Like father, like son.
Zoman lived up to the reputation of his illustrious sire Affirmed yesterday and wouldn't let 3-2 favorite Sillery get a head in front of him in a hard-fought stretch drive in the 41st running of the Budweiser International.
It was the same determination Affirmed used when he defeated Alydar time after time in the 1978 Triple Crown.
Zoman dug deep into his energy reserves after Sillery came to him at the eighth pole and won the $750,000 race by a head.
The effort by the British-based runner thwarted the attempt of the famed Head family of France to win their first International after nearly four decades and eight starts in the turf classic.
Post-race pictures of Zoman looked something like this:
The horse was so determined to win, he had his teeth bared, nostrils flared, ears laid flat back against his head.
It was the first International victory by an English runner in 23 years and the most important U.S. victory for Prince Fahd Salman, Zoman's owner who has more than 60 horses in training in England.
Alan Munro rode Zoman.
"Sillery came up to me quickly as if he was going to sweep by me," said Munro, Prince Fahd's stable jockey. "But Zoman dug deep and pulled out all reserves."
Zoman stalked Stark South for about six furlongs and then swept to the front on the backside.
"I thought I'd make the running all the way," Munro said. "This is a horse that enjoys being in the forefront. But I was content to let the other horse set the early pace. Then, on the backside, Zoman told me he was ready to take over, and he did."
Zoman's time for the 10 furlongs on a yielding grass course was 2 minutes, 1 2/5 seconds, a fifth of a second off of Fly Till Dawn's stakes record set in 1990.
Prince Fahd teamed up with his trainer, Paul Cole, who is stabled near Lambourn, and Munro a year ago to win the English Derby with Generous.
But Prince Fahd said yesterday's exciting finish and victory equaled the Epsom experience.
"I need some oxygen," the 37-year-old Prince quipped in the press elevator after the race.
Zoman's victory pushed his career earnings over the $1 million mark. Anthony Pennfield, Prince Fahd's racing manager, had purchased the horse for him as a yearling for $300,000.
Zoman, who finished seventh in the 1990 English Derby, has now won stakes in six countries -- England, France, Ireland, Scotland, Italyand the United States.
Jockey Freddie Head on Sillery said he no excuses.
"My horse had a good run, but I'm disappointed," he said. "I
came here to win. In the stretch I thought we'd win easy, but the other horse never gave up."
Zoman was sent off the 7-1 fourth choice in the eight-horse field. Contested Bid, seeking to become the fifth International winner for trainer Maurice Zilber, finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Sillery. Leariva, last year's winner, made a late rally and finished fourth.
Leariva's owner, Baron T. von Zuylen de Nyevelt, told friends beforehand that his mare needed softer going. Predicted rains on Friday never materialized.
Zoman's victory followed a French 1-2-3 sweep in the All Along Stakes and the first victory by Bill Shoemaker as a trainer at Laurel. Shoemaker's Glen Kate, owned partly by hockey star Wayne Gretzky, won the Laurel Dash by three lengths over Silicon Bavaria.
In the All Along, Marble Maiden took over the lead at the top of stretch and defeated Wedding Ring by 2 3/4 lengths. It was the second straight victory in the race for Sheik Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai and his trainer, Andre Fabre. They won last year with Sha Tha.
Business statistics for International Day were disappointing to Laurel management. Track general manager Jim Mango said the day was "a bit quiet."
The total attendance at Laurel and the Pimlico simulcast center was 21,122, the lowest in five years. The combined crowds bet $2,522,733, the smallest International Day wagering figure since 1985.
The International Turf Festival continues today with the Selima Stakes and Laurel Futurity.