Force the Pass Heads Commonwealth Derby

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Sep 18th, 2015
by Claire Novak

Belmont Derby (gr. IT) winner Force the Pass hopes to rebound from a third in the Aug. 15 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT), and towers over a field of eight in the $400,000 Commonwealth Derby presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance (gr. IIT) at Laurel Park Sept. 19. 

The 3-year-old Speightstown   runner broke through in the Belmont Derby after winning the Penn Mile (gr. IIIT) for owner Richard Santulli, taking the 1 1/4-mile test in New York by 3 3/4 lengths.

Sent to post as the 3-2 favorite in the Secretariat over the same route of ground, Force the Pass hopped in the air at the start and trailed the field before swinging five wide to rally from seventh. He finished third, 5 1/2 lengths behind winning European shipper Highland Reel and a head behind runner-up Closing Bell.

"It was a heartbreaker," trainer Alan Goldberg said. "He got all jazzed up with that (stormy) weather (and) he lunged at the break. We thought we'd be second or on the lead early. We didn't expect to be that far back. Everything went wrong that day. Hopefully, at Laurel, everything will go the right way."

In the 1 1/8-mile Commonwealth Derby, the Goldberg trainee drew post 5 as the 122-pound highweight, with Trevor McCarthy named for regular rider Joel Rosario, who has a commitment to ride Frosted in Saturday's Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II). Force the Pass signaled his readiness to return to the races Sept. 15 with a :47 flat half-mile workout on the turf at the Colts Neck, N.J. training center.

"I had a plan for him this year, and we've been lucky enough to make all the races," said Goldberg, whose turf star is scheduled to ship from Colts Neck Stables to Laurel Saturday morning. "Everything's been really good."

Force the Pass appears imposing, but the Bill Mott-trained Go Around rates as a formidable rival while looking to better his third-place finish in the Sept. 5 Saranac (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga Race Course. Peter Vegso's homebred circled the field with a six-wide sweep on the final turn, moving from eighth to challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch, only to weaken late. The son of Medaglia d'Oro   previously captured an entry-level allowance at Belmont Park.

David Donk-trained Vision Perfect, seventh because of a wide trip in the Saranac last time out, brings a résumé with a pair of stakes victories into the Commonwealth Derby. Robert Spiegel's homebred son of Pollard's Vision   captured the Awad Stakes at Belmont last October and debuted in 2015 with a triumph in the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in April.

Ballybrit Stable's Gallery also brings solid credentials, having captured the Manila Stakes at Belmont July 12. The Michael Dini-trained son of Munnings   most recently finished second in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Downs.

Allowance winners Majestic Pride, Great Dancer, and Fundamental complete the field, along with maiden winner One Go All Go. 

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