Godolphin Racing's Emcee established himself as one of the nation's premier sprinters with a dominant victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Forego Stakes, striding away to a 4 1/2-length victory at Saratoga. With Alan Garcia up, the improving four-year-old garnered his first stakes victory when completing seven furlongs in a quick 1:21, and the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt has now earned $479,900 from a 7-4-0-2 record.
The late-starting son of Unbridled's Song did not make his career debut until last fall, winning a maiden special weight event at Belmont Park, and came back this season to win his second outing, a February allowance at Gulfstream Park. Emcee finished third when making his stakes bow in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap in early March and followed with a fourth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap a month later.
The dark bay rebounded with a sharp 4 1/2-length allowance tally at Belmont Park on May 5, but entered the Forego off a tough-luck third in the Grade 1 A.G. Vanderbilt earlier in the Saratoga meet, disputing a wicked early pace from an inside post before grudgingly giving way late to miss by only a half-length.
Emcee broke from post 5 in the Forego and closely tracked pacesetter Pacific Ocean on the outside through the opening stages.
"Had we been outside in the Vanderbilt, we might have been in a better spot," McLaughlin said. "I'm just happy to win with this horse. He deserved a Grade 1, and he got it today."
The pace complexion of the Forego changed when the speedy Shackleford, a multiple Grade 1 winner, was scratched Saturday morning due to a cough.
"We felt earlier this morning that Shackleford might be there ahead of us with [Pacific Ocean] and we would lay third, but we laid second," McLaughlin said. "It helped that we don't have to run against [Shackleford]; he's a very nice horse. I'm sorry that they had to scratch him. When (Jersey Town) cut up the rail, I was a little nervous, but [Garcia] hadn't asked our horse yet. It was a very impressive race."
Pacific Ocean established splits in :22 3/5 and :45 1/5, but came off the rail turning for home, allowing Jersey Town to surge to a narrow lead in upper stretch. That rival completed six furlongs in 1:08 4/5 with a head advantage, but Emcee had all the momentum on the far outside and quickly seized command after passing the eighth pole, drawing off in superb fashion late.
"My horse broke good and was right in the game," Garcia explained. "Turning for home, when I asked him, he ran and did it very well. I was very confident. It was a great post today, better than last time. All I wanted was for him to break good and take it from there. He did it the right way."
Favored at 7-5 in the seven-horse field, Emcee returned payoffs of $5.10, $3.70 and $2.90 to his supporters. Hamazing Destiny came charging late to grab second in the final strides at 17-1, a neck better than the 9-1 Jersey Town in third. Caixa Eltronica, Pacific Ocean, Isn't He Perfect and 5-2 second choice Jackson Bend completed the order of finish.
Emcee gave Godolphin Stables their fourth Grade 1 victory this year at Saratoga.
"It's an honor to train for Godolphin and to have such quality horses," McLaughlin said. "It makes my job easier, but I have a great team of people behind me, and it's been an unbelievable meet. It's hard to even believe. It will take some time to sink in."
"He's a deserving Grade 1 winner," Godolphin's Jimmy Bell said of Emcee. "He exploded home. He was primed; Kiaran and the team did a super job, and he delivered on the right day.
"The thrill is still the same," Bell added when asked about Godolphin's success this meet. "Every now and then it seems like the stars align and everything has really, really come together."
Bred in Kentucky by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation, Emcee is out of the winning Ocean Crest mare Surf Club, the dam of stakes winner Spring Party and a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Awesome Humor, an earner of nearly $850,000.