The 1970’s have come to be known as the Decade of Champions. One of the most indelible images of those years is of the enormous bay gelding, Forego, making his signature closing drive down the middle of the stretch. At distances from seven furlongs to two miles, more often then not, the yellow and black silks of Mrs. Martha F. Gerry’s Lazy F Ranch would find their way to the winner’s circle. Forego won 34 of the 57 times that he started and earned $1,938,957 in his career. He was the favorite in 49 of those races.
The first time you may have noticed the yellow cap with the three black hoops was when Forego ran fourth behind Secretariat in the 1973 Kentucky Derby. Forego was part of the great 1970 thoroughbred crop that included: Secretariat, Sham, Mr. Prospector, Shecky Green, Ancient Title, Allez France, Dahlia, and Desert Vixen. Those horses achieved greatness in many different areas of racing, but Forego outlasted them all.
Despite chronic leg problems, throughout his career, which were caused by an enlarged sesamoid in his left front ankle, Forego managed to run for six years. One of his greatest achievements was winning the Woodward Stakes in four consecutive years beginning in 1974.
Forego started 1974 with ten starts at distances from seven furlongs to a mile and a quarter that led to five wins and two seconds all in graded stakes. But the three races right before the Woodward were his worst of the year; twice losing to Big Spruce and Arbees Boy, including a third in the Marlboro Cup just two weeks before the Woodward. But in the Woodward Forego would reverse the outcome rallying from a distant tenth place to nip Arbees Boy at the wire under regular jockey Heliodoro Gustines.
Forego had a knack for turning the tables on horses that had beaten him. In the 1975 Woodward, he defeated Wajima, who would become three-year-old champion, after losing to him in two prior grade one races: the Governor and Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park. Despite those two loses Forego still went off as the favorite. This time he stayed within a couple of lengths of the Belmont Stakes winner Avatar and Wajima and pulled away down the stretch. This was the last time the race would be run at 1 1/2.
Sherrill Ward retired in 1976, and Forego was transferred to the barn of Frank Whiteley. He began his campaign in May and raced six times, regularly carrying over 130 pounds. This Woodward was the first with Bill Shoemaker, who would become Forego’s rider for the rest of his career. Shoemaker saved ground early on and then swung Forego outside and unleashed his relentless stretch drive.
In 1977, Forego continued his winning ways while carrying the kind of high weights that are no longer a part of racing. Six weeks before this year’s Woodward, Forego suffered the worst defeat of his career in the Whitney on a sloppy Saratoga track. The Daily Racing Form comment was that he “disliked the going”. As in all of his Woodwards, Forego was sent off the favorite and responded with a powerful closing rush down the middle of the track.
Forego won the Eclipse Award for Handicap Horse of the Year in all four years that he won the Woodward. He even outdid the great gelding Kelso who won the Woodward only three consecutive times from 1961 to 1963. Forego was also Horse of the Year in 1974, 1975, and 1976. Today the Forego Handicap is run on the Woodward undercard to honor the gelding’s achievements.