Wake Forest was given plenty of time to recover from his 2016 campaign by trainer Chad Brown and the 7-year-old runner rewarded that patience March 4 with a narrow victory in the $200,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2T) at Gulfstream Park.
Last year, the son of Sir Percy (GB) won the Man o'War Stakes (G1T) and placed in five graded events, demonstrating high-level form in North America after beginning his career in Germany. He closed out his 6-year-old season with a third in the Nov. 12 Red Smith Handicap (G3T) at Aqueduct Racetrack, and returned to the starting gate for the first time since then in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida.
Racing for Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners, and Bethlehem Stables, Wake Forest rated kindly for jockey Javier Castellano first time by the stands. While 29-1 shot Reporting Star showed the way through opening fractions of :24.18, :47.88, 1:13.70, and 1:38.23, the eventual winner raced in sixth and was full of run.
Fanned seven-wide leaving the far turn, 2-1 favorite Wake Forest dug in gamely to pursue the late advantage and got up by a head in the shadow of the wire. Patterson Cross, also flying with a late rally from seventh, just missed the score. Reporting Star held third by a neck. The final time was 2:13.54 on firm turf.
“Given the trip he got, Javier really did a good job the first couple turns saving a lot of ground," Brown said. "He had no choice but to go that wide turning for home. I thought maybe it would take a little starch out of him those last few strides. But I will tell you this horse showed a lot of heart. We're really proud of him.”
"He’s a phenomenal horse,” Castellano said.
Wake Forest returned $6, $3.80, and $3.20. Patterson Cross brought $8.20 and $5.80. Reporting Star was worth $15.60. Completing the order of finish in a field of 11 older runners was Bigger Picture, Mr Maybe, Danish Dynaformer, Flatlined, Charming Kitten, Watershed, Twilight Eclipse, and Smooth Daddy. Taghleeb was scratched.
The winner was bred in Germany by Stiftung Gestut Fahrhof out of the Lomitas mare Wurfspiel. He improved his record to 8-2-4 from 19 starts. He was purchased by Bradley Thoroughbreds Brokerage from consignor Andreas Wohler for $156,996 at the Arqana Saint Cloud Arc de Triomphe sale in 2015.
“I think I’ll run him one more time between now and (the Man o'War)," Brown said. "Maybe one more start here in the (April 1) Pan American (G2) and then maybe on to the Man o'War after that.”