Leading sprinter Private Zone, a convincing winner of the Belmont Sprint (G3) and Churchill Downs S. (G2) in his last two attempts at seven furlongs, will take some beating in Saturday’s $700,000 Forego (G1) at Saratoga.
Trained by Jorge Navarro, the outstanding 6yo gelding will face 11 opponents with regular rider Martin Pedroza. Private Zone is seeking his fourth Grade 1 score and has earned more than $2.2 million. The Ontario-bred son of Macho Uno towers over the field in BRIS Prime Power (152.4), with nearly a four-point edge over his closest rival, and Private Zone tuned up for the Forego with a recent half-mile drill in :45 4/5 that drew rave reviews.
The Big Beast, winner of the 2014 King’s Bishop (G1) and a nose second in the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) most recently at the Spa, is among the challengers. Despite jockey John Velazquez losing the whip last time aboard the Tony Dutrow trainee, the 4yo Yes It’s True colt registered a career-best 104 BRIS Speed rating.
Race Day was an impressive performer earlier this year, netting a 106 BRIS Speed for a superb 3 ¾-length tally in the Oaklawn H. (G2), but the Todd Pletcher charge will be attempting to rebound from a disappointing sixth as the odds-on choice in the July 5 Salvator Mile (G3) and loses the services of Velazquez. Javier Castellano takes over the reins.
Other contestants include multiple group winner Tamarkuz, fourth when making his U.S. debut last out in a salty Met Mile (G1); four-time graded victor Salutos Amigos; Grade 2 scorer Wildcat Red; and Falling Sky, who posted a 105 BRIS Speed capturing a listed stakes at Gulfstream last out.
Sophomore sprinters take center stage in the $500,000 King’s Bishop, which will also be contested at seven furlongs.
Holy Boss, a comfortable 2 ¼-length winner of the August 1 Amsterdam (G2) over the track, is the horse to beat for trainer Steven Asmussen. A son of Street Boss, the chestnut colt has won four straight races and likes to race up close before offering his best. Ricardo Santana Jr. retains the mount.
Ellis Park invader Runhappy is certain to attract support stepping back up to face graded rivals. A smashing 8 ¼-length debut on Turfway’s Polytrack last December, the Super Saver colt came back 20 days later to finish a well-beaten ninth in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, his lone two-turn attempt. He returned from a layoff in early July, registering a 102 BRIS Speed rating for an allowance tally at Indiana Downs, and Runhappy exits a superb 2 ¾-length allowance score at Ellis in which he turned 6 ½ furlongs in a sizzling 1:15. Edgar Prado picks up the mount for trainer Maria Borell.
Competitive Edge captured the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga last year and is an obvious contender for Pletcher following a fourth to American Pharoah in the Haskell (G1). Grand Bili, winner of the July 5 Carry Back (G3) at Gulfstream Park, also can’t be dismissed from consideration with a field-best 108 BRIS Speed last time. Castellano will stay aboard the gray colt for Gustavo Delgado.
Other runners of note include Woody Stephens (G2) and Bay Shore (G3) hero March; Ohio Derby winner Mr. Z; and multiple graded stakes-placed Classy Class.
Private Zone, an early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), exits an easy tally in the Belmont Sprint; photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese