.

But Pletcher is eyeing the race, and that would impact Mage’s hopes. Forte has already beaten him twice and would have a great chance to do it again.

“We don’t point for the Preakness, per se,” Forte’s trainer Todd Pletcher told publicist Jennie Rees, “but this might be a situation where it becomes the backup plan. He’s a special horse, a champion 2-year-old, a Breeders’ Cup winner, undefeated at 3.”

That would add incredible intrigue to the race. The 2-year-old champ and Derby favorite versus the Derby winner.

Like a lot of recent Derbies, the race was marred by controversy. Seven horses dying in two weeks, a scandal involving trainer Saffie Joseph, and tons of late scratches. While the track cited horse safety, it was merely to elude any more embarrassing incidents. Forte could have run – and run well – but the track veterinarian scratched him over a minor bruise. They just did not want to look bad in case something happened. Pletcher was confident enough in the horse’s health and to this day thinks he would have won. Pletcher isn’t a saint, but he’s not Joseph. He would never risk his investments if they were not right.

So there will be a matchup to look forward to in just less than two weeks. Let’s hope both horses make it.

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