The Bold Ruler Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park, which used to be contested at six furlongs, but is now a seven-furlong prep for the Cigar Mile (gr. I), is ready-made for the late-closing Forty Tales, whose stakes victories this year have come at 6 1/2 furlongs, seven furlongs, and one mile.
But the winner of the Amsterdam and Woody Stephens (both gr. II) stakes and Derby Trial (gr. III) will be at a bit of a disadvantage in other ways, as he will have to face a lone speed horse in Forego Stakes (gr. I) winner Strapping Groom. And to make it more difficult on Forty Tales, only four others showed up, making it all the more likely Strapping Groom will have an uncontested lead.
In the seven-furlong Forego, Strapping Groom set a fast pace and held on to defeat grade I winners Jackson Bend and Justin Phillip .
Forty Tales, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Perretti Racing Stable, is coming off a pair of fourth-place finishes in the grade I King’s Bishop and Vosburgh Invitational. The 3-year-old son of Tale of the Cat drew the rail and will no doubt drop well out of it again under Joel Rosario, who rode him in his three stakes victories this year before being sidelined with an injury.
Strapping Groom is a 6-year-old son of Johannesburg who was claimed by David Jacobson for $35,000 in May and has won three stakes since before finishing third in the Vosburgh. He carries top weight of 122 pounds with Junior Alvarado aboard.
The Bold Ruler, however, is not a two-horse race with the presence of the ultra-consistent sprinter Clearly Now, who captured the Swale Stakes (gr. II) earlier in the year and has since placed in four consecutive stakes. The son of Horse Greeley gets blinkers on and should be laying third or fourth unless the blinkers turn him speed-crazy.
The only horse who looks to have the speed to push Strapping Groom to some extent is Big Screen. The son of Speightstown has been running mostly in mile races, although he did set the pace in the seven-furlong Jaipur Stakes, taken off the grass.
Rounding out the field are Saturday's Charm, second in the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial at Laurel Park in his last start, and Politicallycorrect, who was second in the James Marvin (gr. III) at Saratoga Race Course and won the Damascus Stakes on last year’s Breeders’ Cup undercard.
$200,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 4:34 p.m.), 7 Furlongs, 3-Year-Olds and Up
1. Forty Tales (KY), J. Rosario, 119, T. Pletcher
2. Big Screen (KY), I. Ortiz Jr., 117, T. Albertrani
3. Saturday’s Charm (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 116, S. Asmussen
4. Politicallycorrect (KY), J.J. Castellano, 116, W. Ward Jr.
5. Clearly Now (KY), J Lezcano, 117, B. Lynch
6. Strapping Groom (KY), J. Alvarado, 122, D. Jacobson