08/31/2013 6:36PM

Saratoga: Strapping Groom hangs on to win Forego

Tom Keyser
Strapping Groom, ridden by Junior Alvarado, gets a Grade 1 victory in the Forego.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Twenty-four hours after experiencing the lowest moment of his racing career when his pride and joy Saginaw was euthanized because of injuries suffered in Friday’s third race, trainer David Jacobson experienced the highest after Strapping Groom splashed to a half-length victory over Jackson Bend in Saturday’s $500,000 Forego Stakes at Saratoga.

Fast Bullet, who was shipped here from California and transferred to trainer D. Wayne Lukas last week, stopped badly to finish seventh and appeared to be in some distress when he returned to be unsaddled after the race.

Strapping Groom gave Jacobson, who watched the race on television from Aqueduct, his first Grade 1 victory on the flat. Jacobson won the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Steeplechase two years ago with Mabou who, like Strapping Groom, was a former claimer.

“Nothing will ever make up for what happened yesterday with Saginaw,” said Jacobson. “But winning a race like this is a great pick up for all of us, me, my whole barn and staff.”

Strapping Groom, ridden by Junior Alvarado, broke alertly from his outside post and vied for the early lead with Fast Bullet, who went off the 3-5 favorite along with entrymate Justin Phillip. Strapping Groom, claimed by Jacobson for $35,000 in May, shook off his early challenger midway on the turn, drifted out while well clear entering the stretch, then withstood a late run from Jackson Bend, who rallied belatedly along the rail. Jackson Bend won the 2011 Forego but finished last in this race a year ago.

Justin Phillip raced forwardly but weakened in the final furlong, finishing another three lengths further back in third. He was followed by Lea, Sage Valley, Javerre, Fast Bullet and Golddigger’s Boy.

Strapping Groom, a son of Johannesburg, covered seven furlongs in 1:22.27 over the sloppy track and paid $32.40.

“We had the outside post, which was a big plus, It allowed Junior to get a good look to see how the race unfolded,” said Jacobson, who owns Strapping Groom in partnership with the Drawing Away Stable. “I had mixed emotions about the wet track. He really didn’t have any good numbers on it, but he wasn’t running as well at the time either.”

Jacobson said he would now considering looking at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint as a possible option for Strapping Groom off this performance.

“Now that he’s proven he’s the real deal and that he’s legit, we’ll start to seriously consider going in the direction of races like the Vosburgh and the Breeders’ Cup if he comes out of this race okay,” said Jacobson.