Racing Roundtable: Forte, Elite Power underscore champion status

August 1st, 2023

James Scully and Kellie Reilly weigh in on Forte's victory in the Jim Dandy (G2), developments in the sprint division with the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) and Bing Crosby (G1), and more in this edition of the Racing Roundtable.

What does Forte's Jim Dandy win portend for the Travers?

James Scully: An exciting showdown with Mage is on tap. Seldom flashy, Forte excels at gutting out narrow wins, and he had to survive an inquiry after prevailing by a nose in the Jim Dandy. That sets the stage for another match-up with Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage, who Forte re-rallied to defeat in the Florida Derby (G1).

Mage has improved significantly since their previous meeting, and the late runner received an ideal prep when finishing second in the recent Haskell (G1). The Travers will feature additional depth, including Arcangelo, who snapped Forte’s five-race win streak in the Belmont (G1), but Forte and Mage will be the top draws, both leading candidates for three-year-old male divisional honors. It promises to be quite the battle on Aug. 26.

Kellie Reilly: Sharper with the addition of blinkers, Forte answered a key tactical concern ahead of the Travers, and reiterated that he’s a threat to reign as divisional champion once again. That said, he’ll meet stronger challengers in the Travers, and we would have learned more if the Jim Dandy hadn’t been a tactical race, in a small field, in the slop.

The set-up wasn’t conducive to a few others, including Angel of Empire, who lay much closer to stalk pacesetting stablemate Saudi Crown. And Angel of Empire was bothered by Forte’s maneuver to shove him out of the way at the top of the lane, under an aggressive Irad Ortiz Jr. Forte was full of run, and the best horse on the day, but arguably fortunate not to be disqualified for clearly buffeting Angel of Empire. On the other hand, Forte had to regain his momentum after the barging match too. He would have probably been more decisive with a cleaner trip, instead of just barely nipping Saudi Crown, who had everything his own way. The inexperienced Saudi Crown has now run back-to-back gutsy races, having just been outdueled in the Dwyer (G3) as well, and his day will come.

Thoughts on the sprint division after the Vanderbilt and Bing Crosby?

JS: After a career-best performance in February’s Riyadh Dirt Sprint (G1) overseas, Elite Power lacked the same luster winning the True North (G2) at Belmont June 10. The sprint champion alleviated any concerns with a top-class victory in the Vanderbilt, overhauling Gunite in the final strides by a neck. The runner-up ran a huge race, and the top two finishers rank as the leading Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) contenders on the East Coast.

California-bred stakes star The Chosen Vron returned to open competition with a gutsy head decision in the Bing Crosby, stretching his win streak to eight. Saturday’s win came at six furlongs, and The Chosen Vron handles any distance up to a mile, recording three of the last eight wins at six furlongs. Runner-up Anarchist, who made his first start against winners earlier this year, remains a promising prospect in the sprint ranks for Doug O’Neill. And Dr Schivel, who missed by a neck in third and finishing a nose second in the 2021 Sprint at Del Mar, rebounded from an unplaced effort in the Met Mile (G1), and the five-year-old remains a top Sprint contender out west.

KR: Both the Vanderbilt and the Bing Crosby underscored Elite Power’s status as the top sprinter. Given how the Vanderbilt unfolded, Elite Power really shouldn’t have been able to catch Gunite. That admirably tough battler burst clear in the Saratoga slop, but Elite Power delivered a 110 Brisnet Late Pace rating to head him on the line. Later in the Bing Crosby, Elite Power received a form boost. Anarchist, a hard-trying but well-beaten second to Elite Power in the True North (G2), just missed by a head to Cal-bred win machine The Chosen Vron in a messy race at Del Mar. The Chosen Vron and Elite Power both extended their respective winning streaks to eight, although The Chosen Vron gained most of his in state-restricted company. If there’s one possible nitpicking about Elite Power’s chances to repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), it’s that six furlongs is his bare minimum trip, and he’ll have no margin for error closing from off the pace at Santa Anita.  

What else caught your eye over the weekend?

JS: A week after Valentine Candy captured an intriguing maiden special weight at Saratoga, Justify was represented by a promising two-year-old colt at Del Mar, Heartland, who left himself plenty to do after a bad start and flew home through the stretch to win his career debut at 5 1/2 furlongs. The Bob Baffert-trained chestnut colt registered a 93 Brisnet Speed rating for the two-length decision.

At Saratoga, Seize the Grey caught the eye leading all the way on a sloppy track Saturday, facing a serious bid from 2-1 favorite Lambo entering the far turn before engaged by 5-2 second choice Dornoch, a half-brother to Mage, in upper stretch. Seize the Grey, an athletic gray son of Arrogate making his second career outing for D. Wayne Lukas, turned back both challenges like a seasoned pro, offering more in the final sixteenth to win going away by about two lengths. The up-and-coming colt earned an 89 Speed rating.

KR: A few possible Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) contenders competed in a fantastic renewal of the “Win and You’re In” King George VI & Queen Elizabeth (G1) at Ascot, where Hukum bested Westover in an instant classic. The drying-out ground wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and conditions played into the hands of the two strongest stayers. Hukum has a right to be labeled comeback player of the year, recovering from an injury that cut him down when he was getting seriously good last season, and he’s amazingly returned in his prime. The six-year-old’s mature power helped him in his duel with the four-year-old Westover, who is still developing despite being a high-class operator already.

If Hukum is unlikely to take up his free spot in the Breeders’ Cup at a firm Santa Anita, Westover could turn up for a Juddmonte operation that’s historically committed to the championships. Those beaten further in the King George, by likely exaggerated margins on the day, would have claims to fare better in the Breeders’ Cup. Third-placer King of Steel has huge upside as a three-year-old, and the older brigade of Luxembourg, Pyledriver, and Emily Upjohn are better than they showed at Ascot. So is the disappointing favorite Auguste Rodin, who folded early, and now finds himself at a crossroads.

Finally, I have to mention the mixed fortunes for Godolphin on Sunday. Reigning Turf winner Rebel’s Romance was moving exceptionally well amid the Bowling Green (G2) field when he clipped heels and lost Richard Mullen, who remains hospitalized. Rebel’s Romance escaped unscathed, and hopefully we’ll see him back in the Aug. 26 Sword Dancer (G1). Earlier Sunday in Germany, his Charlie Appleby stablemate Nations Pride had a much happier time wiring the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis (aka Bayerisches Zuchtrennen) (G1) at Munich. A global campaign is on tap for the Teofilo colt, whose November target is the $1 million Bahrain International Trophy (G2) at his optimal trip of about 1 1/4 miles.

The Racing Roundtable Show

The Racing Roundtable Show Transcript

we're back with the TwinSpires racing
Roundtable I'm Ashley Anderson here with
James Scully and Darren zikali to look
back at a huge Stakes weekend including
Forte's performance and the Jim Dandy
Elite Powers continued dominance racing
at Del Mar and some other big
performances as well welcome back this
weekend James and Darren how y'all doing
awesome keep it simple apparently
apparently somebody else wants to find
out if I'm doing okay
well let's Jump Right In and talk about
Forte's return to the Winner's Circle it
was in somewhat controversial fashion he
survived a stewards inquiry to win the
gym Dandy what do you all make of his
performance in this race and how does
that impact your view of the Traverse on
August 26th let's start with James
well I thought that uh I think that
Forte's performance is win and the Jim
Dandy sets the stage for a terrific
showdown in the Travers I think there's
going to be other contenders but
obviously the big story line is going to
be made versus Forte and I think it's
going to be a huge race for both of them
they're really looking to get a leg up
in the race for uh Champion
three-year-old male and
Forte as far as his race itself I mean I
I've seen that kind of performance
before from him whether it was the
Florida Derby or the uh breeders for
charity where he has to really dig deep
to eke out this narrow win you know he
always finds a way it seems like if it's
going to be close at the wire uh to to
get it done uh it was with some
controversy obviously he you know banged
his way out made contact with angel of
Empire who I don't think was going to be
a factor regardless
um but I can understand why some people
thought it was a DQ I sort of leaned
against it but a lot of controversy at
Saratoga with these uh you know inquiry
whether it's a DQ or a non-dq but as far
as the race itself I think it's great I
think it like I said it really sets the
table the biggest race of the meat at
Saratoga is the million 1.25 million
dollar Traverse and we're gonna have a
really good Showdown I believe between
Forte mates and then we'll have some
other contenders as well actually or
yeah on the DQ look in a race like that
it's not a disqualification it's race
riding it's it's finding a way through
angel of Empire had the length of the
stretch to be able to outrun Forte to
that point he was clearly not going to
be able to do it uh angel of Empire
finished third Forte got up by by a nose
I don't think it cost anybody a placing
whatsoever I thought the stewards made
the absolute right decision there in
addition Saudi Crown was kind of
drifting through the stretch as well
forcing Forte into angel of empire for
about an eighth of a mile there so yeah
did he bull his way through he did but
on the day the best horse won angel of
empire was never gonna be better than
third in that race he's such a confusing
horse guys in in terms of forte it like
there's races where he looks like he's
ready to go locked and loaded he just
does enough to get there in the final
strides they put the blinkers on this
time I suppose he was a little bit more
involved earlier on in the race he
showed a little bit more speed but he's
still showing that a tendency to kind of
wait on other horses and at this level
eventually that's going to catch up to
you much like it did in the Belmont
Stakes where he wasn't able to run down
arcangelo so if he waits on Mage again
and Mage makes that Blitz on the turn
like he did against him in the Florida
Derby Mages a more seasoned better horse
now I don't necessarily think Forte can
re-rally and Chase Mage down at this
point of their careers like he did back
in April so it's going to be very
interesting to see how this
three-year-old picture continues to
develop but
Forte you have to put them at the head
of the class now he's got the Florida
Derby he's got the Jim Dandy he's second
in the Belmont Stakes and if he wins the
Travers he's going to be Champion
three-year-old but that's a big if
because there's going to be plenty of
viable contenders
you know Todd pleasure liked the way
that he responded with blinkers and now
Forte will be coming off four weeks of
rest which he has one in this spot twice
before he won the Breeders Cup juvenile
off the breed of his maturity from four
weeks of rest and same thing last year
with the Fountain of Youth and then the
Florida Derby but of course his
performance this weekend doesn't make
you feel Ultra confident that he's going
to win especially facing Mage what do
you all make of the rest of the horses
in this field we'll have potentially tap
it tries another Pletcher horse as well
Darren do you think he has any chance
he's also another confusing horse
no I I don't think I'll ever think
Captain Choice has a chance in a race at
this level again I listen I'm not saying
he's not a talented Runner because he
does have a plenty of ability but his
tendency to get left at the start miss
the break leave himself with way too
much to do at the grade one level when
you're facing the best of the best it's
just not a winning combination and uh
unless you're you know a Zenyatta type
uh which he is not you're not going to
continue to pass every single horse in
every single race and uh he's gonna need
softer competition to be able to Rally
the way he wants to so he can show up in
the Travers but for me he's an also ran
yeah and I I agree with that as far as
Tampa tries I have sort of the same
thoughts angel of Empire ran better than
Tampa Trice did in the Haskell but I I
just think he's not as good as Forte a
Mage and Saudi Crown who was only a nose
back he looks like he's gonna go to the
pin Derby one other horse that's waiting
in line and Wade is arcangelo won the
Belmont the thing with Arkansas is
Belmont performance it came off of a
prep race in the Peter Pan I'm not keen
on his preparation his trainers working
him like every his trainer said he needs
at least 10 days between works and just
all about spacing and I just didn't
understand that uh I think he's going to
be a little bit short against the likes
of Mage and Forte because I give mage's
connections a lot of credit for prepping
in the Haskell they were willing to lose
that race to try to win the Travers and
um yeah we we basically hit everything
about that it should be a Dandy on
August 26th uh the Travers nice play on
words but let's move over to the Sprint
division we had Elite power extend his
win streak to eight in the Alfred G
Vanderbilt and over on the west coast we
had the chosen Brawn also extend his win
streak to eight in the bean Crosby a
Breeders Cup one and you're in Challenge
Series event to get to the Breeders Cup
Sprint so what are your thoughts on the
Sprint division after these two races
yeah very I would say a wide open uh
division even though these two horses
were on win streaks because Elite power
I didn't think he was going to get there
in the Vanderbilt and he just did run
down gunlight who I think is going to be
a major player in the Sprint division as
well Elite Powers is a closing type
that's certainly going to be dependent
on setup on Pace uh that's uh kind of
similar to The Chosen Ron who likes to
come from off the pace as well so you
know sometimes on the Southern
California tracks in the Breeders Cup
you don't necessarily expect the closers
to do well in the Breeders Cup Sprint
will remain to be seeing how much pace
is in that race and what the top uh
flight sprinters in terms of the ones
that have speed do there but I don't
necessarily think this is a a lock
locked up division for elite power or
the chosen run I think they are at the
top but I don't think the Gap from them
despite their win streaks is as big as
some people think it is and I wouldn't
be surprised if a horse like an
anarchist or a doctor shovel or a gun
like could jump up and beat them in a
Breeders Cup race because I think
there's a lot a lot of talent in the
Sprint Division I think it's a little
bit closer than people think
yeah I I thought that uh I was impressed
by Elite power I thought Gunnery ran
terrific I thought their the Gunite and
Elite power the top two sprinters on the
East Coast right now and I had some
concern about Elite power because I
didn't like his true north performance
on the Belmont undercard after he ran a
career best in that re-hot dirt Sprint
in Saudi Arabia that was better than his
Breeders Cup Sprint or Mossberg last
fall and a horse has come back from
Dubai I mean it hadn't been happening as
much in recent years but arrogate was
never the same after a career best
effort so there was some concern Elite
power put that to bed and put that to
rest so he and he and gunite they both
look good to me for the Breeders Cup
Sprint they're gonna have to carry their
form out west as far as it being Crosby
that was a deeper field some of those
horses could factor in uh this fall
wouldn't surprise me as far as the
chosen for on I'm just even I give him a
lot of credit for you know gutting out
that narrow whim I'm not sure 6 bar
so he's been a six and a half seven mile
or type and usually the Sprint is won by
true six Furlong horses I thought
Anarchist ran well for a second he's
always second he needs to find more for
Doug O'Neal but he's still he's still
like you know in that could be or you
know have more to offer going forward
and that was a pretty strong effort and
Darren mentioned Dr scheibel I thought
that was a good rebound performance from
him after not showing much in the Met
mile he runs his best races out west so
to me he's in the mix as well when you
talk about West Coast Contender so the
Breeders Cup Sprint Ashley
yeah I'll give Lee power a slight
advantage over the chosen bra and also
you know Elite power spinal time this
weekend was 109 22 on a sloppy track and
the chosen bronze stopped the timer at
109 24 on a fast track at Del Mar but an
interesting note about the chosen run
nine of ten at Santa Anita so maybe he
has the home field advantage in the
Breeders Cup Sprint potentially
but like you mentioned James and Darren
there are a lot of other good horses
that could come back in that race as
well so still a lot to be determined but
let's see what else caught your eye this
week and we obviously had a lot of
stakes all over the country so James
what else did you notice this weekend
well I'm paying a close attention to
these two-year-old races Saratoga and
Del Mar and I'll mention a winner at
both tracks last Saturday at Del Mar in
the opener a Justified cult justify uh
candy valentine the weekend before had a
nice Maiden winner on the turf here
recently at Saratoga and Heartland a
first-time starter 550
000 yielding purchase
veered into the start almost hit the
inner rail coming out of the gate at uh
five and a half furlongs and then was
last early after I really made a good
run up the rail the wind going away by
about two lengths looks like he has a
future and it sees the gray did not run
well broke a little slowly never fired
in his debut at Ellis Park but he turned
things around big time for Dwayne Lucas
in the slop at Saratoga once again these
Saturday made Races they can produce not
only the winners but the also rants can
come back and and be good steaks horses
and I thought that was a pretty nice
field I'll say that this about it he
took a lot of pressure going he broke on
Topsy's degree but he took a lot of
pressure from the two to one favor going
into the far turn he put him away the
five to two second choice made a run in
him an upper stretch he put him away and
he wasn't going away so I wouldn't
dismiss that because of the sloppy track
this arrogate Colt could have uh some uh
could have a nice feature for Dwayne
Lucas Darren
no for sure yeah I mean definitely hone
in on him and hone in on a lot of the
two-year-olds up at Saratoga I went the
complete opposite approach with my what
else we're going to talk about the far
end of the age Spectrum Channel maker
weird race with the incident on the turn
where Rebels romance clipped heels and
lost the rider and obviously there were
some issues there with some of the
horses towards the back which completely
changed the complexion of the race but
nonetheless the tip of the hat to the
old man age nine going wire to wire into
Bowling Green sometimes when the pace
scenario just fits him like a glove and
he's allowed to kind of control things
on the front end like he was this past
weekend he's still able to get the job
done at an extremely high level and is
usually competitive in these grade three
and grade 2 types he may not be the
borderline grade one Runner that he once
was guys but to be nine years old
capturing a grade two up at Saratoga
good for him good for Manny Franco
getting himself back on track after a
rough start to the Saratoga meet always
great to see Channel maker put forth a
big performance like that and get
himself into the Winner's Circle
and I'm going to take it back to the
two-year-olds for this time on Turf we
had cool More's No Name That's earn his
second Stakes one and three career
starts he had a disappointing showing
and then Norfolk Stakes during Royal ask
it but last week he won the Tyro Stakes
at Monmouth Park and his connections are
looking to aim him toward the Breeders
Cup he won by five and a half links
looked very good in this race so another
two-year-old to keep an eye on as well
anything else you all wanted to note
no I just it should be fun next week
talking about uh uh Cody's wish and the
uh Whitney so
yeah big weekend for harness racing too
if you're out there the hamiltonian at
The Meadowlands on Saturday they got
that 15 or 16 race card with the million
dollar hamiltonian which is considered
the Kentucky Derby of harness racing and
probably will be a massive Day from a
handle standpoint they usually handle
upwards of eight million dollars on that
card it'll be uh the third highest
signal of the of the day behind just
Saratoga and Del Mar as it is each year
so some great betting opportunities last
year the race was won by a 50-1 shot so
uh it's always a fun day hambo today at
the Big M on Saturday looking forward to
I'll have to get your picks before that
race because I am not a harness
that's it for us this week on the racing
Roundtable we'll be back next week of
course to talk about the Whitney and
some other big stakes and join us on
Thursday for the jury for our Best Bets
and Fades and check out
where the TwinSpires app for a number of
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as well see you next time