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Strapping Groom Springs Upset in Forego

Strapping Groom, claimed for $35,000 in May by his current connections, stepped up in class to win the 34th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego for sprinters 3-years-old and up on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.


Quickest from the gate, Strapping Groom was joined to his inside by Fast Bullet, part of a coupled entry that went off as the odds-on favorite, as the field exited the chute. Strapping Groom led that opponent by a head as they dueled through an opening quarter-mile in 22.92 seconds.


Strapping Groom began to sneak away from Fast Bullet on the far turn, running a half-mile in 45.22 before taking a clear lead into the stretch as 2011 Forego winner Jackson Bend commenced a rally while racing along the rail. Kept to a drive by Junior Alvarado while racing in the middle of the track, Strapping Groom held resolutely to win by a half-length.


The final time for seven furlongs in the slop was 1:22.27. A 15-1 outsider, Strapping Groom returned $32.40 for a $2 win wager.


"He broke pretty good," said Alvarado. "I tried to make him comfortable the whole way. He handled the track pretty good. Turning for home, I knew I would have something left. When I asked him, he made a great run. I felt him [Jackson Bend] coming through along the rail, but I knew I was close enough to the wire. I knew it was my race already."


Strapping Groom gave trainer David Jacobson his first Grade 1 win in a flat race. In 2011, Jacobson won Saratoga's Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap, a steeplechase race, with Mabou.


In May, Jacobson claimed Strapping Groom in what was the 6-year-old's first start in 11 months. In his first three starts for Jacobson, Strapping Groom won the Lion Cavern overnight stakes at Belmont Park in June, finished fifth in the Grade 3 James Marvin in July at Saratoga, and captured the restricted Kid Russell Stakes on August 12 at the Spa.


"When you claim a horse, you always have high expectations," said Jacobson, who owns Strapping Groom in partnership with Drawing Away Stable. "I always liked him going back to when he was laid up. Even back then I told my assistant, Frank LaBoccetta, I thought he was fast enough to win a graded stakes. Frank reminded me of that 10 minutes ago. [Trainer] Carl Domino did an outstanding job bringing him back, and he was in great shape when I claimed him."


Strapping Groom's record stands at 8-5-1 from 22 starts. The son of Johannesburg has earned $626,713.


Justin Phillip, the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap winner who was part of the coupled entry, finished 3 ½ lengths behind the winner in third. Lea, Sage Valley, Javerre, Fast Bullet, and Golddigger's Boy completed the order of finish. Saratoga Snacks was scratched.  




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