Stall aiming for second West Virginia Derby win

CHESTER – Trainer Albert M. Stal Jr. has twice sent horses to the post in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby. In 2008, he finished fifth with the 6-1 shot My Pal Charlie. But in 2013, Stall had the 7-5 post-time favorite Departing, who romped by 8 lengths.

Stall will attempt to make it two-for-three in the 1 1/8-mile event at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort on Saturday. His colt’s name is Forevamo, and while it’s unlikely that he’ll be betting choice in what’s shaping up as a strong field, Forevamo will get a fair share of backing at the pari-mutuel windows.

Forevamo’s career stats include nine starts, a pair of wins, a quartet of second-place finishes, and purse earnings of $322,270. He is a proven black-type competitor, having won the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Louisiana Downs in October.

And Forevamo’s also proven worthy of graded company, as demonstrated by his fast-closing placings in this year’s Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs.

In his most recent start, in allowance company at Churchill on June 26, Forevamo was every bit the pro – driving through the lane to prevail by three-quarters of a length in a time of 1:43 for the 8-furlong distance.

“He just ran right past the other horses,” said Stall. “Forevamo’s really getting it together. And he keeps improving as he goes along. I’ve been training him at Saratoga this summer, and he’s in the same barn stall where I had Departing. Forevamo’s something of a laid-back horse, very classy, and definitely nice to be around. My kids feed him carrots all the time, and he loves it.”

Bred in Florida, Forevamo was fetched an auction price of $320,000 at the Ocala Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training in 2015.

He is a son of Uncle Mo, who was a multiple Grade 1 winner during his own racing days, and is also the sire of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist.

Candlelightdinner, the dam of Forevamo, had just a maiden claiming win in her seven career starts. But go back a few generations in her pedigree and one finds the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, along with such Hall of Fame racehorses as Native Dancer and Dr. Fager.

Forevamo campaigns for Brittlyn Stables, which is the nom de course of Evelyn Benoit, who is frequently referred to as “the First Lady of Louisiana racing.” She is president of Benoit Machine Inc., a responsibility she took on after her husband, Maurice, was paralyzed in an automobile accident.

Benoit Machine is headquartered in the southeastern Louisiana town of Houma, and specializes in the manufacturing of tubing for the oil and natural gas industries. But Thoroughbreds constitute Evelyn Benoit’s passion. Her Brittlyn Stable homebred, Star Guitar, who was also trained by Stall, won 22 stakes and earned nearly $1.75 million in purses during a career that extended from 2007-2012.

The 54-year-old Stall is a New Orleans native. His father is a former chairman of the Louisiana Racing Commission, and the turf course at Fair Grounds bears his grandfather’s name. Stall is a former assistant to Frankie Brothers, and has been training Thoroughbreds on his own since 1991. Through July 29 of this year, he had registered 1,431 career victories, including 150 in stakes, 31 of which have been graded.

Stall is best known as the conditioner of Blame, who handed Zenyatta her only career defeat in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill. In addition to Departing’s West Virginia Derby score, Stall has twice won the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes – with Terrain in 2008 and Maybe So in 2012.

Florent Geroux, a native of Argentan, France, will have the mount aboard Forevamo in the West Virginia Derby. The 30-year-old Geroux is viewed in many circles as one of the sport’s emerging starts.

In 2015, Geroux booted The Pizza Man to victory in the Grade 1 Arlington Million. His exploits this year include triumphs with Cavorting in the Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park, with Catch a Glimpse in the Belmont Oaks Invitational, and with I’m a Chatterbox in the Delaware Oaks – all three of which also have Grade 1 status. This will be Geroux’s first try at a West Virginia Derby score.

“We’ll ship Forevamo to Mountaineer on Friday, and Florent and I will come in on Saturday morning,” said Stall. “Forevamo’s ready for this. I do like our chances.”