Forte drilled for the Belmont Stakes by breezing Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track in his first workout since scratching on the morning of the Kentucky Derby as the morning-line favorite.
Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher and piloted in the breeze by Irad Ortiz Jr., the son of Violence worked in company with New York-bred stakes winner Let Her Inspire U, covering a half-mile over the muddy going in 50.31 seconds.
“It looked super. I'm really pleased with the way he went. He was well in hand throughout and galloped out nicely,” Pletcher said. “We were playing it by ear with the weather, but the training track dried out nicely.”
Ortiz won the Gallorette (G3) aboard Whitebeam on Saturday’s Preakness card in Baltimore and guided Blazing Sevens to a close runner-up finish in the featured Grade 1 event won by National Treasure.
“Irad is a dedicated young man,” Pletcher said. “He drove back last night so he could be here this morning. He had a huge smile on his face afterwards and his comment to me was, 'this made my day.' ”
Forte, owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, entered the Kentucky Derby at the top of the leaderboard with 190 points. He earned those with victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1). He boasts a record of 7: 6-0-0 with total purse earnings of more than $2.4 million.
Under Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority rules, Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby. To be removed from the list, he will have to breeze in front of a regulatory veterinarian and produce a negative blood sample result after that work, which generally takes five days to be returned.
Pletcher said the required breeze for the vet could take place on Friday.
“He's in excellent condition and doing well here at Belmont,” Pletcher said. “We got that first breeze in that we were looking for, and he's scheduled to come back and breeze again on Friday if conditions permit. We'll come back with a five-furlong move on the main track and continue on towards the Belmont.”
Pletcher said he was disappointed not to be able to showcase Forte’s talents in the Derby.
“I feel bad for the connections and for the horse not getting the opportunity to run in the Derby, but the timing was bad and we just have to turn the page and move on,” Pletcher said. “I'm just thankful the horse is doing great and we're looking forward to running in the Belmont.”
Pletcher could have as many as four Belmont Stakes starters, including his Derby runners Tapit Trice, who was seventh in the Derby, and Kingsbarns, who was 14th. Also under consideration is Prove Worthy, a Curlin chestnut who graduated at third asking traveling 10 furlongs on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
Tapit Trice worked a half-mile in 49.04 seconds Friday over Big Sandy.
“Tapit Trice breezed very well on Friday, and Kingsbarns will probably breeze this Friday,” Pletcher said.
Prove Worthy, out of the graded-stakes placed First Samurai mare Endless Chatter, was purchased for $325,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
"He handled the stretch out to a mile and a quarter really well,” Pletcher said. “He's one we always thought would continue to improve as he matures, and the distance is something he would be capable of getting. He's light on experience, so we'll play it by ear and see how the field is shaping up before making any decisions there."
Entries for the 155th Belmont Stakes will be taken on Tuesday, June 6. Among the other possible starters are Peter Pan (G3) winner Arcangelo, Sir Barton winner Arabian Lion; Preakness winner National Treasure, Gotham (G3) winner Raise Cain; multiple graded stakes-placed Red Route One; and Risen Star (G2) runner-up Sun Thunder.