Godolphin Stable's Sulamani recovered after stumbling badly on the final turn, impressively sweeping past the field in the stretch to record an easy 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT) at Belmont Park.
Sulamani, the 3-5 choice in the field of seven, proved once again what a true 1 1/2-mile competitor he is, using another powerful stretch drive to defeat Deeliteful Irving in 2:27 2/5. Front-running Balto Star held on for third place, three-quarters of a length behind his stablemate.
The Irish-bred 4-year-old son of Hernando won his second United States start in a row. He was awarded the victory in the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (gr. IT), although he was a half-length behind disqualified winner Storming Home. Sulamani won for the sixth time in nine outings at 12 furlongs, the distance of the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
Sulamani was last in a compact field most of the way around while relaxed behind comfortable fractions of :25 2/5. :50 1/5 and 1:14 3/5 set by Balto Star. As Bailey swung Sulamani wide to begin his move on the turn, he caught the heels of German-bred Sabiango, ridden by David Flores, and dipped perceptibly. He recovered, however, within several strides and continued his charge on the outside into the stretch. After reaching the front, Bailey gave him one crack with his left hand and Sulamani drew off while winning without being extended.
"He showed great acceleration toward the end of the race, something that he has always shown.," said Simon Cristford, racing manager of Godolphin Stable. "We just hope he makes that same move in the Breeders' Cup.
"As for the misstep at the top of the stretch, one of the horses tried to angle out on him. What I was surprised by was how Sulamani just jumped back into the race. He didn't lose concentration and continued to stay focused in the stretch."
Likewise, Bailey, whose victory in the Flower Bowl Invitational (gr. IT) one race earlier broke Mike Smith's 1994 record of 20 grade I victories in a single year, was impressed with Sulamani.
"That was a very athletic and courageous performance," Bailey said. "We had a great trip. [Sabiango] wasn't quite clear, and I caught his heel. I've never had a horse, especially one like this that is so lanky, get back into a race after something like that happened. In these races, not much separates the horses. You need a good trip."
Deeliteful Irving, ridden by Joey Bravo, squeezed through along the inside after a rail-skimming ride to get second.
"He needed room from the three-eighths pole to the eighth-pole, and we didn't get it," said Deeliteful Irving's trainer, Michael Dickinson. "When he finally got room, he ran on well. The ground last time was soft, today it was good and her prefers it firm. I was delighted with how he ran today. He is a possibility for the Breeders' Cup, I will have to talk to the owners."
The French Derby champion earned $450,000 to increase his career total to $3,577,245 with a record of 11-7-2-0.
He paid $3.50, $2.70 and $2.30. Deeliteful Irving and Anstu Stables mate Balto Star returned $4.30 and $4.60.
Sabiango, Polish Summer, Slew Valley and Lunar Sovereign completed the order of finish.