Forest Music, making her first start for Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen, took early command of the Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga Friday afternoon and never let go, cruising to a two-length victory. The win marked a milestone for trainer Steve Asmussen's career: win number 3,000.
Forest Music, a 4-year-old gray or roan daughter of Unbridled's Song
out of the Gone West
mare Defer West, broke from the outside post eight under Saratoga's leading rider John Velazquez. The pair zipped through an opening quarter of :21.4 in the six-furlong race while Umpateedle, Molto Vita, and High Peaks gave chase.
In a dazzling display of speed, Forest Music had open air between her and the rest of the field after a half-mile in :44.43.
"She seems like she's walking," Velazquez said. "They told me she is really fast. She was so calm, I was a little concerned about it. I kept her quiet. When the doors opened, she was gone. When I asked her, she went on again."
Under steady encouragement in the lane by Velazquez, she opened up by six lengths while hitting the furlong pole in :56.59 and finished up the six furlongs in 1:10.06.
Ebony Breeze rallied to finish second, while 120-pound highweight and 2-1 favorite Bank Audit, last in the early going and turning for home, made steady progress to finish third, 4 1/2 lengths back.
Forest Music returned $9.80, $5, and $3.10. Ebony Breeze paid $4.10 and $2.50 and Bank Audit paid $2.40. The 8-4 exacta was worth $39.20.
"(Forest Music) broke well, got away well and relaxed the last eighth of a mile," Asmussen said. "When (Velazquez) dropped her head to clear, he had to make the choice to go for the lead or relax her. When they were getting down to the turn, I was much happier to see her where she was than five-wide."
Bred in Kentucky by Twin Hopes Farm, Forest Music previously raced for Michael Gill. She was a recent private purchase by Stonestreet Stables. In her only other start at Saratoga, Forest Music was third in last year's seven-furlong Test Stakes (gr. I) over a muddy track.
She came into the $150,000 Honorable Miss off a third-place finish behind Bank Audit and Sensibly Chic in the six-furlong Genuine Risk Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont. Forest Music carried 114 pounds Friday.
In all, Forest Music has now won six of 16 starts and has one second and five thirds. She has earned $359,066.
The 39-year-old Asmussen saddled a record 555 winners in 2004, shattering the old mark of 496 established in 1976 by Jack Van Berg. For his efforts, he was a finalist for an Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer. Heading into today, Asmussen ranked third nationally in money earned (behind Todd Pletcher and Bobby Frankel) - with more than $7.6 million - and had sent out a nation-leading 284 winners.
"It is extra significant to win it (3,000 wins) in a stakes race at Saratoga with a filly like this," Asmussen said. "It is kind of how the career evolved, when there is a filly like this that the owner paid so much money for and moved into my barn. There is no success without that opportunity. Needless to say, I'm pleased that they (Stonestreet Stable) let us train her. She acted extremely well today, and it was a sign of things to come."
Some of Asmussen's other 2005 stakes winners are Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Summerly, Effectual, Savorthetime, and Souris.