FOREVER BOSS HOPING FOR ‘SUSAN SURPRISE
Seven months ago, trainer Ken McPeek came to Pimlico Race Course as a headliner, running the filly Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness Stakes and lifting the Woodlawn Vase when she outran Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, winning by a neck.
This weekend, he’s got another filly running on Pimlico’s weekend, albeit one with a much lower profile, Forever Boss in Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2), and he won’t be in Baltimore to see it.
“I’ve got an overlap down here,” he said, speaking by phone on Wednesday. “I’ve got a boatload of young horses breezing and two running in the Louisville Handicap [Saturday at Churchill Downs], so I sent my assistant up to saddle her.”
Making her second start on dirt, Forever Boss is 15-1 on the morning line. She broke her maiden by disqualification and most recently recorded a win in an off-the-turf race allowance at Keeneland last month, a step down from the stakes races in which she’d run in the winter. The Bob Baffert-trained Beautiful Gift, a Grade 3 winner, is the 9-5 morning line favorite.
Out of the El Prado (IRE) mare Calma Prado, Forever Boss made a promising first start on turf in January, finishing second by nose in a Gulfstream Park maiden race under jockey Luis Saez. A month later, stretching out from 7 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, the Tapiture filly crossed the wire a neck behind Tracy Flick and was placed first through disqualification.
McPeek and co-owner Steve Baker put a line through her graded stakes debut, an eighth-place finish in the Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
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“She had a terrible trip,” said Baker. “She’s not very big, and there were some big fillies in that race that kind of knocked her around a few times. She’s a much better horse than that performance.”
“She got hung wide and wider,” said McPeek. “Nothing went right.”
She ran sixth in the listed Bourbonette Oaks over Turfway’s Tapeta and was slated to return to the grass at Keeneland, but the weather, apparently fortunately, had other ideas. Against a compact field of four, Forever Boss won by over four lengths as the third choice.
“That race was a pleasant surprise,” said McPeek. “By a son of Tapit, she should like the dirt, but we wanted to try her on grass first. She’s pretty adaptable.”
Unsold for $11,000 as a yearling at the 2019 OBS sale, the filly returned to OBS six months later.
“She was way out in a back barn, a one-horse consignment,” said McPeek. “She was a really pretty filly, and I gave only $23,000 for her.
“She’s not big and stout like Swiss Skydiver; she’s more ‘finesse-y.’ She’s got a great hip and a wonderful leg, and she’s real intelligent.”
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McPeek’s Magdalena Racing retained an interest in her, selling a majority ownership stake to Baker and bringing in David Bernsen as well. Forever Boss was bred in Kentucky by Gil Masters.
Based in Texas, Baker, like McPeek, will be watching on television on Friday—he hopes.
“We had a trip planned to go see our son and his wife in California, then go on to Hawaii to see our daughter and her family,” Baker explained. “We leave for Hawaii on Friday and we hope that we can catch the race right before we leave.”
“It’s just bad timing, though she actually does better when I’m not there,” he joked, noting that he and his wife have been present only at the Florida Oaks.
He’s had horses with McPeek for about a decade, naming Saturday Launch as his favorite—until now.
“Forever Boss has really caught my heart and attention,” he said. “I love Tapiture, and Ken has a knack for picking good fillies. I know that the odds says that she’s picked sixth or seventh, but I think she’s going to surprise people.”