Strong Hope(s) Abound in Forego Handicap
Photo: Associated Press
Jim Dandy winner Strong Hope, inside, hopes to triumph in Forego.
Eleven older horses passed the entry box for Saturday's Forego Handicap (gr. I), the last grade I event on the Saratoga calendar as the 36-day meet draws to a close at the end of the Labor Day weekend. The highweight in the seven-furlong race is Strong Hope at 118 pounds.

An intriguing field for the Forego features the return of A Huevo; the swift Clock Stopper; a sharpened Midas Eyes; and Toccet, who will be trying his sixth different distance in his seventh start this year.

The Forego will be shown live on ESPN2 on a program that runs from 4-5 p.m. EDT and also features the Pepsi Bassinet Stakes from River Downs and the NATC Futurity from Delaware Park. Post time for the Forego is approximately 4:44.

Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Strong Hope holds a strong hand in the Forego. The 4-year-old son of Grand Slam has not started since finishing third behind Pico Central and Bowman's Band in the Met Mile Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Memorial Day. He's trained by the meet's leading trainer, Todd Pletcher, and will be ridden by the meet's leading jockey, John Velazquez.

Strong Hope is no stranger to Saratoga. Last year he won the nine-furlong Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) over Empire Maker, then ran third in the 1 1/4-miles Travers Stakes (gr. I). He's only traveled seven furlongs once in his 10 race career, and that resulted in his maiden win at Aqueduct on April 12, 2003. He has a 6-1-2 slate from 10 career starts and has earned $754,960.

Out of the Deputy Minister mare Shining Through and a $1.7 million Saratoga yearling, a grade I win would add importance to his growing resume as in June, it was announced that Strong Hope would be retired at the end of the year and start a breeding career at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.

Saratoga local Mark Hopkins owns A Huevo, who adds a dash of spice to the race. Trained by Michael Dickinson, the West Virginia-bred returned to racing last summer off a near four-year layoff and won the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) at six furlongs in his third start back on Nov. 15. He hasn't started since, so the 8-year-old gelding will be returning off more than a nine-month layoff.

Overbrook Farm's Clock Stopper has strong current form, finishing second behind the Melnyk-owned, Pletcher-trained Speightstown in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) at the Spa on Aug. 14. He has but stakes win to his credit, the Perryville Stakes (at about seven furlongs) at Keeneland last fall, but has placed in two other graded sprints including the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. III) at Calder on July 1. By Gilded Time out of the Farma Way mare Great Fun, the 4-year-old Clock Stopper is trained by Dallas Stewart.

Edmund Gann's Florida-bred Midas Eyes made a solid return to the races earlier in the meet, winning a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race by 5 3/4 lengths on Aug. 25. The son of Touch Gold   had not been out since running fourth in the 1 1/8 miles Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita on Feb. 7. Last year at 3, he won the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (gr. III) by 9 1/4 lengths and was beaten a nose by Posse in the seven-furlong Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont in June.

Toccet, a son of Awesome Again   hasn't been out since a fifth-place finish in the one-mile Westchester Handicap (gr. III) at Belmont on May 5. Bred and owned by Daniel Borislow, Toccet has tried several trips and surfaces this year while trying to find the form he flashed as a 2-year-old in 2002 when he won the Champagne Stakes (gr. I), Hollywood Futurity (gr. I), Remsen Stakes (gr. II), and Laurel Futurity (gr. III).


Forego Handicap (gr. I), $250,000, seven furlongs, 3-year-olds and up, Saturday, Sept. 4, approx. post time 4:44 p.m. EDT
PP--Horse, Weight, Jockey
1--Toccet, 112, Jorge Chavez
2--Unforgettable Max, 113, Richard Migliore
3--Clock Stopper, 114, Pat Day
4--Midas Eyes, 117, Edgar Prado
5--Yessirgeneralsir, 114, Robby Albarado
6--A Huevo, 116, Ramon Dominguez
7--Gygistar, 114, Pablo Fragoso
8--Strong Hope, 118, John Velazquez
9--Gold Dollar, 112, Shaun Bridgmohan
10--Eavesdropper, 112, Cornelio Velasquez
11--Watchem Smokey, 114, Javier Castellano

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