As 2022 drew to a close, the racing world eagerly anticipated the leader for the two-year-old event, and it was none other than Forte – a dazzling son of Violence.
He dominated the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, winning the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
Despite the crowd’s favor towards Cage Rock, Forte’s potential was undeniable, and the Eclipse Award was an afterthought.
Many wondered if Forte’s dominance would continue into his third year, and he put those doubts to rest in no time.
Forte won both the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Grade I Florida Derby in preparation for the Kentucky Derby, where he was the heavy favorite.
The Kentucky Derby was supposed to be a walk in the park for Forte, but fate had other plans…
The Bruise That Ended Hopes
Everything was poised for Forte to take center stage on the first Saturday in May.
But on the morning of the race, Forte’s odd behavior caught the attention of track veterinarians, who discovered a bruise on his right foreleg.
Forte was immediately withdrawn from the race, leaving many wondering what the future held for the talented colt .
The withdrawal of Forte from the Kentucky Derby was a tough pill to swallow for Todd Pletcher, his trainer.
But the move turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and, in hindsight, the day exhibited clear indications of problems ahead:
Although Forte was unable to race in the Derby, the result of the race did bolster his reputation.
The winner of the race was Mage, who had previously finished behind Forte in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby.
Fans eagerly awaited a rematch between the two in the Preakness or the Belmont. But luck was not in store for Forte…
He was placed on the vet’s list for fourteen days, making him ineligible to run in the Preakness.
In the end, Mage ran and finished third, and his connections decided to skip the Belmont and give him some time off to prepare for the summer and fall.
A Tarnished Reputation
Forte’s supporters had their own worries, which soon came true when the test results revealed that the champion had tested positive for an anti-inflammatory medication called meloxicam after the Hopeful Stakes .
Even more surprising was that Todd Pletcher, Forte’s trainer, had kept the results a secret for more than seven months.
Despite Pletcher’s appeal, Forte was disqualified from the race – a decision that bumped Gulfport to first place, who would have been the second-place finisher.
The Rise Of An Angel
With Forte’s tarnished reputation, the world saw a different Horse.
The Forte that entered the racetrack on the first Saturday in June differed from the one that won on the first Saturday in May.
But surprisingly, the change didn’t stop the crowd from favoring him:
As Forte turned the tables on Cage Rock in the Juvenile, a gray son of Arrogate, Arcangelo, did the same in the Belmont.
Arcangelo took the carnations, and Forte was the runner-up. Many thought the result was a fluke or merely the outcome of the Belmont’s 1 ½ mile distance.
But Forte rebounded in July by winning the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes, proving his naysayers wrong.
When he had a rematch against Forte and Mage and Preakness winner National Treasure in the Grade I Travers Stakes, the crowd once again asserted their confidence in him by making him the favorite.
However, things didn’t play out as expected, and Forte ended up in fourth place while Arcangelo scored a decisive win.
The result was worse than the Belmont, and Forte’s position as a former champ now seems all but forgotten, whereas Arcangelo has been elevated to divisional leader .
What Happens Now?
All is not lost for Forte.
Pletcher has not indicated whether Forte will be trained or raced in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup, but the Classic presumably is the goal.
Should Forte rebound to win the Classic, he would end 2023 with two Grade I wins and two Grade II places, and, more importantly, a win over top-class older horses.
This would give him the edge in year-end championship considerations and cement his status as a racing legend.
But if Forte loses or cannot race in the Classic, the picture becomes murkier…
A win by a three-year-old such as Arcangelo or Arabian Knight would secure them the championship.
Yet, if an older horse or a long shot takes the crown, Forte could still take the title with a win in either the Grade II Clark Stakes or the Grade I Cigar Mile over older horses.
Forte and his proud supporters endured a year full of ups and downs, but they know the show is not over yet.
The racing world eagerly anticipates Forte’s return to the champion’s circle, and the stakes are high.
But will Forte make the Breeders’ Cup winners list by TwinSpires.com for the coming November 4th ? Only time will tell…
1. Breeders Cup Winners | TwinSpires [Internet]. TwinSpires Horse Racing | Bet Online with TwinSpires. TwinSpires; 2019 [cited 2023 Sep 8]. Available from: https://www.twinspires.com/breeders-cup/winners
2. Sterling TS. Kentucky Derby: Forte scratched from race [Internet]. CNN. 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 8]. Available from: https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/06/sport/kentucky-derby-churchill-downs-horse-racing-spt-intl/index.html
3. Ehalt B. Bloodhorse.com. 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 8]. Available from: https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/268559/forte-disqualified-from-22-hopeful-pletcher-suspended
4. Short holly. Arabian Knight Moves to No. 7 in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll After Pacific Classic Win [Internet]. NTRA. 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 8]. Available from: https://www.ntra.com/ntra-top-thoroughbred-poll-september-5-2023/
Alison is passionate about horses and has been a freelance pet and equine writer for six years. She grew up in England, where she had her own horses and competed in show jumping and dressage competitions.
Now based in the Middle East, she is a qualified riding instructor specializing in rider biomechanics and is certified to teach the Equestrian Franklin Ball method.
When she’s not around horses, Alison can be found hiking in the mountains or off travelling to some exotic location!
You can find her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/alison-ocallaghan-79918a3b/