Flaxman Stable's Aldebaran flashed his superiority at seven furlongs once again in the Forego Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Race Course Sunday, destroying a quality field of sprinters with his patented late run.
Ridden by Jerry Bailey for trainer Bobby Frankel, Aldebaran drew alongside front-running Najran in mid-stretch and drew away in the final furlong to a romping 4 3/4-length win in a fast time of 1:21 1/5, three-fifths off the track record. Gygistar, ridden by Pat Day from the inside rail post, came on in the stretch to be third, six lengths behind the winner.
It was the 19th grade I win of the year for Frankel, who is chasing the all-time mark of 22 set by D. Wayne Lukas in 1987.
Frankel said the Forego may have been Aldebaran's best race.
"You have to ride him with a lot of confidence," he said. "He was sharp and breezing very well. I leaned on him a little more than normal."
The son of Mr. Prospector trailed the field down the backstretch as Najran, ridden by Javier Castellano, outpaced Mike's Classic and Sing Me Back Home through an opening quarter-mile of :22 and the half in :44 1/5.
Bailey weaved Aldebaran through the field along the inside on the turn and coming into the home stretch was the obvious danger to the leader, who had cleared away from his stalking challengers. Aldebaran quickly took command after a 1:08 3/5 six-furlong split, finishing with a :12 3/5 final eighth.
"He's got a tremendous kick," Bailey enthused. "He took me up on his own. He made the lead early in the stretch. If he can run like that he can be effective going three quarters (the Breeders' Cup Sprint distance). He gets up to the back horse quicker than he did last year and takes me through the pack quicker."
Aldebran, coming off a two-length win in the seven-furlong Tom Fool (gr. II) at Belmont July 4, was even more impressive Sunday. He improved his career record at seven-eighths to five wins and four seconds in nine tries.
The ultra-consistent 5-year-old Kentucky-bred bay has only missed the board once in 24 starts, an 11th-place showing in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). Aldebaran has won five of seven in 2003, including three grade Is (the San Carlos at Santa Anita on March 2 and the Metropolitan on May 26 at Belmont in addition to the Forego), and earned of $1,10,606.
He has six triumphs and seven seconds in 17 United States appearances since transferring here from Great Britain in October 2001.
Earning $150,000 Sunday, the Aldebaran improved his career bankroll to $1,739,167.
He was second to Bonapaw in last year's Forego, which was contested at 6 1/2 furlongs.
The 8-5 favorite in the seven-horse field, Aldebaran paid $5.20, $2.90 and $2.10. Najran returned $8.90 and $3.20. Gygistar's show was worth $2.40.
Nick Zito saddled second-place Najran. "The winner was tough," Zito acknowledged. "Najran ran his normal Najran race. He's one of the fastest horses around."
Gygistar, the 2-1 second choice, showed brief speed on the backstretch before being taken in hand while racing fourth on the inside by Day. He fell back on the turn, fanning wide, and rallied in the stretch from the middle of the track.
"Pat thought he should have stayed inside instead of going to the outside," trainer Mark Hennig said. "Unfortunately, that was the case and he was fanned wide and the winner got through on the inside. All we can do is regroup and try again."
Sing Me Back Home was fourth, followed by My Cousin Matt, Proud Citizen and Mike's Classic.