There is life in the old boy yet.
"Forego's going to run today, folks." Belmont announcer Chic Anderson declared on the stretch turn of today's $175.000 Woodward Handicap.
"I knew that before he did," jockey Bill Shoemaker said some 10 minutes later, after the three-time Horse of the Year had won the Woodward for the fourth straight time. Forego rallied strongly on the outside, in the slop, to defeat Silver Series by 1 1/2 lengths.
The 7-year-old gelding earned $105,000 increasing his lifetime total to $1,923,957, within $53,739 of Kelo's altime record.
More importantly, today's effort put to rest the belief of many horsemen that Forego might be through. The huge gelding had lost three races in a row, with increasingly poor performances, and at his age, well, who could be sure?
The Woodward crowd of 28.511 flirted briefly with the idea of making the 3-year-old J.O. Tobin is favorite, then thought better of such a notion and installed Forego as the top choice for the 27th consecutive time. He responded by paying $5.80 straight after completing the 1 1/8 miles, under high weight of 133 pounds in 1:48. The 19-to-10 price was the biggest on Forego since September, 1975, when Wajima beat him in the Governor's Handicap here.
Forego would not have competed today had owner Martha Gerry and trainer Frank Whiteley heeded the advice of Shoemaker after the sixth race.
"I told them not to run him: that I didn't think he could handle the racing strip, which was very slick in spots," the Shoe admitted. "It was merely a recommendation, after the poor way he'd run in the slop at saratoga in his previous start. Fortunately, I wasn't right. I guess there's different kind of slop."
Whiteley could not conceal his delight with this victory. "If Mrs. Gerry was game to run him, I was," the trainer declared. "Now I want to run him in the Marlboro (Oct.) and the Gold Cup (Oct. 15) - and in the International at Laurel (Nov. 5)."
A strong series of efforts in those stakes probably would assure Forego a fourth straight national championship, what with Seattle Slew in light training. He disposed of one threat today on J.O. Tobin. The California colt faded to fifth place after challenging Cinteelo through sharp early fractions of :45 3/5 and 1:10 1/5. CInteelo held on for fourth money, necks behind Silver Series and Great Contractor.
The Woodward will not be remembered as Forego's finest race. But he was performing in the type of going which, in the past, has occasionally given him trouble. Today, the Woodward was over a half-mile from home, once Forego started digging in after, the six horses ahead of him.
New York fans adore Forego. They applaud and cheer his every step and stride. Once Shoemaker hit him with his whip, at the top of the stretch, and the gelding responded with a rush to the lead, the 28,511 faithful cut loose with a loud response usually a associated with a turnout twice as large.
Forego was seventh on the turn and fourth leaving the eighth pole where Cinteelo clung to a half-length margin over Silver Series, with Great Contractor third down along the inside after having saved ground on the turn.
Great Contractor was the only real threat to Forego at that point. The others were tiring from their early efforts. Great Contractor had whipped Forego by 11 ltnths in their last meeting, the Brooklyn Handicap.
"But he couldn't handle the champion today," jockey Angel Cordero remarked after dismounting from the third-place finisher.
Indeed, none of the nine rivals came close even though Forego was conceding them from 12 to 25 pounds.
Majestic Light, Tacitus, Quiet Little Table and Sawbones were scratched from the race.