Aug. 25 is a date trainer Michael McCarthy will always remember as the day in 2002 he first went to work for trainer Todd Pletcher. McCarthy could have an even more notable anniversary to celebrate on that date in years to come – his first Grade 1 victory at Saratoga – if City of Light proves a prompt favorite in Saturday’s $600,000 Forego.
The Forego is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
City of Light tops a strong field of older sprinters in the seven-furlong Forego that includes Limousine Liberal and Whitmore, who finished a neck apart as the respective one-two finishers in the Grade 2 Belmont Sprint; Awesome Slew, second behind Drefong in the 2017 Forego; and Warrior’s Club, runner-up in the Grade 1 Vanderbilt earlier in the meet. C Z Rocket, No Dozing, and Heartwood complete the field.
City of Light is a two-time Grade 1 winner at the distance, having won the Malibu in his 3-year-old finale in December and the Triple Bend to launch his 4-year-old campaign, both at Santa Anita. City of Light successfully stretched his speed around two turns to upset the undisputed king of the handicap division Accelerate in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles in April, but has made only one start since, finishing third behind Accelerate in the Santa Anita Gold Cup on May 26.
McCarthy had originally considered the Whitney for City of Light’s return, but a minor setback forced him to alter those plans and await the Forego for both his and City of Light’s Saratoga debut.
“He had a little bit of a foot bruise when I got him down to Del Mar and I didn’t think it was the right thing to force the issue trying to make the Whitney,” said McCarthy, who trains City of Light for Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren. “Mr. Warren really wanted to bring this horse to New York and we felt this race was our best option. It’s a very large purse and a Grade 1.”
McCarthy was also delighted with the post position draw, with City of Light to break from the outside in post 8 under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
“I was very happy getting the outside, it gives Irad a chance to see everything developing inside of him,” said McCarthy, who left Pletcher to go out on his own in 2014. “He certainly looks like the controlling speed in this spot, but he’s kind enough to rate if need be. He’s done everything I’ve asked of him to this point. And it’s nice to have come full circle and be able to return to Saratoga for the first time on the same day I started working for Todd.”
Limousine Liberal overcame a rough trip to run down Whitmore in the final strides of the seven-furlong Belmont Sprint and win by a neck for his second Grade 2 win of the year. He also captured the Churchill Downs Sprint over a sloppy track in similar fashion on May 5. Limousine Liberal will return to Saratoga for the first time since finishing a well-beaten third behind El Deal here last summer in the six-furlong Vanderbilt.
Whitmore suffered his second straight narrow setback in the Belmont Sprint. He was also beaten a neck four weeks earlier by the odds-on Imperial Hint in the Grade 2 True North. The Forego will mark his Saratoga debut.
Awesome Slew rallied belatedly to finish four lengths behind the front-running Drefong in the 2017 Forego, and won the Grade 3 Ack Ack five weeks later at Churchill Downs before closing out the season rallying to be third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He is winless in four starts this season while coming off a third-place finish as the heavy favorite against high-level optional-claiming opposition here earlier in the session.
C Z Rocket returns to the scene of his impressive debut a year ago, the first of three straight victories to open his career for trainer Al Stall Jr. That streak came to an end when C Z Rocket finished a tiring third behind City of Light in the Malibu. Stall has brought C Z Rocket along slowly this season. The Forego will be just his third start of the year and first since drawing off to a convincing four-length victory in the seven-furlong Kelly’s Landing at Churchill Downs on June 30.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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