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Forego gets up on the wire: A Moment in Time

The date was October 2, 1976. The United States was one month away from electing a former peanut farmer as the Commander-in-Chief, and in the world of thoroughbred horse racing; one of America’s all-time great handicap stars would thrill fans with a breathtaking performance at Belmont Park. Forego was the two-time defending champion Horse of the Year and was in the midst of another sensational season. He was coming off an overpowering performance in the Woodward Stakes, and since he was carrying 135 pounds that day, he was assured to be weighted down in one of the most important races on the calendar.

Since its inception in 1973, the Marlboro Cup had been as key a race as you could find in the huge races of the fall. Forego had twice attempted to win it, but was turned away with a third in 1974, and then a narrow head defeat at the hands of Wajima in 1975. Those previous losses meant little to an appreciative crowd of more than 31,000 who had come out despite the balky October weather. The big New York crowd pounded the great gelding down to 11-10 favoritism despite a couple of daunting factors. The Belmont Park track was sloppy that day, a surface that Forego generally struggled to get his big frame over smoothly, and with 137 pounds assigned by the racing secretary, it would mean Forego would be giving gobs of weight to a large and talented field.

Chief among his rivals on this day would be the previous year’s juvenile champion, Honest Pleasure. The beaten odds-on favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness had rebounded with an impressive front running romp in the Travers at the same 1 ¼ mile distance as the Marlboro, before finishing third to Forego in the Woodward. In that race he was in receipt of 14 pounds, this time it would be 18.

As expected, the Leroy Jolley trained three-year-old shot right to the lead under rider, Craig Perret. Forego, ridden by Bill Shoemaker, broke sharply but was allowed to ease well back off the early lead. As furlong after furlong went by, Honest Pleasure seemed to be as comfortable as could be on the lead, while Forego, in the familiar yellow silks of owner Martha Gerry, seemed to be left with too much to do, especially on this type of track.

As the eleven horse field turned for home, Honest Pleasure was still full of run well off the rail and Father Hogan, carrying only 110 pounds, was running a big one on the inside. Only one horse would have the fortitude to go after the leading pair. Forego was mustering every ounce of his amazing courage and fearless will to win, to unleash a furious closing rush out in the middle of the track. Still it looked like it would be too little too late, as Honest Pleasure was not coming back to the rest. With 50 yards left it still seemed hopeless, but Forego had a full head of steam. Gaining major ground with each enormous stride, Forego was reeling in his opposition fast. The large Belmont crowd went nuts. The only question would be if he could get up in the last stride.

Sure enough he did, by a head, in a famous photo. One jump before the wire it was still Honest Pleasure, but Forego had won it on the wire. In so doing, Forego had finally won the rich Marlboro Cup in the racehorse time of 2:00 flat for the ten furlongs. The final time was only 1/5 of a second off the track record he had set in winning the Brooklyn the year before. Not bad for a horse carrying 137 pounds in the slop.

The spectacular victory came in his final start of 1976 and marked the 21st stakes win for the 6-year-old son of Forli. It also undoubtedly was the clinching factor in securing his third and final Horse of the Year award. Forego would come back to win three more stakes in 1977 and win another Handicap Male Championship before finally retiring as an eight-year-old in 1978. For all of his accomplishments and endless list of victories, it was a seemingly impossible win in the 1976 Marlboro Cup that best encapsulates everything that Forego was as a racehorse.



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Older Comments about Forego gets up on the wire: A Moment in Time...

Was never a big Forego fan but have to admit you have to admire the way he carried the weight. I think I saw this one at bemont as I was there on most weekends in the 70's.
I've been away for awhile and just had an opportunity to catch up on this. I LOVED Forego. Thanks for posting one of my all time favorite races.
Great article about a truly great horse. Thanks
well NYRA did come back with the Fall Highweight this year
Thank You Brian, what a wonderful race for a wonderful horse that you know im so dearly proud of.....watching him take on all comers, id always be nervous on the wet tracks, carrying whatever weight was put upon him, being born the same year as Sectetariat was the only bad luck for him...what a thrill to watch everytime and that why he remains one of my all time favorites.
ONLY BUMS TODAY no one will let you add weight they wont run if you do there all afraid so we will never really see great champions again WHAT A SHAME RACING GOINE DOWN HILL
What an amazing race. I cannot believe the weight these horses used to carry! If he ran the 10 furlongs in 2 minutes flat, I have to wonder what his time would have been if he had been carrying less weight on a fast track. We'll never know, but it's an intriguing thought.
What a warrior, the great gelding, Forego. He was a favorite of mine, too.
Why do we often say great geldings? One has to look no further than this guy. Huge weight carrier, a step of way from lameness on spindly legs who ran short and long at or beating track records...Kelso. John Henry and Old Bones were the warriors

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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