Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte returned to the worktab at Palm Beach Downs on Friday in preparation for a scheduled start in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream Park. The champion 2-year-old-male of 2022, Forte has firmed up as the consensus 3-1 favorite in both Las Vegas and national pari-mutuel futures for Kentucky Derby 2023.
The Todd Pletcher-trained 2022 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile male breezed for the first time since his tour de force 2023 debut in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) on March 4 at Gulfstream Park. The son of Violence breezed a half-mile in 50.72 under regular jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I thought it was super. The horse is doing extremely well. He came out of the Fountain of Youth in great shape. He had a nice breeze this morning, just a half-mile. He finished up strongly with a good gallop-out,” Pletcher said. “He’s very happy and moving well.”
Work of the Day from #PalmBeachDowns—Forte (Outside), 50.72, and Crupi, 51.07, worked 4 Furlongs on March 17th, 2023, for trainer @PletcherRacing. pic.twitter.com/qWzb5PttAg— XBTV (@WatchXBTV) March 17, 2023
Forte showed he does not need things to go his way to dominate his rivals when he overcame bumping at the start of the Fountain of Youth and raced in traffic before launching a four-wide bid into the stretch. He drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths without coming under pressure.
“He came back with really good energy. His appetite has been super. He’s doing all the things the way you’d want him to be doing them,” Pletcher said. “He’s coming out of a big race and leading up to another big one. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Hall of Fame trainer has saddled a record six Florida Derby winners; Scat Daddy, (2007), Constitution (2014), Materiality (2015), Always Dreaming (2017), Audible (2018) and Known Agenda (2021).
At Gulfstream Park, the Antonio Sano-trained Congruent and Il Miracolo breezed five furlongs Friday morning. Congruent, who captured the Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park last time out, was timed in 1:01.37 in preparation for a planned start in the March 25 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). Il Miracolo was timed in a bullet 1:00.50 in preparation for a likely start in the Florida Derby.
Gustavo Delgado-trained Mage, who finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth in only his second career start, breezed five furlongs Friday morning in 1:02.38.