Pletcher is pleased with Forte's work Saturday at Belmont

Pletcher is pleased with Forte's work Saturday at Belmont
Photo: Jason Moran / Eclipse Sportswire

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher gave a thumbs-up following a Saturday morning breeze from Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s reigning champion 2-year-old Forte, who worked five-eighths over the Belmont Park main track in preparation for Belmont Stakes 2023.

Under sunny skies and temperature in the 60s, Forte, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, breezed in company with Ontario-bred maiden Abadin (1:00.69). NYRA clockers caught Forte through three-eighths in 35 seconds flat before completing five furlongs in 1:00.44 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 flat over the fast main track.

Colic takes Kingsbarns out of Belmont Stakes mix.

The move was Forte's second since being scratched the morning of the Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs as the morning line favorite. He breezed a half-mile in 50.31 seconds last Sunday over the Belmont training track.

“I was really, really happy. I thought he was moving great. He got into a good rhythm, finished up great and galloped out nice and well,” Pletcher said. “It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level. We thought that last week when he breezed a half that he recovered pretty quickly, and even more so today after a strong breeze and big gallop out. It seems like everything is in good order.”

Pursuant to HISA Rule 2241(a), Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby due to a bruised right front foot. In order to be successfully removed from the list, Forte had to work in front of a regulatory veterinarian and then produce a blood sample for review following the breeze which generally takes five days to be returned.

Pletcher said Dr. Sarah Hinchliffe, NYRA's senior examining veterinarian, was pleased with the work and subsequent exam.

“It went very well. She examined him before he breezed, watched him on the track during the breeze and after the breeze and then came back to the barn and examined him again,” Pletcher said. “She said she was happy. They pulled blood and she gets results in five days on that and that should take care of everything.”

Pletcher said he is content that Forte is in top shape ahead of the Belmont.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we're happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we're happy everything did go well.”

Initially scheduled to work on Friday morning, Pletcher moved Forte's breeze to Saturday to give him an extra day.

“It would have been back in five days, so we felt it would be crowding it a bit,” Pletcher said.

Forte, a son of Violence out of the five-time stakes winning Blame mare Queen Caroline, won the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park this season following his Eclipse Award-earning season last year. He was bought for $110,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Pletcher also reported that Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont Stakes. The son of Uncle Mo missed a scheduled breeze on Friday after demonstrating signs of colic that morning.

“We’re going to be knocked off course. He had a bout of colic,” Pletcher said. “He’s fine, no surgery needed. They just have to administer some fluids. It’s unfortunate timing, but it’s not something that we can (control). We can’t get a breeze in the next day or two so we’re going to run out of time. We’ll make sure he’s OK and then come up with a game plan.”

Pletcher said Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s 10-furlong maiden winner Prove Worthy remains possible for the Belmont Stakes. The Curlin chestnut was a third-out maiden winner on May 2 at Churchill Downs, and has remained in training alongside Pletcher’s division at the Louisville oval. He breezed a half-mile in 49.6 seconds at Churchill on Tuesday.

“I’II have to talk to (co-owner) Mike (Repole) and see what he wants to do there. He’s just coming off a maiden race, but he did appreciate the mile and a quarter,” Pletcher said. “l think he’s an improving horse, but the question is does he have enough seasoning to come into a race like this. I’ll talk to the ownership group and come up with a plan.”

Prove Worthy is out of the Grade 1-placed First Samurai mare Endless Chatter, whose dam Orate is a full sister to the late influential sire Pulpit.

Pletcher said Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice was in good order following his Friday morning work in preparation for the Belmont Stakes. The gray son of four-time Belmont Stakes-winning sire Tapit finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby after victories in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Blue Grass (G1).

He added that Forte and Tapit Trice would likely both log their final Belmont Stakes breezes on Saturday, June 3.

Bass Racing’s homebred Annapolis also worked on Saturday morning under Ortiz, Jr., going a half-mile in 49.55 seconds over the training track in preparation for the Poker (G3) on Belmont Stakes day June 10. The 4-year-old son of War Front won his seasonal debut in the Opening Verse on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

“He went really well and he’s on schedule for the Poker,” Pletcher said.

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