Unraced since his Eclipse Award-clinching victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Forte flaunted his status as a champion – and the early Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite – in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2). The 1-2 choice asserted his superiority with a bold move out wide at Gulfstream Park and crossed the wire as much the best.

Forte’s dominance on the track is once again reflected on the Derby points leaderboard. The Todd Pletcher trainee regained the top spot with his 50-point haul from the Fountain of Youth. Coupled with 30 from the Breeders’ Cup and 10 from his Breeders’ Futurity (G1) score, Forte boasts a total of 90 points.
Co-owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, Forte was traveling like the winner throughout the 1 1/16-mile affair. Regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr. had him perched in a midpack fifth early, just a couple of lengths off the pace. 
Cyclone Mischief sped forward to lead, prompted by longshot Dangerous Ride who couldn’t maintain his position. Rocket Can, the Holy Bull (G3) winner, assumed the role of nearest pursuer, with recent debut romper Mage also prominent. As they ratcheted up the pressure on Cyclone Mischief rounding the far turn, Forte was in the clear and on the move.
Circling that trio, the champion put the race away in a few strides and increased his margin to 4 1/2 lengths. Forte clocked 1:43.12 to extend his winning streak to four, a sequence that began in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga.
“I had a beautiful trip,” Ortiz said. “Everything I expected happened. I wanted to get a good position forwardly placed. I was right behind the horse I had to be. I just bided my time to go, decided to wait a little more, two more jumps until the three-eighths (pole). I went around horses and let him go and show what he can do.”
Rocket Can was second-best, adding 20 points to double his total to 40. Cyclone Mischief boxed on for third, worth 15 points. Mage tired to fourth, a creditable result in his stakes and two-turn debut, and earned 10 points. There was a 7 1/2-length gap to Shadow Dragon, who closed from last for fifth, garnering five points for a total of 13. Il Miracolo, Dangerous Ride, Blazing Sevens, and Legacy Isle concluded the order of finish, while General Jim was scratched.
Forte has bankrolled $1,833,230 from his nearly perfect 6-5-0-0 mark. His only loss was a fourth in last summer’s Sanford (G3) at Saratoga, on a deeper track than his impressive premiere at Belmont Park. 
Pletcher mapped out a two-prep campaign building up to the Kentucky Derby, and the Hall of Fame trainer forecasts improvement from the Fountain of Youth.
“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,” Pletcher said. “I think we were able to accomplish that.
“Honestly, I can’t say I was surprised,” he added regarding the big comeback. “I felt really, really good the way this horse was coming into the race. It looks like there’s a lot of upside.”
Bred in Kentucky by Amy Moore’s South Gate Farm, Forte first sold for $80,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and went to his current connections for $110,000 as a September yearling. The dark bay is a son of Violence (who also had Saturday’s Gotham [G3] conqueror Raise Cain) and the multiple stakes-winning Queen Caroline, by Blame. Further back, this is the all-star family of champion Essential Quality and 2020 Japanese Triple Crown sweeper Contrail.