Red Oak Stable's Foreverness snapped a nine-race losing streak when he rallied off a ground-saving trip to win the $109,000 Fort Marcy Handicap (gr. IIIT) Saturday at Aqueduct in New York's first graded turf stakes race of 2006.
The big favorite was 13-10 choice Sabre d'Argent, who was checked hard in traffic just after the start and closed well to just miss second under Edgar Prado. But the 1 1/16-mile race belonged to Foreverness, a 7-year-old New York-bred gelded son of Island Whirl who claimed his first graded stakes win. The final time was 1:42 4/5.
While the threat of rain loomed throughout the day –- it rained overnight, but held off during the day –- the course was listed as "firm" with the portable rail down. The main track only horses –- Watchmon, Bailero (ARG), Happy Hunting, Kennel Up, and Bahama John –- were scratched, leaving a field of six.
Under jockey Eibar Coa, Foreverness broke from the rail and held the inside path, as Ecclesiastic and jockey Mike Smith set an easy pace of :23 3/5, :49 and 1:13 3/5, with Pa Pa Da in close attendance.
When they came off the turn, Coa swung his mount off the rail and Foreverness kicked in with authority on the outside of the frontrunners and went on to post a 4 ½-length win.
"I was concerned about Ecclesiastic getting away, it looked like he had an easy lead," Coa said. "When I asked my horse on the turn, I wasn't sure how much run he was going to give me, but as soon as he switched leads, he had another gear. This should set him up for a really big season."
Trainer Greg Sacco believes that Foreverness is a much better horse than his record of 5-4-4 from 22 starts may indicate. The winning share Saturday, $65,400, increased Foreverness' earnings to $278,898. The chestnut, out of Dearness, by Affirmed, was coming off a seventh-place showing in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup Feb. 25.
"This horse has been such a hard-luck horse," Sacco said. "There have been a few stakes along the way that he should have won, but didn't. We did something a little bit different with him this winter: instead of turning him out, we kept him in light training.
"He was probably only 85 percent fit for his last race. We were actually looking at this race as a spot to get him to the Kingston (for New York breds at Belmont Park on May 14). If I had looked at the weather forecast more seriously, I might not have shipped him up here."
The second-longest shot on the board, Foreverness returned $26, $10, and $4.40 to win.
Pa Pa Da ($9.20, $5.20), Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard, held off Sabre d'Argent ($2.50) by a head to save place.
"I never wanted to be worse than third, but he got bumped pretty hard coming out of the gate," said Prado of the favorite. "We lost a little positioning after that. I was happy with the race. He still finished up well."
Charimount was fourth, followed by Ecclesiastic and Big Booster.