by NYRA Press Office
Jockey Manny Franco capped a three-win day on the penultimate card for the Belmont Park spring/summer meet with a sweep of both stakes for owner Barry K. Schwartz on Saturday, winning the $150,000 Forbidden Apple with Voodoo Song and the $100,000 Rockville Centre aboard La Fuerza.
Franco, who stands third in the jockey standings with 48 wins going into Sunday, picked up his first victory of the day aboard Schwartz's La Fuerza, who handled the step up to stakes company and stayed undefeated in the fifth running of Rockville Centre for New York-bred juveniles in Race 3.
La Fuerza stayed off the early speed as the last-of-five in the field with Hushion going the opening quarter-mile in 22.33 seconds. Bustin Mach Four took the lead at the half-mile mark, going 46.28, but Franco urged La Fuerza to go wide out of the turn.
In the stretch, the Flatter colt continued to press on, passing Red Zinger from the outside before overtaking Bustin Mach Four, who was near the rail, and closed to win by 4 ½ lengths in completing six furlongs in 1:12.27 on the fast main track.
"The main thing was to break out of there well and then try not to do too much to him," Franco said. "As soon as I had the chance to go to the outside, I just tipped him out and he exploded by himself. He's a nice horse. I knew the horse can run and I had a lot of confidence in him and I just waited for the time and he did it."
La Fuerza improved to 2-for-2, building on his winning debut on June 22 at Belmont. It was the second straight win in the Rockville Centre for trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled What a Catch last year.
Off as the 2-5 favorite, La Fuerza paid $2.90 on a $2 win bet, nearly tripling his career earnings to $97,200.
Bustin Mach Four, trained by Michelle Nevin, finished 1 ½ lengths in front of Red Zinger for second. Hushion and What the Luck completed the order of finish.
In Race 9, the second of two stakes races on Saturday's card, Franco guided the speedy Voodoo Song to a gate-to-wire score, the Forbidden Apple for older horses at one mile on the Widener turf course.
Voodoo Song, a 4-year-old New York-bred colt by English Channel, broke forcibly from the gate and took up his customary position at the head of the seven-horse field, leading through an opening quarter-mile in 23.29 and a half in 46.30 with Blind Ambition the nearest in pursuit.
Franco and Voodoo Song held a comfortable, two-length advantage at the top of the lane and continued on through the stretch, easily holding off late runs from the Chad Brown-trained duo of Projected and Offering Plan, who finished a respective second and third, to win by a length.
The final time was 1:31.67. Sent off at 5-1, Voodoo Song returned $12.
Mr Havercamp finished fourth. Disco Partner, favored at even money, was fifth, followed by Blind Ambition and Pocket Change to complete the order of finish.
Voodoo Song, trained by Linda Rice, accomplished a rare four-race win streak last summer at Saratoga. Saturday's victory improves his career record to seven wins from 15 starts for total earnings of $581,685.
"The plan was to let him do what he wanted to do. He went to the lead. I tried to slow him down a little bit and he did, it worked out," said Franco. "The last time, he went a little [fast], I figured this time if I went around 46, that was my goal. He is game all the time. He always keeps trying. He gave me all he had."
Franco also won Race 7, a $25,000 claiming event at 6 ½ furlongs, with Honey Graeme.