08/29/2008 11:00PM

First Defence wins Forego


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With heavy favorite Lucky Island compromised by a troubled start, First Defence rolled to a 6 3/4-length victory in the $250,000 Forego Handicap Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.

A 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt owned by Juddmonte Farms, First Defence set fractions of 22.53 and 44.61 and completed the seven furlongs in 1:21.55. He paid $17.60 as the 7-1 third choice in the field of 10. Greeley's Conquest edged Ferocious Fires for second, with Lucky Island finishing sixth.

It was the first Grade 1 victory for jockey Channing Hill. Hill, 21, replaced regular rider Javier Castellano, who accepted an assignment at Delaware Park.

While Lucky Island, the 3-4 favorite, stumbled leaving the gate, was squeezed by horses on either side of him, and was taken back to last by jockey Alan Garcia, First Defence broke alertly on the rail and was quickly involved in a three-way battle for the lead.

"I was concerned about the one post, you know how they always break [slow]," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "But he broke right with the field, and he just dragged him up to the lead. I was surprised he ran as good as he did."

Hill was impressed with the way First Defence raced to the decisive win. "Coming to the three-eighths pole I figured everyone was going to have to really start running to catch us," he said. "What a nice horse. He went 44 like he was going 47 and he just cruised around there."

First Defence, winner of the Jaipur over a yielding turf course at Belmont Park on June 15, and the runner-up to Abraaj in the A.G. Vanderbilt on July 26, opened up on the competition in the stretch.

"If you watch his last few races he hasn't been finishing," Frankel said. "I was waiting for him to start slowing down a little bit and he just kept on going.''

Lucky Island's chances of extending his winning streak to five and challenging the recently retired Benny the Bull for the sprint championship were over quickly. Garcia moved the colt into contention on the turn, but he could not sustain his run.

"He said he stumbled, broke poorly, and then he got wiped out," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He came flying to make up a lot of ground, but you can't win spotting the field that much ground."