He certainly made it interesting for those who were willing to swallow the 3-10 about champion and ‘TDN Rising Star’ FORTE (c, 3, Violence–Queen Caroline, by Blame), but at the end of the day, the truly gifted animals are those that can rise to the challenge in the face of adversity and he did just that in overcoming an adventurous journey in Saturday’s GI Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. Drawn in gate 11 in a field of 12, the $110,000 Keeneland September graduate was off fairly and raced in traffic to the first turn before setting deep and with only a couple of rivals behind as the slow-starting Fort Bragg (Tapit) burned across to lead clear. Irad Ortiz, Jr. had the big favorite worse than midfield and in about the five path nearing the half-mile marker, at which point he began to get busy. But so, too, did Mage (Good Magic), who raced at the tail early on, in the slipstream of Forte towards the end of the backstretch and got first run with a powerful sweep around the turn. Racing in a pocket for a stride or two, but with ample galloping room, Forte allowed Mage to go on with it and he dueled with Cyclone Mischief (Into Mischief)–who had also sat a wide trip from a high draw–into the final furlong. But produced down the center, Forte did his best work through the line and was comfortably clear at the end of the nine furlongs. Sales history: $110,000 Ylg ’21 KEESEP. O-Repole Stable & St Elias Stable; B-South Gate Farm (KY); T-Todd Pletcher.
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