Capped by a furious five-wide rally through the final eighth of a mile, Forty Tales powered from last to first to upset the 29th running of the Grade 2, $400,000 Woody Stephens presented by NYRA Rewards on Saturday’s Belmont Stakes undercard.
Sent off at 8-1, the Tale of the Cat colt relaxed well behind brisk fractions of 21.99 and 44.73 seconds set by Let Em Shine, with Zee Bros in close pursuit. Nudged closer to the lead by jockey Joel Rosario, Forty Tales was still seventh as Clearly Now joined the fray, but kicked into high gear to lead a pack of closers through the final 200 yards and hit the wire three-quarters of a length ahead of Declan’s Warrior.
His time for seven furlongs over a Belmont Park main track upgraded to “fast” was 1:22.47.
“It looked like they were going a little quick in front and he always comes from off the pace, anyway,” said Rosario, who earlier won the Grade 2, $400,000 RTN True North aboard Fast Bullet. “I thought we could take advantage of that to try and win the race. He broke well and I started finding myself way behind, but I was hoping they were going quick enough so I could finish with him. He did everything right and just got the jump in the last minute. He really finished. He tried hard, the little horse, and everything set up perfect.”
It was the second straight stakes victory for Forty Tales, who on April 27 captured the one-mile Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. A maiden winner in his lone start as a 2-year-old, Forty Tales opened his 2013 campaign with an allowance victory at Parx Racing, and finished second in the Grade 2 Hutcheson and fifth in the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream Park prior to the Derby Trial.
“He’s a real solid horse,” said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. “He shows up and runs hard every time. The biggest concern was just how the racetrack was playing. We can’t change his style at this point, so we just let him run his race and, fortunately, they went fast enough to come back to him today.
“He’s a tough horse, man,” he added. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of good 3-year-olds, and none of them are as brave as this one.”
Owned by Perretti Racing, which paid $80,000 for him in 2011 at the Fasig-Tipton July sales in Kentucky, Forty Tales more than doubled his earnings to $459,789 with the winner’s purse of $240,000.
He returned $19.80 for a $2 win bet.
Clearly Now was a head behind Declan’s Warrior in third, with Zee Bros another head back in fourth. Completing the order of finish were Tenango, Capo Bastone, Honorable Dillon, Salutos Amigos, Retrieve, and Merit Man.