Under a patient ride from Rene Douglas, Green Girl won for the first time since July 9, 2006, when the French-bred mare won at Chantilly. Gary Zwerling’s La Dolce Vita closed late to get up for second under Kent Desormeaux, a nose in front of 5-2 favorite J’Ray. Waquoit’s Love was a neck back in fourth in a tightly-contested finish.
Interestingly, Desormeaux rode Green Girl in her most recent outing, a three-quarter-length defeat in the 12-furlong La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIT) Dec. 15 at Calder Race Course. Clement asked Douglas to ride in the Suwannee River when Desormeaux had already committed to La Dolce Vita.
Owned by Ronchalon Stable, Green Girl is a 6-year-old mare by Lord of Men, out of the Slip Anchor mare Green Sails. The win was her first on American soil.
According to Clement, Green Girl made her final start and will be bred to Kingmambo in Kentucky.
“I was disappointed in the way she was behaving before the race (unseated Douglas in the post parade), but she got the job done,” Clement said. “Rene rode a great race, and now she goes home to be bred. She’s six years old, and it’s time.”
The 1 1/8-mile Suwannee River began with Edith Dixon’s Aunt Henny grabbing the early lead. Aunt Henny was pressed by Bel Air Beauty and Waquoit’s Love, with J’ray and Mama I’m Home also near the front. The opening fractions were :23.87 and :47.83.
Aunt Henny continued to lead through six furlongs (1:11.66), and took the field of 11 to the top of the stretch. J’ray, going three-wide with Eibar Coa aboard, made her run to the front as they straightened away, with Bel Air Beauty between horses and Aunt Henny near the inside.
But it was Green Girl, steadied entering the far turn and again near the quarter-pole, who positioned herself within striking distance at the top of the stretch. Coming from the outside, she continued to make up ground until taking over from J'ray inside the sixteenth-pole, eventually holding off the late-running La Dolce Vita, and Waquoit’s Love -- who had advanced on the inside.
“After she dropped me, she ran off two furlongs, and I was concerned that she had used up too much energy in the post parade,” said Douglas. “I really wondered if they should scratch. She acted up again behind the gate and I almost called it a day, but I wasn’t in a position to make that call.
“Our plan was to go to the lead, but we didn’t so I had to go to Plan B. I sat on her quietly, and at the three-eighths pole, she made her move. She has a nice, beautiful stride on her.”
Green Girl, bred by E.A.R.L Haras Du Camp Benard and M. Philippe Demercastel, won for the fifth time in 20 lifetime starts. She paid $12.60, $6.80, and $3.80. The $1 exacta (2-8) was worth $71.80.
Clement won the Suwannee with Naissance Royale last year.