First Defense Dominates Forego Handicap
First Defense had won at Belmont Park Racecourse in June and then came second in the A.G. Vanderbilt just over a month later. Trainer Bobby Frankel was a little worried that First Defense would slow down at some stage as he had done in previous events. But Frankel was in for a surprise, as First Defense made no attempt at slowing down in the Forego Handicap, but kept increasing his lead to win in a spectacular fashion
The Forego Handicap is run annually at the Saratoga Racecourse and was first run in 1980. It was named after the American Horse of the Year for 1974, 1975 and 1976, the legendary Forego. Run on a dirt track and covering a distance of seven furlongs, the Forego Handicap is a preparation race for the Breeder’s Cup Sprint and is a Grade 1 event that carries a purse of $250 000. On Saturday, 30 August 2008, the Forego Handicap was one of the main features on Woodward Stakes day. As Javier Castellano was not able to ride for Frankel in the Forego Handicap, the task of riding First Defense was handed over to jockey Channing Hill.
Race favorite for the day was Lucky Island, but after stumbling out of the starting gates he did not get much chance for recovery as he was being bumped into by the other contenders. This placed Lucky Island in last position, and asking him to catch up to the race leaders after such an unfortunate start was massive, but he still managed to finish in sixth position. First Defense on the other hand had a clean break, settled in quickly and broke fast on the rail to begin challenging other contenders for the lead. It was a fierce and nerve wrecking battle for the lead, but First Defense managed to open the gap between himself and the rest of the field to win by six and three quarters of a length. As the following field thundered towards the wire, it was so close that officials had to look at the finishing photo to make an accurate announcement. Second position went to Greeley’s Conquest, third position was taken by Ferocious Fires, followed by Eternal Star, Tasteville, Lucky Island, Premium Wine, Bold Start, Forefathers and Real Estate.
The Forego Handicap was First Defense’s sixth victory in twelve career starts and for jockey Channing Hill, it was his first Group 1 victory. Bobby Frankel confirmed that after such a magnificent performance by First Defense, he would be looking at the Breeder’s Cup for his next possible start.