The 2023 Travers Stakes: Forte’s Challenge To Get Out From The Rail And Past Every Nemesis He Ever Had

It’s to our great good fortune that the gods of racing have smiled on the Class of 2023, lifting this Saturday’s $1.25 million Travers at Saratoga to a sort of de-facto Triple Crown extension race. In fact, the gods have done more: This short field of seven, jam-packed with the cream of the talent as fought through the Triple Crown races, will form a far more sharply competitive contest than any of the supposedly more meaningful spring or early-summer races. Everybody’s shown up, not least of all the Pletcher-trained Forte, who is going up against literally every nemesis his connections could imagine, chief among them Belmont-winner Arcangelo, who memorably bested Forte in that race on June 10.

With the Derby winner Mage breaking two stalls to his right, and Preakness winner National Treasure sitting in the morning line tied for fourth-favorite at 8-1, in the stall just outside Mage, that’s going to be a fine horse race.

Disarm has been coming along and then some in training, but before we get started on what they all will or won’t do, herewith, a refresher on the morning line.

(Post Position, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Morning Line)

1) Forte, Irad Ortiz, Jr., Todd A. Pletcher, 7-5

2) Arcangelo, Javier Castellano, Jena M. Antonucci, 5-2

3) Tapit Trice, Jose L. Ortiz, Todd A. Pletcher, 12-1

4) Mage, Luis Saez, Gustavo Delgado, 4-1

5) National Treasure, John R. Velazquez, Bob Baffert,8-1

6) Disarm, Joel Rosario, Steven M. Asmussen, 8-1

7) Scotland, Junior Alvarado, William I. Mott, 12-1

(Source: NYRA, 8/25/2023)

Tough and interesting as that fight might be, Forte’s test doesn’t stop there. Kentucky Derby winner Mage looms as the spoiler from the middle of the gate, the four hole. As has been endlessly debated this week, Forte’s drawn the rail, which is certain not to be trainer Todd Pletcher’s favorite hole. He just added blinkers to Forte to keep him focused.

Nemesis Arcangelo is breaking from the two hole. Moving rail-out from Arcangelo, Tapit Trice, Derby winner Mage, Preakness winner National Treasure, Disarm, and Scotland are in forbidding array, like a range of mountains Forte will have to climb.

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