Favored Emcee earned the first graded victory of his career for Godolphin Racing and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, bursting away from the field in the final furlong to easily take the $500,000 Forego Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 1 at Saratoga Race Course (VIDEO).
Alan Garcia sat a perfect trip aboard Emcee, who tracked pacesetter Pacific Ocean before wearing down Jersey Town in the lane. Putting his head in front just past the furlong marker, Emcee finished impressively under steady encouragement while coming home 4 1/2 lengths in front. The time was a sizzling 1:21.00 for the seven furlongs on a fast main track.
"He deserved a grade I, and he got it today," McLaughlin said.
The victory was the fourth grade I of the Saratoga meet for Godolphin.
"The thrill is still the same," said Jimmy Bell of Godolphin. "Every now and then it seems like the stars align and everything has really, really come together.
"It all starts with the horses," Bell added. "Godolphin horses are wonderful stock, and the patience to give them the opportunity to develop, and the time...it sort of all seemed to have happened right here, at a great meet."
Emcee's job was made considerably easier by the scratch of dual grade I winner Shackleford , who was withdrawn with a minor illness on the morning of the race.
"It helped that we don't have to run against (Shackleford); he's a very nice horse," McLaughlin said. "I'm sorry that they had to scratch him."
Bred in Kentucky by Darley, Emcee is a 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song out of the Ocean Crest mare Surf Club. The dark bay/brown colt was third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) Aug. 5 at Saratoga after setting a fast pace on a muddy track.
Late-running Hamazing Destiny rallied on the far outside to nip Jersey Town for second.
Emcee was sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the field of seven.
After beginning alertly, Emcee settled into second just off the pace set by Pacific Ocean, who took the field along in :22.64 for the opening quarter mile and :45.38 for the half. Jersey Town, stalking the leaders in third along the rail, used an opening to cut the corner beautifully for Edgar Prado and got the lead coming into the stretch.
Jersey Town opened up a daylight lead in the lane, but Emcee, racing between horses for Garcia, wasn't done. Emcee gradually drew even with Jersey Town under a drive and took off in deep stretch. He drew off with no threat on the horizon.
"When (Jersey Town) cut up the rail, I was a little nervous," McLaughlin admitted, "but (Garcia) hadn't asked our horse yet. It was a very impressive race."
"My horse broke good and was right in the game," Garcia said. "Turning for home, when I asked him, he ran and did it very well."
Hamazing Destiny, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, raced mid-pack and found his best stride late to get up for second by a neck over Jersey Town. Caixa Eletronica was fourth, followed by Pacific Ocean, Isn't He Perfect, and Jackson Bend.
It was a disappointing effort for 5-2 second choice Jackson Bend, who won last year's Forego by more than three lengths. The 5-year-old son of Hear No Evil was knocked down when he collided with another in a training accident recently and was questionable to make this year's running. After breaking last, he trailed the field early and made a mid-race advance along the inside before fading out of contention.
"I think we'll give him a long rest now," trainer Nick Zito said. "The jock said he was flat. All the tests came back fine, but sometimes, mentally, you know what I mean? I think the best thing to do is send him to the farm and give him a long rest."
Lightly raced Emcee won for the fourth time in seven races and boosted his career earnings to $479,900 with the winning share of $300,000.
Under equal weights of 124 pounds, Emcee paid $5.10, $3.70, and $2.90. Hamazing Destiny, fourth in the Vanderbilt last time for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, returned $12 and $5.70 while completing a $65 exacta. Jersey Town, runner-up in last year's Forego, paid $4.80 to show.