By Nicholas Godfrey
Saratoga: Forego Stakes G1 $600,000 7f, dirt, 3yo+
Yaupon (Steve Asmussen/Ricardo Santana)
In a dramatic finish, Yaupon held off Firenze Fire to claim his first G1 victory in the Forego – but not until after the runner-up tried to bite him inside the final furlong.
What is more, the runner-up’s jockey Jose Ortiz reckoned his mount’s attempted savagery had cost him the race, though Firenze Fire would surely have lost it anyway in the stewards’ room even if he had come home first.
“Honestly, it was really weird, I’ve never been in that before,” said Ortiz. “He got me too close to the horse when he did that.
“I had perfect position,” Ortiz said. “I stayed next to him [Yaupon] and I thought I had him beat, but you saw what happened inside the sixteenth.
“My horse tried to bite the other horse and I really had to get a hold of him to get him away from him. I think he should’ve won that race.”
Instead, 2-1 favourite Yaupon scored by a head to claim a hot race featuring five previous G1 winners.
“The finish made it that much more dramatic,” said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. “I will watch that replay many times in my future. For that to happen in a Grade 1 at Saratoga with two horses on the lead, that will be memorable.
“Honestly, I watched it from the apron down the stretch. I was worried he was going to bite Ricardo. We’ve had some not ideal finishes this year and you’re not there until you get to the wire.
“Everybody’s always known what a brilliant horse he is, the talent that he’s shown, and for him to show up today on a stage and beat five Grade 1 winners was amazing.”
Ricardo Santana described the biting incident as “kind of scary”. He added: “That never happened to me before and the only thing I can think is don’t stop riding,” Santana Jr said.
Veteran sprint star Whitmore was pulled up after the wire and vanned off. Trainer Ron Moquett said the Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero was sound but had picked up a small injury and would be retired.
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