MAC DIARMIDA S. | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILES (TURF)
Trainer Roger Attfield and William Werner's Simmard would not be denied in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park, just getting his nose down on the wire ahead of game rival and 2-1 favorite Newsdad.
Simmard was never far back as Center Divider and Mambo Meister battled it out for the lead in the 1 3/8-mile turf contest. The three hit the half-mile point separated by only two heads when a time of :49 2/5 was flashed on the tote board, but jockey Javier Castellano quickly settled Simmard a little bit behind by the time Mambo Meister had registered six furlongs in 1:13 3/5.
Castellano finally gave Simmard his cue and the Dixieland Band horse took off to circle the leaders rounding the final turn about three wide. He hit the stretch in front by a half-length, but suddenly had to contend with Newsdad, who had bided his time running in the second flight of horses down the backstretch.
The two duked it out down the lane, with Simmard just getting his nose in front with a bob of the head on the wire to stop the clock in 2:11 3/5 on the firm turf.
"Speed has been holding well here and the pace was slow, so I didn't want to be too far back," Castellano said. "Roger Attfield gave me the green light to ride him however I wanted. He's such a long-striding horse. I just let him break and sit in the clear. He wouldn't let the other horse by. He ran a huge race today."
It was another 5 3/4 lengths back to third-placer and fellow Attfield trainee Musketier, who saved ground throughout and snuck through on the rail to deny Center Divider the show spot by a head. Eagle Poise followed the top four under the wire, with Crimson China, Middie, Mambo Meister, Minister Colin and Dixie Emperor completing the order of finish.
"He doesn't have the big turn of foot that the gray horse (Musketier) does, so I was happy to see that he was involved early," Attfield remarked. "I think he's been getting too far out of it early.
"The horse has been doing great. He's a horse that's developed really late in his career. He's gotten better and better. He's been knocking on the door in so many races I knew he'd have to win a stakes eventually. It was a great effort.
"Looking at the race, Musketier wasn't involved at all early," Attfield added about his other runner. "It didn't look like he was in the bridle on the backside, but I knew he'd eventually pick it up. It was just too late, but he did come with a good run.
"I'll run one of them in the (Grade 3) Pan American on March 24, and go to Keeneland with the other one. I'll try to keep them apart."
Simmard, who paid $10.60, $5.20 and $3.40 as the the 4-1 fourth choice, avenged his half-length second to Musketier when the pair were last seen in the Grade 2 W. L. McKnight Handicap on November 26. Despite the layoff, the chestnut still managed to hold off Newsdad, a 6 3/4-length winner in his first start of the year on January 28. This is Simmard's first graded victory, though the seven-year-old did capture the 2009 Chief Bearhart Stakes at Woodbine.
Simmard has accumulated $507,391 in lifetime earnings to go along with his 28-6-4-2 mark, which also includes a neck second in last year's Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes and a third-place effort in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap in 2010.
Bred in Kentucky by Haras Santa Maria de Araras S.A., the veteran chestnut was a $37,000 RNA as a yearling at Keeneland September. He is out of the stakes-winning Spectacular Bid mare Dibs and is a half-brother to Group 1-placed multiple listed scorer Le Carre.
Simmard's second dam is the stellar Nijinsky II producer State, whose offspring include multiple Grade 2 victor Region; Grade 3 heroes Double Fent and Announce; and Grade 3 vixen Narrate, herself the granddam of leading sires Pulpit and Tale of the Cat as well as the great-granddam of Johannesburg.
Simmard's third dam is the *Princequillo mare Monarchy, a full sister to legendary Horse of the Year and five-time champion Round Table.