Trainer Roger Attfield is hoping a stretch-out to 1 1/4 miles in the $250,000 Sky Classic (Can-IIT) will enable Forte Dei Marmi to land his first North American stakes victory Aug. 19 at Woodbine.
“He has a lovely turn of foot,” said Attfield, the venerated Canadian trainer who was also inducted into the United States' National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Aug. 10. “He’s doing quite well now. We thought we had him right in the spring, but he had a few little setbacks. He’s doing really well and hopefully that translates into a big effort on Sunday.”
Owned by Stella Perdoma, Forte Dei Marmi began his career in England before transferring to North America last fall. The 6-year-old British-bred Selkirk gelding finished a troubled 10th in the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) last September and has one victory in four United States starts this season. Overall, he has six wins from 22 appearances, and four of those victories have come at the Sky Classic's 10-furlong distance.
His last attempt at the trip resulted in a third-place finish, just one length behind the winner, in an allowance last Aug. 29 at Epsom.
Attfield, who has three Sky Classic crowns (1986 with Wild Style, 1989 with Steady Power, and 2000 with Muntej) is hoping to see some lively early pace for his charge to run at.
“When you run a mile on the turf, you can get that good early speed for a horse that likes to close,” offered Attfield. “It can be trickier when it’s a mile and a quarter. It’s one of those races where we’ll just have to play it by ear.”
Named for a sea town in northern Tuscany, Forte Dei Marmi closed mildly for sixth in the Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs on June 16 in his most recent start. Prior to that, he finished with a strong rally from last to get third in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) at Pimlico Racecourse May 19.
Alex Solis will ride Forte Dei Marmi for the first time. They will break from post 4.
Forte Dei Marmi will face seven opponents in the Sky Classic, which is race 8 on the Sunday program at Woodbine with a 4:44 p.m. EDT scheduled post.
Last year, Kara's Orientation won the Sky Classic after opening up a 17-length lead on the backstretch. He is not entered this time after being nominated. However, the 2011 runner-up, Smart Bid , is back for another try for Augustin Stable and trainer Graham Motion.
Smart Bid is coming off a head victory in the East Hanover Stakes at Penn National Race Course July 28 as the 1-2 favorite, his second win in five starts this year. The 6-year-old son of Smart Strike ran fourth in the Colonial Turf Cup before that.
Multiple stakes winner Stormy Lord, a grade II victor over the Woodbine lawn, looks to get back in the win column for the first time in five tries this year. The Kinghaven Farms homebred, a 5-year-old gelding by Stormy Atlantic , is coming off a runner-up effort to Sky Classic rival Eye of the Leopard in a nine-furlong allowance/optional claiming event July 14.
Sam-Son Farms' homebred Eye of the Leopard snapped an eight-race losing streak with that victory. Also in the Sky Classic field is Hotep, another homebred for Sam-Sons Farms, and 2011 Canadian 3-year-old male champion Pender Harbour. Hotep was a fast-closing second to Riding the River in the nine-furlong Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT) July 22, while Pender Harbour made a successful return to the turf with a third in the Nijinsky after leading briefly in the stretch.
Eye of the Lepard and Hotep are trained by Malcolm Pierce. Pender Harbour, winner of last year's Breeders' Stakes on the Woodbine turf, is conditioned by Mike De Paulo.
Scalo, a British-bred 5-year-old who was a group I winner in Germany two years ago, makes his North American debut for trainer Andrea Wohler. Scalo will race with Lasix for the first time.
Miami Deco, the 126-pound high weight, won a first-level allowance by nearly five lengths going 1 3/8 miles July 14. Brian Lynch trains the 5-year-old Limehouse gelding for Jim and Susan Hill.
$250,000 Sky Classic Stakes (Can-IIT, Race 8, 4:44 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/4 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Scalo (GB), U Rispoli, 121, A Woehler
2. Miami Deco (ON), J M Campbell, 126, B A Lynch
3. Stormy Lord (ON), J Stein, 117, I Black
4. Forte Dei Marmi (GB), A O Solis, 117, R L Attfield
5. Pender Harbour (ON), L Contreras, 119, M P De Paulo
6. Smart Bid (PA), E S Prado, 121, H G Motion
7. Eye of the Leopard (ON), E R Da Silva, 117, M Pierce
8. Hotep (ON), P Husbands, 117, M Pierce