Forty Tales, winner of three straight graded stakes, will have his work cut out for him just trying to make his way through all the traffic in the $500,000 Foxwoods King's Bishop Stakes Aug. 24 at Saratoga Race Course.
A total of 14 3-year-olds were entered for the seven-furlong race, with Forty Tales, a stone closer, breaking out of post 2 under co-topweight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions.
Owned by Perretti Racing Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Tale of the Cat -- Forty Love, by Forty Niner is coming off stretch-running victories in the Derby Trial Stakes at one mile, Woody Stephens Stakes at seven furlongs, and Amsterdam Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs. Joel Rosario, who will ride him Saturday, was aboard for all of them.
No matter what the distance, Forty Tales can be expected to come flying late. His other two career victories came at six furlongs, so he's won at four different distances, with the seven panels of the King's Bishop apparently right in his wheelhouse.
Pletcher was thrilled with Forty Tales' most recent work, in which he went a half in :47.83 in company with Whitney Invitational winner Cross Traffic.
"It was an exceptional work for Forty Tales, who's not generally a very good work horse," Pletcher said.
But, again, he first will have to negotiate all the expected traffic of a 14-horse field, especially breaking from an inside post.
Pletcher, as usual, will have plenty of back-up, as he also saddles Capo Bastone, also a late closer but not as consistent as Forty Tales, and the enigmatic Overanalyze, who easily won the Arkansas Derby, but has been well-beaten in his three subsequent starts. Pletcher no doubt is hoping a return to sprints will wake up the son of Dixie Union, who was impressive winning the six-furlong Futurity Stakes at Belmont Park last September.
Pletcher's trio will have to out-finish another strong stretch runner in Declan's Warrior, the Nick Zito-trained son of Majestic Warrior who just got up to win the Gygistar and Bay Shore stakes earlier this year. He was narrowly beaten by Forty Tales in the Woody Stephens and came on way too late in the Amsterdam, finishing fifth, beaten 3 ¾ lengths.
If the late closers have one thing in their favor to perhaps overcome the large field it is the abundance of raw speed in the race.
Expected to light up the tote board with some blistering early fractions are Let Em Shine, a bullet from California who demolished his opposition in three races before coming east and finishing a close fourth in the Woody Stephens after setting a blazing pace; Mentor Cane, who set a rapid tempo in the Amsterdam before tiring to finish fourth; and Majestic Hussar, who is coming off a 2 ¾-length allowance score in a fast time after battling head-and-head for the lead.
And how about longshot Slan Abhaile, who pressed crazy-fast fractions of :21.21, :43.65 and 1:09 flat before going on to a three-quarters-length victory.
Others with excellent tactical speed are Salutos Amigos, who was third in the Amsterdam; Bad Hombre, who is dropping back from 1 ⅛ miles after finishing a solid third in the Curlin Stakes; and Central Banker and No Distinction, who finished one-two in the recent SS Quick Cal Stakes at five furlongs on the grass at Saratoga. They drew posts 12 and 14, respectively.
In between them is the highly regarded but lightly raced Miraculousmo, who broke his maiden going seven furlongs last time out. Rounding out the field is Integrity, an allowance winner at Belmont two races back.