Weaving through horses in the stretch under John Velazquez, Wake Forest displayed a powerful late kick to surge past rivals in the final furlong to win the $400,000 Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) May 14 at Belmont Park.
In completing the 1 3/8-mile test on the inner turf in 2:12.94 on firm turf, Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners, and Bethlehem Stables' Wake Forest earned his first U.S. stakes victory and first grade I or group I score. The German-bred 6-year-old son of Sir Percy completed his second start for U.S. trainer Chad Brown.
Sent off the 2-1 favorite Saturday, Wake Forest settled into eighth in the field of nine as stablemate Money Multiplier stayed close to early leader Go Around through a half-mile in :49.24, six furlongs in 1:13.83, and a mile in 1:38.22.
At that point, the field closed in on the top two but Wake Forest was still second-last, 6 1/2 lengths back. Velazquez then displayed his Hall of Fame skills to rally through horses and find room, where Wake Forest showed off the fastest of gears to register a three-quarter-length win over Money Multiplier. Wake Forest made up that ground in a final furlong completed in a sizzling :11.39.
"It was a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "We know he doesn't break really well, so it was a perfect opportunity to put him behind horses and save ground and hopefully, down the lane, we'd get some sort of seam where we could let him run. When he got the little seam he just exploded."
A two-time group III winner in Germany, where he raced for owners Klaus Allofs and Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof (also his breeder) and trainer Andreas Wohler, Wake Forest made his U.S. debut in last year's Arlington Million Stakes (gr. IT), where he finished sixth in his final start for those connections. Wake Forest returned to racing last month in his debut for his current connections, finishing a close second to Kaigun in the Pan American Stakes (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream Park.
Wake Forest paid $6.30, $4.50, and $3.30 across the board. Longshot Money Multiplier, also trained by Brown, paid $14.80 and $9.90 to place and show, while Can'thelpbelieving (IRE) returned $6.40 to show. Second-choice Kaigun finished sixth.
"It's nice to run one-two. I'm sorry there had to be one horse lose after running so great, but they both ran terrific," Brown said. "Getting a race under (Wake Forest's) belt, running such a hard race coming off a layoff and then having six weeks helped. The whole thing came together nicely. Everything worked out for this horse today. He's got a lot of talent; grade 1 talent."
Wake Forest is out of stakes-placed Lomitas mare Wurfspiel, who also has produced stakes-placed Wildfahrte and Wiwilia, a cham[pion 2-year-old filly in Switzerland.