Forte winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland (Photo by
In a showdown of multi-Grade 1 winners in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on Friday at Keeneland, Forte sprung a surprise, rallying boldly to defeat heavy favorite Cave Rock.

Both Forte and Cave Rock brought decorated resumes into the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile, which serves as a Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier worth 30-12-9-6-3 points to the top five finishers. The speedy Cave Rock was favored off blowout victories in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharoah (G1), but stretch-running Forte brought a similar record highlighted by wins in the Hopeful (G1) and Breeders’ Futurity (G1).

Despite their similar resumes, Forte started at odds of 5.02-1 in the Juvenile, more than 10 times the price of 0.47-1 favorite Cave Rock. In the end, bettors who backed Forte were richly rewarded.

When the gates opened, Cave Rock broke inward before rushing up to battle longshot Hurricane J through fractions of :22.90, :47.01, and 1:11.77. Forte was content to settle in midfield under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and remained four lengths off the pace with just five-sixteenths of a mile remaining.

But at that juncture, Forte made his move. Sweeping past rivals with a decisive outside rally, Forte charged up to challenge Cave Rock. The favorite couldn’t muster the necessary response and weakened in the final furlong to finish second as Forte pulled away to a 1 1/2-length triumph in 1:43.06.

“Obviously delighted with everything. He got a beautiful trip. Just kept coming,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher.
National Treasure, Blazing Sevens, Curly Jack, Verifying, Hurricane J, Congruent, Wound Up, and Lost Ark completed the order of finish. It should be noted Cave Rock and National Treasure did not earn Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points since they are trained by Bob Baffert, who is currently suspended from racing at Churchill Downs, the host track of the Kentucky Derby.
Forte’s margin of victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was larger than in the Breeders’ Futurity, his first try racing 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. Pletcher attributed Forte’s stronger Breeders’ Cup performance to staying well outside of rivals, avoiding a close-quarters duel with Cave Rock.
“The last time, he made the lead pretty comfortably, but he got to waiting and laying on the horse next to him,” said Pletcher, “so today, if we were lucky enough to get in a position to get (the lead), we wanted to give ourselves plenty of space and not get close to the horse next to him.”

Like the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Breeders’ Futurity is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Having won both races, Forte ranks atop the current Kentucky Derby qualification leaderboard with a lofty total of 40 points. And with three Grade 1 wins under his belt, the son of Violence is almost certain to be voted champion two-year-old male at the Eclipse Awards.

All told, Forte has compiled four wins from five starts and earnings of $1,595,150. With his decorated resume and improving profile, the sky is the limit for Forte in 2023.