Forte as good as ever in Fountain of Youth (G2) romp

Forte, last year’s champion 2-year-old colt, began his march to the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) with an emphatic victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

Eaton Sales consigned the 3-year-old colt to the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling sale, where he sold for $110,000 to Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable.

Expectations were high for Forte, who was racing for the first time since winning the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The dark bay colt delivered as hoped. He sat behind a moderate pace of :47.65 and 1:11.84 before making a four-wide move for the lead coming into the stretch. He got to the front just inside the final furlong and drew away very impressively, winning by 4 ½-lengths in 1:43.12 for the 1 1/16-miles on a fast track.

“We kind of carefully laid it out and put him in a program that would put him in the condition to be ready to run and still having room for improvement and room to continue to develop,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I think we were able to accomplish that.”

“It’s special,” co-owner Mike Repole said. “Very special. Very special. You know, for a horse making his first start in four months against other horses who have already raced this year, he does it with so much confidence. He’s just checking all the boxes right now. He’s a pretty special horse right now.”

Forte currently sits atop the Road to the Derby standings with 90 points. Pletcher said that Forte would make one more start prior to the Run for the Roses, likely in the Florida Derby (G1) on April 1.