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History Challenge: Eclipse hero Forego
The 1973 Kentucky Derby was another classic “east-versus-west” confrontation. All eyes were focused on reigning Horse of the Year Secretariat and the pride of the West, Sham.
As expected, the two finished far in front of the other 11 starters in the 99th Derby. Little attention was paid to the gelding who finished fourth that afternoon, 11 lengths behind the winner.
Five weeks later, when Secretariat stunned the racing world with his incredible 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, few noticed the horse who won the previous race on the card.
That was a $20,000 allowance event. The nine-length winner was the same horse who had finished fourth to Secretariat in Louisville.
At the end of the year, Secretariat retired with his second Horse of the Year title and five Eclipse Awards in all.
The winner of that allowance event on Belmont Stakes Day was Forego, who for the following three years was named Horse of the Year. For four years, he was crowned champion older male. Along with one title as champion sprinter, Forego’s Eclipse Award total reached eight – more than any horse before or since in the Eclipse era.
And at the end of the 20th century, Forego was ranked in the top 10 Thoroughbreds of that period, along with Secretariat.
With the 35th running of the Grade 1 Forego Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga, test your knowledge of this great gelding.
1. In 1942, William Stamps Farish, president of Standard Oil of New Jersey, was in the process of turning his cattle farm, Lazy F Ranch in Texas, into a major Thoroughbred operation when he died suddenly at age 61. Four months later, his son, William, was killed in World War II.
Farish’s wife was so distraught that the responsibility for operations of Lazy F Ranch was turned over to their 24-year-old daughter, Martha Farish Gerry. She did not relinquish that role until her death in 2007 at age 88.
Gerry became close friends with Bull Hancock, master of Claiborne Stud, and kept her broodmares at his Lexington, Ky., farm. In 1966, Hancock put together a syndicate to purchase a South American champion who had won all seven of his races in Argentina and had been hailed as that country’s greatest racehorse.
When the horse went to stud, Hancock convinced Gerry to buy two shares. The end result of one of those shares was Forego. Name the sire of the only three-time Horse of the Year in the Eclipse Award era.
2. Many geldings do not race often early in their careers, usually because their castration was the result of the difficulty in getting them to keep their minds on racing.
Exterminator, a gelding who raced 100 times (99 if his race against time at Hawthorne in 1922 is excluded), made only four starts – all in July – in his 2-year-old year and did not win his first stakes race until he captured the Kentucky Derby.
Five-time Horse of the Year Kelso, a gelding, made only three starts – all in September – in his 2-year-old season, did not make his first start at age 3 until late June, and did not win his first stakes race until that August.
Forego did not start as a 2-year-old. When did he win his first stakes race and what was the event?
3. Kelso and Forego are often compared to each other. Together, they amassed an incredible 18 year-end championship honors. Each carried massive weights most of their careers. And each was a fixture on the New York racing circuit, a darling of Empire State racing fans who flocked to the track each time their heroes ran.
Kelso had two primary jockeys during his long career – Eddie Arcaro and Ismael “Milo” Valenzuela. After riding Kelso 14 consecutive times in 1960 and 1961, Arcaro abruptly retired before the 1962 season because of problems with his knees.
Forego was ridden primarily by three jockeys – one who rode him in 10 of his first 11 starts, another who rode him in 31 straight races before retiring from the saddle, and another who rode him in his final 11 races. Name the three riders.
4. In the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, undefeated champion Personal Ensign seemed hopelessly beaten just a few yards from the wire on a muddy track that she could never get a hold of. Somehow, she got up to win in the last step, beating Kentucky Derby heroine Winning Colors by an eyelash.
After that race, one could not help but think back 12 years to 1976, when Forego ran the signature race of his career. Carrying a staggering 137 pounds over 1 1/4 miles on a sloppy track that he hated, Forego seemed hopelessly beaten. He had five horses in front of him at the top of the stretch and was still four lengths back in the shadow of the wire. Somehow, he got up to beat that year’s Kentucky Derby favorite in the last step. Name the race and the horse Forego caught.
5. One of the most impressive feats by Forego came in a six-week period in 1974. On Sept. 28, he won the 1 1/2-mile Woodward Stakes. Three weeks later, he shortened up to seven furlongs, winning the Vosburgh Handicap. Three weeks after that, he completed his season by winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup at two miles.
No trainer today would even attempt such a radical change in distances with a top horse.
Forego’s win in the Vosburgh, along with his win earlier in the year in the Carter Handicap at seven furlongs, was enough for him to be voted champion sprinter as well as champion older male and Horse of the Year.
Since the beginning of the Eclipse Awards in 1971, how many other horses were named both champion sprinter and Horse of the Year in the same season.
HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS
1. Forli, a grandson of the magnificent international sire Hyperion, was the darling of Argentine racing fans in 1965 and 1966. The colt won all three of his starts at age 2 by a combined three dozen lengths.
Forli then won all four of his races at age 3 at distances from one mile to 1 7/8 miles, never being headed at any point.
Purchased by Bull Hancock, Forli came to the United States in 1967 and was immediately turned over to future Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham.
Forli made his U.S. debut in the Coronado Handicap at Hollywood Park, winning and bringing his record to 8 for 8. After an exhibition race, Forli was shipped to Arlington Park for the Citation Handicap.
He suffered his first defeat in the Chicago race, finishing second to Dominar. Forli pulled up lame, and X-rays later revealed a break in the left front cannon bone. He was immediately retired to Claiborne Farm.
Forli proved strong at stud, siring 60 stakes winners (8 percent of his offspring). But none was better than the huge bay colt produced by Lady Golconda at sunset on April 30, 1970.
Martha Gerry had privately purchased Lady Golconda for her Lazy F Ranch for $20,000. Gerry named the colt Forego, using a combination of the sire’s and dam’s names.
Few owners deserved a champion of Forego’s stature more than Gerry. During her 65 years in the sport, she became one of the most prominent and honored women in American racing history.
A graduate of Vassar College, Gerry was among the first women to be admitted to The Jockey Club, a member of the board of trustees of the New York Racing Association, and an honored guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America.
2. Forego was a big foal and developed into an even bigger horse. His measurements were all at or near the top of the scale for a Thoroughbred. His hips were so wide that he barely fit into the starting gate as he grew.
Training such a massive animal was difficult. He kicked and bit. He shied away from people who came near him. He went crazy in the presence of female horses.
Finally, Martha Gerry agreed in the summer of his 2-year-old year that castration was the only way Forego would get to the races. He was vastly improved by the procedure but was saved for the following year.
Forego won two of his first three starts at Hialeah Park. He then finished second in the Hutcheson Stakes and Florida Derby. Shipped to Keeneland, he disappointed as the favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes.
After the Kentucky Derby, Forego kept mostly to classified allowance races before being beaten a head in the Jerome Handicap in October at Aqueduct. On Nov. 24, five weeks before he became a 4-year-old, Forego came from 14 lengths back to capture the Roamer Handicap at the Big A, the first of his 24 stakes wins.
3. Pete Anderson, who had been the top apprentice rider in New York at age 16 in 1948, was in the twilight of his career in 1973. He saw Forego one morning training at Hialeah, and trainer Sherrill Ward asked him to gallop the big horse.
Anderson agreed and went on to ride Forego in his first nine starts, until he could not make the weight (111 pounds) for Forego’s allowance win on the Belmont Stakes card. Heliodoro Gustines, who had ridden in Panama City with the likes of Braulio Baeza and Manuel Ycaza, two Hall of Fame riders, got the call.
From Sept. 1, 1973, to May 31, 1976, Forego started 31 times, all with Gustines in the saddle.
Ward also had to step aside as Forego’s trainer for the gelding’s final seven races of 1973. Ward had open-heart surgery and temporarily turned his duties over to retired trainer Eddie Hayward. Severe arthritis forced Ward to finally retire in 1975. Frank Whiteley Jr., who had conditioned Damascus and Ruffian, among others, trained Forego in his final three seasons.
In the fall of 1976, Whiteley turned to Bill Shoemaker, at the time racing’s all-time leading rider. The Shoe rode Forego for the remainder of the gelding’s career.
4. The Marlboro Cup was conceived in 1973 as a match race between Secretariat and Riva Ridge but was expanded to a full invitational field. Until the arrival of the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1984, the race was one of the premier handicap events each fall season.
After finishing third in the 1974 Marlboro Cup and being beaten a head in the 1975 renewal under 129 pounds, Forego was assigned 137 pounds for the 1976 Marlboro. He faced 1975 juvenile male champion Honest Pleasure, who had finished second that year in the Kentucky Derby at 2-5 (equaling the lowest odds ever on a starter in that classic).
Fighting the mud and massive impost, and giving Honest Pleasure 18 pounds, Forego came down the middle of the track to turn almost certain defeat into a most improbable victory.
5. Ack Ack is the only other horse in the Eclipse era to be voted Horse of the Year and champion sprinter. Like Forego, Ack Ack won two major sprints in 1971 (the first year of the Eclipse Awards) – the seven-furlong San Carlos at Santa Anita and the 5 1/2-furlong Hollywood Express.
Ack Ack also won five other stakes, including the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup (carrying 134 pounds).
Since formal voting began for championships in 1936, only two other horses were voted champion sprinter in the same year they were voted Horse of the Year – Tom Fool in 1953 and Dr. Fager in 1968.
– Ron Hale
Forego was just unbelievable. Not that Secretariat wasn't great, because that would be ridiculous to try to refute, but he was in a lot better shape than Forego. Forego was plagued with three bad legs and was said by Manual Gilman the track veterinarian, that his x-rays shoukd be in the hall of fame, yet he cartied tremendous weights throughout his magnificent career that Secretariat never had to contend with. As a handicap horse, he was already handicapped by his physical problems, yet he managed to win horse of the year three years in a row against the best horses that ever ran on a racetrack. I only wished that he had been in the top physical shape that Secretariat was in, with none of the physical ailments that he had to overcome. One can only wonder how much greater he would have been
I was at Belmont that day on Secretariat's Belmont Stakes win, and I can still remember after all these years that allowance race that Forego won. I was struck at his size and how he seemingly loomed so large over all the other horses in the race that he made them look like midgets as he blew by them. I also miss the Jockey Club Gold Cup when it was two miles, and well remember that only the most formidable race horse with a brutish and raw strength could win a race like that.
Very nice to hear such stories when you're not around during that time. Pls. keep on writing about the history of such horses. Thank you.
Gallant Pro. One of the greats!