03/04/2017 6:20PM

Wake Forest narrowly prevails in four-horse photo in Mac Diarmida

Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Wake Forest, ridden by Javier Castellano, beats Patterson Cross by a head in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Wake Forest dug in gamely after forging to the lead in deep stretch to narrowly hold off a flying Patterson Cross in a successful return to action Saturday in the 22nd running of the Grade 2, $200,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.

Ridden by Javier Castellano, Wake Forest returned $6 as favorite in a field of 11 older horses in his first start in nearly four months.

“For a minute there, I thought he might run out of starch,” said trainer Chad Brown. “But I’ll tell you, this horse has a lot of heart.”

Reporting Star set the pace through all three turns of the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida before the field fanned out for the stretch drive. Wake Forest then spurted to the fore, and the wire came right in time for him to survive a last-ditch outside blast from Patterson Cross by a head. Reporting Star held well to finish just another neck back in third, with Bigger Picture another neck back in fourth.

Wake Forest, a German-bred 7-year-old, was winning for the first time since the Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont Park last May. Owned by the partnership of Michael Dubb, Sheep Pond Partners, and Bethlehem Stables, his career earnings tipped past the $900,000 mark after he finished in 2:13.54 over firm going.

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Brown said a return to the Man o’ War is the early-season goal for Wake Forest, with the interim prep likely to come in the Pan American on the Florida Derby undercard here April 1.

The $2 exacta (4-12) paid $66.40, the $1 trifecta (4-12-3) returned $705.50, and the 10-cent superfecta (4-12-3-7) was worth $593.78.