Bold Forbes, or as jockey Angel Cordero called him, “The Puerto Rican Cadillac”, was actually bred in Kentucky by Eaton Farms and Red Bull Stable. The dark bay or brown colt was by Hopeful Stakes winner, Irish Castle, out of the Commodore M mare, Comely Nell. While Comely Nell was unraced, her dam Nellie L had won the Acorn and Kentucky Oaks, her grand dam was Nellie Flag, who was Calumet Farms first homebred stakes winner, 2YO Filly Champion, and fourth place finisher in the 1935 Kentucky Derby behind Triple Crown winner, Omaha. Nellie Flag’s dam was Nellie Morse who won the Preakness in 1924.
Sent to the 1974 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Summer Yearling Sale, the handsome colt would be purchased for $15,200 by Estaban Rodriguez Tizol, a Puerto Rican banker, who shipped his new purchase to San Juan, where he started his journey to winning the 1976 Kentucky Derby. The speedy youngster commanded his maiden start, winning by 17 lengths at 35-1, on his way to sweeping all 5 of his starts as a 2YO in Puerto Rico. The undefeated juvenile was then shipped to New York to join trainer Laz Berrera’s stable. Barrera, who had made his way to Hollywood Park from Mexico with one horse, was given 8 horses to train on a loan from former Vanderbilt trainer, Bill Winfrey, when his one charge, Destructor, was claimed. Making good with the loaned horses, Barrera was finally able to make a name for himself, taking on his own clients.
Berrera would train the Kentucky-bred import in ways that most saw as unconventional, yet the colt would thrive. Stateside he would win the Saratoga Special and Tremont Stakes, prior to bucking his shins. Recovered, the colt would then finish third in an allowance at Santa Anita to wrap up the season with a record of 7 firsts and 1 third out of 8 starts, gaining honors as Puerto Rico’s Champion 2YO Male.
As a 3YO, he would come in second in the San Miguel and San Vicente, prior to winning the San Jacinto in California. Making his way to New York, the sophomore found the winner’s circle again in the Bay Shore preceding a victory in stakes record time of 1:47 2/5 for the Wood Memorial. Barrera, whose family had been giving him a hard time, joking that he was jinxed when competing in $100,000 stakes races, was relieved when Bold Forbes passed under the wire the Wood victor. Stamping his ticket for the Kentucky Derby, Barrera’s training of the colt caused confusion for those that were noticing the routine. Known as a sprinter, Bold Forbes had been on the lead for 92% of his races, a fact that Barrera had in mind. Wanting to prepare the quick colt for the mile and a quarter contest, Berrera would gallop Bold Forbes daily up to 2 miles, giving him the added stamina the horse would need, rather than the quick works that the majority of trainers put their charges through. Barrera was quoted in answering the question, “It’s a long way around and you do not want your horse to be looking for a chair to sit in at the top of the stretch”.
The 102nd running of the Derby would pit brothers Chris and Gregg McCarron against each other in the running, with Gregg finishing 5th aboard On The Sly, while Chris finished in 6th on Cojak. The field of 9 had 4 starters that hadn’t won a stakes race, with only 3 that had won $100,000 Stakes races. Those three would finish in the top three, Bold Forbes, Honest Pleasure, who was the heavy favorite, and Elocutionist who had won the Arkansas Derby. The infield sported a new look with tall chain link fence that was topped with barbed wire to prevent the episodes that had happened the previous two years. Though it deterred people from climbing the fence, the trouble makers still tried to interfere with the race by throwing green smoke bombs onto the track. Thankfully the track security team was able to remove them before they interrupted any of the horses on the track.
In the Kentucky Derby, Bold Forbes would set fast early fractions, leading from gate to wire while winning by a widening length over Honest Pleasure. Baeza, aboard Honest Pleasure was told to wait behind the speedster until his mount could run him down. There wasn’t a time that it would happen, as every time he would set his sights on the Puerto Rican idol, the commanding colt would find more and draw away. The two colts would run 1-2 throughout the entirety of the race, with the only other occurance being in the 1914 edition when Hodge trailed Old Rosebud around the oval. Bold Forbes would finish in 2:01 3/5 over a lackluster track, the fastest of 20 horses to have previously led from start to finish. The victory gave jockey Cordero his 2nd Derby in 3 years, while the Derby triumph capped off a training hat-trick day for Barrera, whose Life’s Hope won the Illinois Derby in addition to Due Diligence’s victory in the Carter Handicap.
In the Preakness, Forbes and Honest Pleasure would duel again, this time though they would be caught by Elocutionist, with Bold Forbes finishing in third with an injured heal. The Belmont would see Bold Forbes turn things around yet again while leading from start to finish, succeeding by a neck. In the Vosburgh Handicap, the valiant colt would bruise the inside of his quarter, leading to his retirement. Ending with 6 firsts, 1 second, and 3 thirds out of 10 starts, the campaign would earn him 3YO Champion Male honors.
Syndicated for $130,000 a share to Stone Farm where he stood his entire stud career, the Derby winner would sire Gr. I winner Air Forbes Won as well as Kentucky Oaks winner and 3YO Champion Filly, Tiffany Lass, who was also trained by Berrera. In 1991, Bold Forbes was moved to the Kentucky Horse Park, where he enjoyed visiting with people and posing for pictures. His favorite treat over peppermints and apples were candied orange slices. The beloved pensioner passed away in 2000 at 27, as the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner.
(Bumper Stickers courtesy of Kentucky Derby Museum archives)