In a star-studded field that included some of the biggest name sprinters on the East Coast, it was little-known Here Comes Ben that came from off the pace to spring a 9-1 upset in the $250,000 Forego Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) Sept. 4 at Saratoga.
Based in Kentucky for trainer Charles Lopresti, Here Comes Ben won for the fourth straight time while making his graded stakes debut. The 4-year-old son of Street Cry has notched all of those wins at the Forego distance of seven furlongs. It was the first grade I win for Lopresti, who conditions the colt for Marianne and Brandon Chase.
Here Comes Ben, ridden by Alex Solis, took advantage of a solid pace set by Checklist, who clicked off fractions of :22.55 and :45.29 while Big Drama, three-time grade I winner Vineyard Haven and his stablemate Girolamo chased him around the turn. Here Comes Ben was content to race in seventh through a half-mile.
Checklist came off the turn still holding the advantage, but when they reached the eighth-pole Big Drama assumed the lead under Eibar Coa. Vineyard Haven gave chase along the inside, while Girolamo was toward the outside. Big Drama was still going well in upper stretch, but Here Comes Ben had split horses at the eighth-pole and was bearing down on the leader. He reached him inside the sixteenth-pole and hit the wire three-quarters of a length in front.
The final time for seven furlongs on the fast track was 1:22.50. Big Drama was 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Vineyard Haven, the even-money favorite. Grade I winner. Warrior's Reward was fourth. The other grade I winner in the field, Bribon, was sixth in a field of nine.
“I had a great break," Solis said. "He broke very relaxed. I had hoped I’d be laying fourth, fifth or sixth but he was more relaxed than I thought he would be. When we got to the half mile pole I asked him and we started marching and at the quarter pole when I really got after him we started coming and he did his thing.
“(The Forego) is one of the reasons I came here because I’ve ridden this horse at Churchill Downs. The first time I rode him I thought that he could be a Breeders’ Cup horse.”
Here Comes Ben won two of eight races as a 3-year-old, but has really come into his own this year. He is undefeated in four starts, beginning with a six-length allowance win at Keeneland in April and an equally impressive optional claiming victory at Churchill Downs in May. Last out, he won the Kelly’s Landing Stakes by a neck June 25 at Churchill.
“He broke his maiden in a one-turn mile at Churchill, so he can get a little more distance," Lopresti said. "There won’t be many seven-furlong races for him, so we’re going to have to make a decision (for his next race).
"I was a little intimidated coming up here because I’ve never run in a grade I before, but I knew had the numbers and Alex (Solis) has been telling me all along he’s a really good horse. We brought him up here two weeks ago and he trained really well and did everything right. We had to see if he was this kind of horse, and he proved it today.”
Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Here Comes Ben is out of the Dayjur mare Chasetheragingwind. He improved to 6-1-3 from 12 starts and upped his earnings to $354,872.
The winner paid $21.80, $8.50, and $3.70. The exacta (4-3) returned $114.40 and the trifecta (4-3-1) was $382.
Omniscient was seventh, followed by You and I Forever, and Checklist.