Forever Grand Handles Mud, Wins Highlander

(from Woodbine report)
There was no need for mudslinging after Forever Grand's improbable last-to-first triumph over an off track in Sunday's $161,250 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine.

The prospects for victory looked slim for Forever Grand in the early stages of the six-furlong Highlander, but as the son of War Deputy proved in winning the Shepperton and Kenora Stakes, 'it ain't over, 'till it's over.'

Employing a lightning quick late turn of foot, Forever Grand, with Todd Kabel in the irons, collared his rivals to win by 1 ½-lengths in a stellar time of 1:09.53 over a main track listed as "muddy."

Wild Whiskey, Mulligan the Great and Krz Ruckus were on the engine from the get-go, leading the five-horse field (Rare Friends was scratched) through blistering opening fractions of :21:42 and :43.75.

"When he comes to run, he shows up and he runs hard," said Kabel, of the lifetime winner of 10 races from 21 career starts. "My only concern was the off track. I've ridden him twice before and he didn't handle it. But he's a different horse right now."

It was the third consecutive win for the Robert Tiller-trained gelding, a 4-year-old who could be on track for a Top Sprinter Sovereign Award at the end of this year.

"He's got a wicked kick," said co-owner Frank DiGiulio, of the Ontario-bred who has made a smooth transition from a two-turn runner to an off-the-pace sprinter. "It would be tough to match him as top sprinter this year, but I could be biased."

In victory, Forever Grand boosted his career earnings to $781,289.

He paid $6.70, $3.60 and $2.20 across the board, combining with Sophia's Prince ($5.00, $2.30) for a $30.30 exacta. Mutuel favorite Mulligan the Great ($2.10) rounded out a $47.60 trifecta.

(Chart, Equibase)