Forte passed favorite Cave Rock on the stretch for a 1 1/2-long upset victory in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and became the Kentucky Derby favorite in early 2023.
Todd Pletcher-trained Forte attacked late and Cave Rock, weakened by an early challenge from 30-1 Longshot Hurricane J, won the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:43.06.
“The horse deserves the credit. He rode so well,” said jockey Irad Ortiz after his 15th career cup win.
“When it was time to go, as soon as we got to the clear, I hit him once and he went forward. I knew he would be hard to beat.”
The $2 million dirt showdown surpassed five opening two-year-old races at the two-day, 14-race, $30 million event at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky as drama unfolds into Saturday’s three-year-old races, topped by the $6 million, 1 1/4 mile Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Second-place Cave Rock, a 2-5 odds-maker favorite, and third-place National Treasure (8-1) were coached by Bob Baffert, who has a record five Juvenile wins.
“He ran a brave race. He was beaten by a good horse,” Baffert said of Cave Rock. “Forte drove a great race and got us.”
Famed trainer Baffert returned to Kentucky for the first time since being banned from Churchill Downs following Medina Spirit’s failed drug test after the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
Pletcher won his 13th Breeders Cup race and finished third in the Juvenile, but wasn’t feeling well until Forte stormed past the Baffert competitors at 4-1 in the final steps.
“You know, when you get to Bob’s horses, they’re going to find something else,” Pletcher said. “I thought we had him but was happiest when he comes around.
“It was definitely worth coming here.”
– Two wins for O’Brien –
Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien won his first $1M Juvenile Fillies Turf after 14 previous penalties and earned his 14th Breeders’ Cup win overall thanks to Irish horse Meditate with Ryan Moore on board.
“This filly made that very easy,” Moore said. “Lots of talent. She hasn’t had a bad race all year.”
The 2-1 favorite, with Moore aboard his 10th Breeders’ Cup winner, finished the mile in 1:35.38 and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Pleasant Passage with Cairo Consort third.
“We weren’t sure about the mile but Ryan gave her a brilliant ride,” said O’Brien. “Michael was very confident that this was the race for her. It is really incredible. I am very happy for everyone.”
For their second wins of the day, Moore and O’Brien accumulated their fifth career victories in Juvenile Turf as Victoria Road won the mile race for the Irish horse’s fourth straight win.
Mischief Magic stormed into the middle and won the 5 1/2 Furlong Juvenile Turf Sprint in 1:02.41 to make British trainer Charlie Appleby the first to win four consecutive races.
The Godolphin stable horse, who went 6-1 with jockey William Buick on board, passed second-place finisher Dramatized to win by a length with Private Creed in third place.
“Everything was just right for him,” said Buick after his sixth Breeders Cup victory.
Appleby, a seven-time winner in 12 Breeders’ Cup starts, won turf, mile and juvenile turf last year before making it for a fourth straight year.
“Fantastic ride from William,” said Appleby. “He took him to the front there in the back corner and made a nice run inside.”
Wonder Wheel clinched a triple win in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, finishing the 1 1/6 mile race in 1:44.90 ahead of Leave No Trace and Raging Sea.