06/08/2016 2:26PM

No lemons for Fipke mare

Barbara D. Livingston
Forever d'Oro comes into the Belmont Stakes off a maiden win.

Forever Unbridled and Forever d’Oro will get wildly different receptions from horseplayers on Saturday at Belmont Park. Forever Unbridled is a Grade 1 winner who is part of a star-studded field in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes. Forever d’Oro is a recent maiden winner and will be a longshot in a Belmont Stakes topped by heavy favorite Exaggerator.

But the two both run for owner and breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Dallas Stewart, and both are out of the duo’s Kentucky Oaks winner and outstanding broodmare, Lemons Forever.

Stewart purchased Lemons Forever for $140,000 at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale for owner Willis Horton and liked the filly so much that he kept an ownership interest in her. Less than two years later, she shocked the racing world with a 47-1 upset in the Kentucky Oaks. Although she never won another stakes race, she did finish third in that summer’s Grade 1 Alabama Stakes.

Stewart and Horton really cashed in when Lemons Forever sold as a broodmare prospect for $2.5 million at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Stewart had never met the buyer, noted geologist Charles Fipke, before, but it was a fortuitous meeting, as the owner elected to send Stewart the resulting foals out of Lemons Forever as well as other horses. Along the way, the team has found success with Triple Crown longshots, sending out Golden Soul to finish second in the 2013 Kentucky Derby at 35-1 and Tale of Verve to be second in last year’s Preakness Stakes at 28-1. Both are by stallions Fipke campaigned – Perfect Soul and Tale of Ekati – illustrating one of the tenets of his breeding program – supporting his own stock.

Lemons Forever began her own broodmare career with two foals by Perfect Soul – Fipke also tends to match the same horses multiple years in a row to give crosses a chance to work – before visiting the late Unbridled’s Song for two consecutive years. The result was the full sisters Unbridled Forever and Forever Unbridled.

Unbridled Forever won a pair of minor stakes and placed in five graded events, including a third in the 2014 Kentucky Oaks, before finally breaking through with a victory in the Grade 1 Ballerina Stakes last August at Saratoga. Meanwhile, Forever Unbridled was on the upswing in her own development.

“She’s different from her sister and her mother,” Stewart said. “They’re just all completely different horses. [Forever Unbridled] is more aggressive. She’s nice in the stall but tough on the track.”

Forever Unbridled placed in three stakes in the spring of her 3-year-old season and was unplaced in the Kentucky Oaks before blossoming late in 2015. She won the Grade 3 Comely Stakes in December at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic in January at Sam Houston, and the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Invitational in April at Oaklawn, in which she rolled by 2 1/4 lengths against a field that included the champion Untapable.

“She’s a wonderful filly,” Stewart said. “We’ve got great hopes for the rest of the year. We just need to keep her sound and healthy. Her sister won a Grade 1. Her mom did. She’s something special. Her last three races have been over three different race tracks. She won at Aqueduct, she won at Houston, she trained at the Fair Grounds, she won [at Oaklawn]. That takes a special horse.”

Waiting in the wings was Forever d’Oro, whom Stewart called “the best-looking foal [Lemons Forever] ever had” as a yearling. He was the first of three consecutive matches with Medaglia d’Oro for Lemons Forever, who had a colt last year and a filly this spring.

After finishing fifth in his first two starts, including a maiden special weight on the Kentucky Derby undercard, Forever d’Oro won his maiden by a nose May 29 at Belmont Park, an encouraging move for a horse who has been unlucky in some of his races.

“He’s a horse that got started a little late, but I thought he ran pretty well the first time,” Stewart said. “He’s a beautifully bred horse. He ran on Derby Day and just got in a lot of traffic in the race. [At Belmont], he broke kind of sideways, and he was way, way back. He is a horse that can lay up closer; he’s got a little bit of speed. He just didn’t get off good, I think, because of the way he was standing in the gate. But he really finished great. He got out in the middle of the track and really ran well. I think if he would’ve broke with the rest of them, he would’ve been spectacular in that race.”

Further illustrating the strength of Fipke’s breeding program, he and Stewart will also send out Seeking the Soul, a maiden winner last month at Churchill Downs, in the Belmont. The son of Perfect Soul is out of the Fipke broodmare Seeking the Title, whose grandam is unbeaten champion and blue hen Personal Ensign.