A dual group 3 winner in France, the Dubawi gelding joined trainer Chad Brown's string in September and finished fourth in a Belmont Park allowance going 1 1/16 miles on the turf, came in third under similar conditions there in October, and then ran second in his 5-year-old debut by just a neck to longshot Flatlined in the Jan. 14 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes (G2T), also a 1 1/16-mile turf test.
Stepped up into grade 1 company for the first time under Joel Rosario and stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in a field of eight older runners, Almanaar ran straight and true to the Gulfstream Park winner's circle, hitting the wire in front by three-quarters of a length to secure his first North American score. The final time was 1:45.63 on firm turf.
Charting a less direct course was second-place finisher Beach Patrol, who after setting the pace was found guilty by the stewards of interference with War Correspondent in the stretch run. Beach Patrol was placed fourth. Moving to second was All Included, while War Correspondent was placed third.
Beach Patrol, also trained by Brown, cut an opening quarter in :23.59 while tracked closely by Eirigh for the front spot. Racing in the second tier through a half in :47.08 were War Correspondent, Lukes Alley, and three-wide favorite Divisidero, sent off at odds of 2-1.
"He broke really well," Rosario said of his mount, who tracked fifth throughout the early going. "I wanted to follow somebody but I got shut off a little bit on the first turn. But I took it step by step, trying to take my time with him so I could let him finish in the end. He did well. Turning for home I was a little outside but he was very happy, really enjoying where he was and giving everything to me."
Rosario tipped Almanaar out and set him down four wide around the turn, chasing Divisidero, who flattened instead of charging on. Beach Patrol and War Correspondent battled for the advantage, but in the end it was the surging Almanaar who closed through a 1:34.02 mile and got up in time for the win.
“He ran great the last race... but today he had a little more room to work at an mile and an eighth," Brown said. "He got a beautiful set up. Joel fits the horse perfectly; it’s the second time in a row he has given him a flawless trip on this turf course. I’m proud of the way the horse drove him down the center of the track.”
Almanaar was sent off at odds of 3-1 and returned $8, $4.40, and $3.20. All Included, a 15-1 shot, was worth $13.40 and $5.80. War Correspondent, also a longshot at 22-1, paid $8.40. Lukes Alley, Divisidero, Flatlined, and Eirigh completed the order of finish.
The winner was bred in Great Britain out of the Bahhare mare Baqah (IRE). He improved his record to 5-3-2 from 13 starts.
“Everything is in play for these two horses—the Woodford Reserve on Derby Day at Churchill is a grade 1 I have interest in with both these horses," Brown said of Almanaar and Beach Patrol. "Down the road, races like the Manhattan (G1) at a mile and a quarter. Beach Patrol is already proven at a mile and a quarter in the Secretariat. There are lots of options. Hopefully, they stay healthy."