At this time last year, Tracy Farmer's Commentator was considered as one of the candidates for best older horse after winning the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, where he defeated subsequent Horse of the Year Saint Liam.
On Saturday, the 5-year-old gelding will make an attempt at being one of the leading candidates for best sprinter as he faces 10 others in the 27th running of the $250,000 Forego Handicap (gr. I) at seven furlongs.
The Forego will be race 8 of an 11-race card featuring the $500,000 Woodward Stakes (gr. I). ESPN will televise the action from 4:30 pm. – 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
After winning the Whitney, Commentator could not keep up that momentum against Saint Liam as he finished a distance third in the Woodward. Off that race, the New York-bred re-aggravated a leg injury, which kept him sidelined throughout the remainder of the year and earlier this year.
"He had problems with his left front cannon bone," said his Hall of Fame trainer, Nick Zito. "He's really been burning up the track in his works, and that's always positive with a horse like that."
Commentator's first start this year was an impressive one with a 6¼-length score in the overnight Mugatea Stakes at Belmont Park in July. In that field was Gold and Roses, a multiple New York-bred stakes winner who came back to win the John Morrissey Stakes here at Saratoga.
"I thought it was an impressive race," Zito said. "He was coming back off a long layoff and it was against a good horse."
After winning that race, Zito considered two options for Commentator: the Forego and the 1 1/8-mile Woodward Stakes. It won't be an easy task for Commentator with the top three finishers of the Aug. 12 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) – War Front, Judiths Wild Rush, and defending Forego champion Mass Media – in the field.
"The Forego is a big race," Zito said. "I wish these races (the Forego and the Woodward) were a day apart. The rule in New York State is that you can't enter in both races."
Before winning the Vanderbilt, Joseph Allen's War Front was being considered as one of the better sprinters in New York because of his second-place finish to last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) champion Silver Train in the Tom Fool (gr. II).
"We're hoping he can keep going with it," said his Hall of Fame trainer, H. Allen Jerkens. "This is going to be a much tougher and much larger field than he has faced. That's why they have grade I races – to get the best horses together."
Along with finishing second in the Tom Fool, War Front was second in two races at Gulfstream Park earlier this year: the Deputy Minister and Mr. Prospector Handicaps, both grade III.
"He had legitimate excuses in both of those races," Jerkens said. "He was caught on the inside and the track was deep for both races. It's difficult to keep up with that, especially when the first quarter goes in :21 3/5. Even though he finished second in both of those races, I thought he ran very good."
Hall of Fame trainer Robert Frankel, who is hoping to win his fourth consecutive Forego, sends out Gary and Mary West's Mass Media, who is trying to end a five-race losing streak since last year's edition as a 15-1 longshot. The 5-year-old finished third to Silver Train in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) two races back.
Shipping in from Florida is Timber Side Stables' Nightmare Affair for trainer Manuel Azpurua. The 5-year-old is seeking his fifth straight victory after taking the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) at Calder in July.
Also on the line in the Forego is the jockey race between Edgar Prado and Garrett Gomez. Prado is riding Silver Wagon while Gomez gets the mount on Friendly Island.
Silver Wagon, owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds and trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., won at Saratoga in his last start after being away from the races for five months. That victory also was his first victory since the winter of 2005. A winner of 3-for-4 races at Saratoga, Silver Wagon won the Hopeful (gr. I) as a 2-year-old at the Spa and was third in last year's Forego
Friendly Island, owned by Anstu Stables and trained by current Saratoga leader Todd Pletcher, is two-for-two at Saratoga. The 5-year-old horse won the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico on Preakness Day two races back.
Forego Stakes (gr. I), Race 8
Post Horse Trainer Jockey Weight
1 Nightmare Affair Manny Azpurua Jeffrey Sanchez 121
2 Commentator Nick Zito Eibar Co 121
3 Friendly IslandTodd Pletcher Garrett Gomez 119
4 Awesome Twist John Kimmel Javier Castellano 117
5 Greeley's Galaxy Al Stall Calvin Borel 117
6 Spanish Chestnut Patrick Biancone Julien Leparoux 117
7 Mass Media Bobby Frankel Fernando Jara 121
8 Pomeroy Marty Wolfson John Velazquez 117
9 Judiths Wild Rush Reade Baker Kent Desormeaux 119
10 Silver Wagon Richard Dutrow Jr. Edgar Prado 117
11 War Front H. Allen Jerkens Jose Santos 121