Fast Bullet, Justin Phillip Give Zayat Powerful 1-2 Combination in Forego
By Jon Forbes | 08/28/2013 06:07 PM ET
Zayat Stables' Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip, both coming off the biggest wins of their careers, comprise a formidable coupled entry that was installed as the even-money morning-line favorite for the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The seven-furlong Forego for 3-year-olds and up is one of three graded stakes on Saturday's card and will be shown live on the NBC Sports Network. Post time for the Forego, race 9, is scheduled for 5:12 p.m.
On June 8, Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip finished 1-2 in Belmont Park's Grade 2 RTN True North Handicap. Fast Bullet established a clear lead at the start and repulsed a bid from Justin Phillip, who stalked the pace.
The RTN True North was the first graded stakes win for Fast Bullet, who has four wins in five starts. His lone loss was a sixth in last year's Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Justin Phillip has made one start since the RTN True North, pulling away in the stretch to prevail by two lengths and earn his first Grade 1 victory in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on August 4 at the Spa.
Fast Bullet, unraced since the RTN True North, had trained exclusively with Bob Baffert in California before being transferred to another Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. Fast Bullet arrived at Lukas' Saratoga barn on August 20.
"He's a beautiful horse, and his race record speaks for itself," said Lukas, who won the Grade 1 Travers on Saturday with Will Take Charge. "Whatever he does, I'm going to have very little influence on it. Mr. [Ahmed] Zayat wants to run, and [winning a Grade 1] would be a big boost to his stud career."
Luis Saez will ride Fast Bullet for the first time in Forego. The 5-year-old son of Speightstown drew post position 6.
While Fast Bullet is the least-experienced Forego entrant, Justin Phillip has made 29 starts, more than any other horse in the field besides Jackson Bend (31 starts). Justin Phillip is a three-time graded stakes winner, having taken the 2011 Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont and this year's Grade 3 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the assignment aboard Justin Phillip from post 7.
Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip's competition could include Michael Dubb and Gary Aisquith's Sage Valley, who won the Grade 3 James Marvin over the Forego's course and distance on July 19. Sage Valley has won five of his past six starts, including the Mr. Nasty overnight stakes last November at Aqueduct Racetrack and the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap in May. He was fifth in the RTN True North.
"We always liked him a lot," said trainer Rudy Rodriguez. "I don't think he needs the lead. I think he'll be able to relax. In [the RTN True North], he kind of slipped leaving the gate, and I think we brought him back a little too quick [off his win in the Maryland Sprint Handicap]. We've given him some time, and we know he likes Saratoga. He has been training here very, very well."
Rodriguez said he is unsure whether Sage Valley will compete in the Forego.
"We'll take a look at the race," said Rodriguez. The horse is here and is ready to run."
Cornelio Velasquez was named to ride Sage Valley, who drew post 3 and was tabbed as the 7-2 second choice on the morning line.
Lea will switch from turf to dirt and cut back from two turns to one for the Forego off a third behind Wise Dan and King Kreesa in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap on August 10 at Saratoga. The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred also was second to Wise Dan in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on June 29 at Churchill Downs.
In his lone start on the dirt, Lea won an off-the-turf optional claimer by 3 ¼ lengths on June 1 at Churchill.
"He ran so well in that one [dirt] race," said Stall. "We like the way the horse is training, and if you go by [Ragozin numbers], the race on dirt was the best race in his life by many, many points."
Lea, 12-1, will depart from post 4 with Brian Hernandez, Jr. aboard.
Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei's Jackson Bend, winner of the 2011 Forego and seventh in this race last year for Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito, will attempt to win his first race of the year on Saturday. Now back with trainer Stanley Gold, Jackson Bend was fifth in the Ponche Handicap and third in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder before finishing third in the Housebuster on August 3 at Gulfstream Park.
Strapping Groom, claimed for $35,000 by trainer David Jacobson in May, has won two of three starts for his new connections. The Drawing Away Stable color-bearer won the Lion Cavern overnight stakes in June at Belmont, was third in the James Marvin, and added another score in the restricted Kid Russell Stakes on August 12.
Saratoga Snacks will take on open company after having made four straight starts against New York-breds. He won his 2013 debut, the Shy Groom overnight stakes, in June at Belmont and was third against four opponents in the John Morrissey on August 1.
The field also includes Javerre and Golddigger's Boy.
The field for the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego: