Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Suffused was the most logical winner of Saturday’s $150,000 The Very One (G3) as the 4-5 favorite, but few could have predicted her manner of victory, especially shortening up to 1 3/16 miles. Once a dour type, the Bill Mott trainee flaunted some serious gears as she went last to first on the final turn and romped to a new course record.
“From where we started last year at this point,” Mott said, “she steadily improved throughout the course of the year to where she was doing good.
“I was curious about the distance today because it was a huge cutback from a mile and a half. My rationale is that I wanted to see how she would do at this trip because it gives us some options up the road.
“I liked to think she is good enough for a race like the Beverly D ([G1] at Arlington) or the Diana ([G1] at Saratoga), one of those two. We’ll just have to see.”
If Suffused can maintain this level over the long haul, she’s a threat not only for one of her division’s marquee prizes, but perhaps even a championship. It’s early days to start thinking like this, but that’s how stunning her turn of foot was in The Very One.
Confidently handled by Jose Ortiz, Suffused settled at the tail of the compact field. Defending champion Olorda, sidelined since taking the Bewitch (G3) at Keeneland last April, went too fast on the front end in her comeback. After fractions of :22.82 and :47.21, she was spent when Quiet Kitten passed her at the six-furlong split in 1:10.64.
But Suffused was letting them go on sufferance. Quickly dispatching the entire field while negotiating the turn, she blew the race open at the top of the stretch. Although Ortiz wrapped up on her, she still had five lengths to spare at the wire while breaking the course record in 1:51.40.
Edit: The original version of the recap incorrectly credited Strathnaver with the old mark of 1:56.39, based on an outdated track records page on the Gulfstream site. Thanks to reader Anthony Mormino (see the comments) for noting that Olorda had run in 1:51.54 in the 2016 The Very One. That had been the actual course record as listed in the Gulfstream media guide.
As a measure of how much she’s progressed over the past year, Suffused had set a course record at Belmont Park for the odd marathon distance of 1 15/16 miles in the Belmont Coronation Invitational in June. That was the making of her, for she went on to miss by a head in the Waya (G3), win the Glens Falls (G3), and come within an eyelash in the E.P. Taylor (G1). The chestnut opened 2017 with a tidy score in the January 28 La Prevoyante (G3) at 1 1/2 miles, but she’s obviously found a new dimension to be so lethal over shorter. Her record now stands at 16-7-4-1, $629,477.
Her late development makes sense, since her sire, Champs Elysees, reached his peak at five and six. Broodmare sire Daylami was a classic winner at three, but he too excelled as an older horse. Suffused is out of the stakes-placed Scuffle, who is herself a half-sister to Group 1-winning dual highweight Cityscape and high-class sprinter Bated Breath, unlucky not to win a Group 1 in his career. They also hit their best stride after fully maturing. Suffused is developing in line with her family tradition.
By comparison, the $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2) may not have such an impact on the turf male division. Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners and Bethlehem Stables’ Wake Forest got the job done as the 2-1 favorite, but in a textbook blanket finish.
Well placed in midpack by Javier Castellano, the Chad Brown veteran gradually reduced his deficit until launching his bid turning for home. Despite taking the overland route seven-wide, Wake Forest maintained his forward progress to catch pacesetter Reporting Star in the waning strides. Patterson Cross accelerated a fraction too late, or else he might have handed Mott a graded turf double. Wake Forest just kept his head in front and completed 1 3/8 miles in 2:13.54.
A Group 3 winner in his native Germany and Group 1-placed in Italy, Wake Forest captured last spring’s Man o’ War (G1) in his second outing for Brown. The import accumulated a string of minor awards in the Canadian International (G1), United Nations (G1), Northern Dancer Turf (G1), Pan American (G2), and Red Smith (G3) last time out November 12. The seven-year-old son of Sir Percy has bankrolled $901,384 from a line of 19-8-2-4.
Brown indicated that Wake Forest could bid to go one better in the April 1 Pan American before attempting a Man o’ War repeat.