Forte had to skip the Kentucky Derby. Here’s why he isn’t racing in the Preakness, either.

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Forte has been in the news a lot of late for a horse that hasn’t raced since early April.

The Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old Thoroughbred was universally viewed as the favorite for the 149th Kentucky Derby earlier this month at Churchill Downs in Louisville, but he was dramatically scratched just hours before the race.

Forte’s removal from the Kentucky Derby field came at the behest of Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) veterinarian Dr. Nicholas Smith due to concerns about Forte’s bruised right front foot.

Having the morning line favorite scratch prior to the Derby is a nearly unprecedented event, and the fallout of Forte’s injury also ruled him out of racing in Saturday’s second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes.

The KHRC — in accordance with Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) standards — issued a release saying Forte would be placed on the veterinary list for two weeks due to his foot injury.

According to the KHRC statement, Forte’s placement on the vet’s list was pursuant to HISA Rule 2241(a), which went into effect in Kentucky last July.

The rule says horses scratched from races for veterinary reasons, as was the case with Forte, “shall remain on the list for 14 days.”

While on the vet’s list, a horse can’t race.

According to BloodHorse, Forte’s time on the vet’s list began May 6. The 14-day stay stretches until May 20, which is the day of the Preakness Stakes (Saturday).

But, there is additional criteria Forte must meet to come off the vet’s list, including the completion of a satisfactory workout and the providing of a blood test.

The timeline to complete this criteria means it’s impossible for Forte to race in Saturday night’s Preakness Stakes.

Both Kentucky and Maryland (the Preakness takes place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore), operate under HISA standards, which means Forte’s placement on the vet’s list is honored for the Preakness.

Dr. Nicholas Smith, the chief veterinarian of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, checks the fitness of Forte after the Kentucky Derby favorite tested his bruised foot on May 6 on the Churchill Downs track in Louisville. Watching at right is Forte’s owner, Mike Repole. Forte was scratched from the Kentucky Derby, and also won’t race in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

New HISA program set to start after Preakness Stakes

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (which was passed by Congress in September 2020) has already created a centralized national authority to oversee safety regulation.

Now, that authority to oversee a medication control program is about to go into effect.

After being postponed several times, HISA’s Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program will start May 22 (Monday), two days after the Preakness Stakes occurs.

The program will go into effect at a time when equine safety in horse racing is under significant scrutiny following a surge of horse deaths, in particular at Churchill Downs.

Forte, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland in Lexington, KY on November 4, 2022. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported Forte had a positive post-race drug test in September.
Forte, with Irad Ortiz, Jr. up, wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland in Lexington, KY on November 4, 2022. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported Forte had a positive post-race drug test in September.

Forte tested positive in September

In addition to his current stay on the vet’s list and subsequent absence from Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, Forte and his trainer, Todd Pletcher, have been in the news for other negative reasons of late.

Last week, The New York Times reported Forte had been disqualified from his victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes in September at Saratoga Race Course in New York for a positive postrace drug test. Forte’s victory in the Hopeful was the first of a five-race winning streak the horse is currently in the midst of.

Pletcher was given a 10-day suspension and a $1,000 fine. Forte’s owners, Mike Repole and Vincent Viola, also have to forfeit the $165,000 purse winnings from the race.

Forte’s connections have appealed the ruling.

With the appeal ongoing, Pletcher has been granted a stay of suspension. So as of now, Pletcher is allowed to train and saddle horses until the appeal process is complete.

Preakness Stakes

When: 6:50 p.m. Saturday

Where: Pimlico Race Course

TV: NBC and Peacock

Purse: $1.65 million (Grade 1)

Distance: 1 3/16 miles

For: 3-year-old Thoroughbreds

Preakness Stakes field

With trainers, jockeys and morning-line odds:

1. National Treasure (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 4-1).

2. Chase the Chaos (Ed Moger, Jr., Sheldon Russell, 50-1).

3. Mage (Gustavo Delgado, Javier Castellano, 8-5 morning-line favorite).

4. Coffeewithchris (John E. Salzman, Jr., Jaime Rodriguez, 20-1).

5. Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Joel Roasrio, 10-1).

6. Perform (Shug McGaughey, Feargal Lynch, 15-1).

7. Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1).

8. First Mission (Brad Cox, Luis Saez, 5-2).

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