Fresh off a course record-setting performance in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens on December 31, Michael M. Hui’s Taghleeb had no difficulty shortening up a half-mile to take Saturday’s $200,000 W.L. McKnight H. (G3) back at Gulfstream Park.
The margin was tighter, with just a head to spare over stakes newcomer Sadler’s Joy. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who settled Taghleeb well off the early pace, made the winning move at the right time. The 5-1 chance thereby got the jump on Sadler’s Joy and determinedly reached for the wire in a final time of 2:25.90 on the firm course.
Sadler’s Joy handled his class hike with aplomb, and the well-bred four-year-old is one for the future. Patterson Cross, who brought a similar profile into the McKnight, held third after stalking the pace and striking the front entering the stretch. The eight-year-old warrior Twilight Eclipse, who also tracked early, fought in his usual way and just missed third. The biggest flops were market leaders Danish Dynaforner (eighth as the 123-pound highweight at 7-2) and Mr Maybe (10th as the 3-1 favorite).
Much improved since being claimed by Mike Maker last summer, Taghleeb is now a three-time stakes winner. The son of Hard Spun captured the Remington Green second off the claim, and finished seventh in the Canadian International (G1) and fourth in the River City (G3) prior to prospering at Gulfstream The Shadwell-bred has earned $448,329 from a 25-6-4-4 record.
In the $200,000 La Prevoyante H. (G3), Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Suffused (GB) shrugged off the top weight of 123 pounds, the far outside post 12, and a claim of foul to justify 3-2 favoritism. Slotting into a comfortable midpack spot in the early going, the Bill Mott mare commenced her bid on the far turn and readily dispatched Arles (Fr) by a length.
Arles’ rider, Joel Rosario, lodged an objection against the winner, alleging interference as Suffused tightened her up briefly. But the incident was minimal. Suffused was well in hand for Jose Ortiz, who asked her for no more than required for a cozy victory. The stewards took a similar view and allowed the result to stand.
“She broke good,” Ortiz said. “They went wide into the first turn. When we got to the quarter pole she got into a really good position, and from there she changed her leads well in the stretch and finished up strong.”
“A little wide on the first turn, but other than that, no problem,” Mott recapped. “The post position – if you scratch, where are you going to run? He was able to get into the two path after the first turn. It looked like she had them whenever she wanted them.
“I wasn’t worried initially (about the stewards’ review) because I thought it was against the 3 (third-placer Try Your Luck on the rail), but Jose (Ortiz) said she came in a little when she switched leads. Horses always come in half a path; that is just the nature of the beast.”
Suffused, who covered 1 1/2 grassy miles in 2:26.04, was the first half of a Juddmonte double. The second came on a far bigger stage, courtesy of champion Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1).
Sired by past Juddmonte star Champs Elysees, Suffused sports a mark of 15-6-4-1, $537,407. The import turned the corner when romping in course-record time in last June’s Belmont Coronation Invitational at the obscure trip of 1 15/16 miles. She went on to beat Arles in the Glens Falls (G3) at Saratoga, an effort bookended by a pair of photo-finish losses in the Waya (G3) and E.P. Taylor (G1) when last seen on October 16.
Mott mentioned the April 1 Orchid (G3) as a logical step.
“I think there’s a race at the end of the meet we might have a look at,” the Hall of Famer said. “She’ll keep running. She just got good towards the end of last year. I guess it’s just maturity.”