When Secretariat cruised around Sham at the top of the stretch in the 1973 Kentucky Derby and began his inexorable march to the Triple Crown, he left a superstar in his wake, but the superstar wasn't Sham, who finished second. If you strained your eyes ten or so lengths back to the fourth place finisher, you saw a tall gangly gelding who would soon be capturing his own headlines. That gelding was the mighty Forego!
He didn't race at two. Not all thoroughbreds are cooperative in their formative years. He certainly wasn't; so they decided to geld him to see if he would come around. It took a while, but boy did he ever come around!
Although he'd had an impressive year in 1973 including that 4th in Secretariat's Derby, Forego really started to shake up the racing world in 1974. While Secretariat was busy lining up dates in the breeding shed, Forego was busy demolishing opponents on the racetrack. Beginning with the Grade 1 Brooklyn Handicap in 1974 and ending with the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes in 1977, Forego put on one of the most dazzling displays of sustained excellence ever seen on the racetrack.
Forego ran thirteen times in 1974 and won eight times. Against the best the handicapping division had to offer, he was a man among boys. Not only did he win four of the most prestigious Grade 1 distance races on the racing calendar ( the Widener, the Brooklyn, the Woodward, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup), but Forego also added two of the most prestigious sprint races for good measure (the Grade 2 Carter, and the Grade 2 Vosburg). At distances ranging from 7 furlongs to 2 miles, Forego radiated an aura of class that is found in only the most select champions. Most horses cannot sustain that level of performance, but Forego was simply showing us a preview of coming attractions.
Forego made nine starts in 1975 and won six of them. He only ran against the very best competition, so again, his wins came in the most esteemed races on the calendar (the Widener, the Brooklyn, the Suburban, and the Woodward). Oh and in case you thought he had lost a step in the shorter races, he threw in another Carter at 7 furlongs. His mere presence on the racetrack forced all of his competition to fall into line like good little soldiers. Everyone wanted to play army, but there was only one Napoleon out there! You might think that two years of this type of domination would be enough. It wasn't!
Forego made eight starts in 1976 and won six of them. He was starting to conjure up images of Inspector Renault in Casablanca drolly saying ,"Round up the usual suspects." Only the horses he was routinely destroying on the racetrack were the best handicap horses in the nation. In 1976 he won the Met Mile, the Brooklyn, and the Woodward, but then he added the Marlboro Cup.
Every great racehorse seems to have a defining moment. No matter how many times they find victory lane, there seems to be one special moment that will live forever after they're gone. Forego's moment came in the 1976 Marlboro Cup. Words cannot possibly do it justice. You have to see it to believe it. Listen carefully to Chic Anderson's call of the race. After ticking off the leaders at each call, he throws in Forego's name in what appears to be a vain hope that he will get going, but to no avail. Then in the final 100 yards, when Forego does, indeed, get going, he can't seem to believe it. Neither could anyone else. It was the defining moment in a career of defining moments. Take a look!
I know; it seems crazy, but I'm not done yet. Neither was Forego! Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, he just kept waking up and doing it all over again. He won four out of seven starts in 1977 and two of them were the Met Mile and the Woodward. Most racehorse connections would kill to have either one of those races on their charge's resume. For Forego, it was just another day at the office. For those of you who haven't been keeping count, that's 4 Woodwards, 3 Brooklyns, 2 Met Miles, 2 Wideners, ….and a partridge in a pear tree...…
Forego would finally start to wind down in 1978, but he gave racing fans four straight years of the most incredible racing performances ever recorded. He won at distances ranging from 7 furlongs to 2 miles, carrying weight assignments that are unfathomable by today's standards. All the while racking up Grade 1 victories like a pool hustler anxious for the next game of nine-ball.
If you were lucky enough to watch those black and gold colors come barreling down the stretch like the last locomotive heading for the end of the line, you know what I'm talking about. He was a monster!
The one, the only, FOREGO!