FORTE WINS THE GODFATHER PACE-------- AND THREE MORE
Now the Italian Americans have someone to cheer for in Monticello Raceway’s Heritage Drivers Series finale after Mike Forte drove Velvety Smooth to an easy 1:58.2 triumph in the Godfather Pace on Monday afternoon, August 27th .
The race, which featured drivers of Italian extraction, was the sixth length of the year-long series and now Forte will join the winners of the previous preliminary legs in the series final, dubbed the All-America Cup, later this fall.
Sent off as the betting favorite from the pole position Forte was looped on the first turn but when the field straightened and headed to the quarter Forte was out and going with Velvety Smooth and the gained command as the timer registered :28.
The 4-year-old I Am A Fool mare maintained a 1 ½ length lead as she passed the halfway point and was still easily leading the pack by the third stanza, clocked in 1:28.3. Around the paddock turn Velvety Smooth began to pace away from her competition and she opened up daylight with every stride and was an easy 7 ¾ length winner.
It was a tight four-horse photo for second but True Gritty, driven by Rock Vinci got up by a neck over Shezaflamintower, in rein to Antonino Buttitta.
Fourth place went Girls Luv Diamonds driven by Matt Zuccarello. All of the runners-up were just noses apart and each individually timed in 2:00.
“I thought she (Velvety Smooth) was good prior to the race, but I had no idea she was that good,” Forte related after his victory. “She was impressive and surprising.”
Velvety Smooth is owned by Carl Gillespie and Betsy Phillips and trained by Phillips. She paid $5.90 for win.
Forte had relatively little trouble winning the Godfather Pace but he did have a big problem when he returned to the paddock with Velvety Smooth who is known a nervous sort.
“I was carrying the blanket and the trophy and as we entered the paddock gate and she caught me by surprise when she bolted and ran up the grassy slope and then fell backwards right on me,” Forte said. “But it was my own fault. I should never have tried to carry the trophy and the blanket back to the paddock knowing she’s (Velvety Smooth) a nervous mare.”
Asked why he didn’t take himself off the rest of his mounts that afternoon Forte explained: “I had a drive in every race today and some had a real good chance of winning. I was sore but not that bad.”
Later that evening he went to his family doctor and found that he had bruised ribs and a pulled muscle.
Forte is having a banner year here at Monticello Raceway. His victory in the Godfather Pace was one of four on the card for the veteran reinsman had on the August 27th card.
He currently has driven 164 winners this season and has 3158 wins in his career.