Maybe it’s something in the water.
Whatever it is, the stallion operations in neighboring Bourbon County (northeast of Fayette County, which includes Lexington) have been ringing the bell repeatedly. Today, there are only two commercial stallion operations in Bourbon County: Claiborne Farm and Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa.
On Keeneland’s second day of racing this fall, in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity, which is sponsored by Claiborne, the first two finishers were out of mares by 2010 champion older horse Blame (by Arch), who stands at Claiborne. Annapolis, winner of the Grade 1 Turf Mile at Keeneland, is by Claiborne stallion War Front (Danzig); Nagirroc (Lea) won the G3 Futurity Stakes in New York; and a few days earlier on the West Coast, Midnight Memories won the G2 Zenyatta Stakes to become the first graded winner for Claiborne stallion Mastery (Candy Ride).
In the Breeders’ Futurity, the winner was G1 Hopeful winner Forte (Violence) by a neck over Loggins (Ghostzapper). The sires of both stand at Bourbon County’s Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa, which also stands Curlin (Smart Strike), the sire of Saturday’s G2 Vosburgh Stakes winner Elite Power. On Sunday, Curlin’s daughters Nest and First to Act finished one-two in the G2 Beldame Stakes, and later that day, the stallion’s Malathaat won the G1 Spinster at Keeneland.
Malathaat was last year’s champion 3-year-old filly, and Nest is a virtual certainty to win the Eclipse Award for that division this year after impressive victories in the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama, then a blowout victory in the Beldame against older fillies and mares.
Curlin stood the 2022 season at Hill ‘n’ Dale for $175,000 live foal, and with 89 stakes winners to date, including five G1 winners this year, Curlin is an eminently “proven” stallion. He, like Ghostzapper, won a Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named Horse of the Year, then followed up those racing performances by siring repeated successful performers at the top level of sport.
Violence, however, had a more limited racing career of four starts. The strikingly handsome dark brown won the first three of his races, then was second in the G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream to subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Orb (Malibu Moon).
The handsome son of Medaglia d’Oro raced no more and was retired to stud at Hill ‘n’ Dale for the 2014 breeding season. He proved very popular with breeders, getting 119 and 116 named foals in his first two crops, which included G1 winner Volatile in the second crop. Overall, the stallion’s first two crops produced 84 percent starters to foals, compared to 61 percent for the breed overall; 71 percent winners (42 percent); and 7 percent stakes winners with 16, compared to 3 percent for the breed.
That counted as a positive start to a stallion career, and Violence is still standing in Kentucky to sizable books of good mares and stands for a fee of $25,000. The young Three Chimneys Farm stallion Volatile, along with third- and fourth-crop G1 winners No Parole (Woody Stephens) and Dr. Schivel (Del Mar Futurity; Bing Crosby Handicap), have been excellent indicators of what Violence is capable of siring, but the stallion needed a national champion, a home run colt, to break into the ranks of elite sires like Curlin, Tapit, or War Front.
Could Forte be that colt?
He is certainly talented, fast, and brave. When he ranged up outside of Loggins in the Breeders’ Futurity, it appeared the Violence colt would blow past his rival. Loggins had other ideas and never gave up, but at the wire, Forte was a neck in front of his rival and claimed the victory.
The third-place colt, Red Route One (Gun Runner), was seven lengths behind the winner.
The suggestion of the form is that both Forte and Loggins are quite good and that the future holds high promise for them both.
Bred in Kentucky by South Gate Farm, Forte has now won three of his four starts and is one of two juvenile colts with a pair of G1 victories. The other is Cave Rock (Arrogate).
Forte is out of the Blame mare Queen Caroline, a four-time stakes winner, and the colt’s second dam, Queens Plaza (Forestry), won the Sorority Stakes at 2. The third dam, Kew Garden (Seattle Slew), was only a winner, but her dam was the multiple graded stakes winner Jeano (Fappiano). Another daughter of Jeano, Contrive, produced the champion 2-year-old filly Folklore (Tiznow).
South Gate sold Forte for $80,000 as a weanling at the 2020 Keeneland November sale, and the colt was pinhooked into the following year’s September sale, where he brought $110,000 from Repole Stable & St. Elias Stable, which entities own and race the colt.
Forte’s dam Queen Caroline was purchased by Amy Moore of South Gate Farm for $170,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September sale. Queen Caroline won four stakes and $401,608, placing in four other stakes. Forte is the mare’s first foal, and she has a yearling colt by Uncle Mo who sold to Mayberry Farm for $850,000 at the 2022 Keeneland September sale. Earlier this year, Queen Caroline was bred to Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway), the sire of Epicenter and other good racers.