Forte Works Towards Jim Dandy; Becky's Joker To Spinaway

Forte and Grand Sonata | Sarah Andrew

Reigning Champion 2-Year-Old colt Forte (Violence) logged his first breeze of the summer at Saratoga Race Course when covering a half-mile in :48.90 seconds over the Oklahoma dirt training track Friday with regular jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. up for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

The colt worked in company with graded stakes-winner Grand Sonata (Medaglia d'Oro) in preparation for the GII Jim Dandy July 29 at the Spa.

“He jumped on the bridle a little early, so I kind of took a little hold away from the horse,” said Ortiz, Jr. “I allowed him to see the company and go after him. He did.”

Pletcher said he was pleased with the work, which he moved to the training track after heavy rains overnight led to the main track being sealed this morning.

“We fortunately had the option of coming over here on a harrowed track,” said Pletcher. “I thought he worked well. He's a pretty straightforward horse and he does what you ask him to do. I thought he was moving really well and he seemed happy. He usually sits a little off [his workmate] to keep him focused.”

Ortiz, Jr., who regularly works the colt, said Forte was as professional as usual.

“We went 48 and change. On this kind of track, it is really good,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He is doing good. He looked good, he looked happy, so let's see what happens. The way he does things [excites me]. He knows where the wire is. He loves to win. You can see in the Belmont Stakes, I kept trying with him and he kept coming. He's a fighter.”

“He's obviously a very fit horse and he just ran a mile and a half, so we don't feel like we have to do a lot with him leading up to this race,” continued Pletcher. “We'll probably come back with another maintenance work next week.”

“I think you can see he's a little more laid back. He's an intelligent colt and takes everything in stride, and you can see he's matured that way,” said Pletcher. “Obviously it was a frustrating spring and he ran terrific in the Belmont considering what he was up against. To me, he's a deserving divisional leader, but like everyone else, he's got to continue to win to hold that spot.”

Pletcher also provided an update on 2-year-old filly Wine On Tap (Tapit), who finished an even fourth in Thursday's GIII Schuylerville S. as the post-time favorite.

“She looks good. She was just kind of one-paced down the lane and I thought she recovered and galloped out really well,” said Pletcher. “She is a filly that we've always thought would be better going longer. It was just a little disappointing that she didn't finish up a little better than she did yesterday, but she came back well and looked good this morning.”

Speaking of the Schuylerville, trainer Gary Contessa was still watching replays on Friday morning of Lee Pokoik's Becky's Joker (Practical Joke), who launched what appears to be a promising career with a debut victory in the opening-day feature.

The sizable bay stands 16.3 hands high and, “towers over everybody” in the barn according to Contessa, who confirmed the filly for the seven-furlong GI Spinaway S. September 3 at the Spa.

“She came back sound and they tell me she looked great this morning,” said Contessa, who was catching a flight to Nashville to watch his son's baseball tournament. “She honestly can only get better. She's got a lot more left in the tank, so we're looking forward to seeing what she can come up with next. As big as she is, and as big as her stride is, she's going to get better as the distances stretch out. I think seven-eighths is going to hit her right between the eyeballs in the Spinaway.”

Contessa commented on the soundness and the good mind of his newly minted graded stakes winner.

“Knock on wood, she's been very, very sound and very healthy. Everything has gone our way so far, so we're keeping our fingers crossed that it continues,” Contessa said. “She's trained as well as any horse I've ever had as a 2-year-old. No matter what you ask her to do, she's push button and picks it up to another gear. Her mind is so good. She had it figured out and she's really a smart filly.”

One can expect Contessa, who has 10 stalls on Saratoga's Oklahoma backstretch, to unleash more promising young talent throughout the meet.

“All these babies are ready to run, so we're going to have a real presence,” Contessa said. “This was a great win to start with and we have even more pretty nice horses awaiting their turn.”


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