Bred, Owned and Trained by Maryland-Based Liz Merryman
BALTIMORE, MD – Pennsylvania-bred Caravel – bred, owned and trained by Maryland-based Liz Merryman – scooted through an opening along the inside and emerged from a three-way photo finish to capture Friday’s $100,000 The Very One by a nose at Pimlico Race Course.
The 28th running of the five-furlong The Very One for fillies and mares 3 and up sprinting on the turf was the second of six stakes, four graded, worth $1 million in purses on a sensational 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Day program headlined by the 97th edition of the 1 1/8-mile fixture for 3-year-old fillies.
It was the first The Very One victory for both Merryman and jockey Florent Geroux, aboard for the first time, and the fifth win from seven career starts for Caravel, a 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast who earned her third career stakes win.
The winning time was 56.21 seconds over a firm turf course.
Queen of Shades broke running and set fractions of 22.01 and 44.63 seconds pressed to her outside by 50-1 long shot Can the Queen, while Geroux kept a snug hold of Caravel ($6.60) racing in fourth along the inside. Geroux was able to split those horses in mid-stretch to catch and pass Victory Kingdom racing in the center of the stretch and Gotta Go Mo on the far outside and win the head bob in a thrilling finish.
Caravel, named for an agile 15th century Portuguese sailing ship, won the Lady Erie and Malvern Rose over the all-weather surface at Presque Isle Downs last summer and fall. She finished third, beaten three lengths, in the one-mile Hilltop over a yielding Pimlico course last fall.
Purchased out of a 1977 Maryland 2-year-old sale in Timonium for $22,000 by Maryland horsewoman Helen Polinger, The Very One went on to become one of the best race mares in training from 1977-81. A former claimer turned Grade 1 winner, she won 22 races and more than $1.1 million in purses from 71 starts, with eight graded-stakes wins including the 1979 Dixie (G2) at Pimlico and 1981 Santa Barbara Handicap (G1).
$100,000 The Very One Quotes
Winning Trainer Elizabeth Merryman (Caravel): “In my head all day, I could just see her winning the race. And yet, in the stretch, I thought, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen. Not today.’ And it did. I thought all the way to the wire that she wasn’t getting there because there was just no room for her to run. I don’t know how she got through. It was a miraculous run.”
“I grew up in Maryland about 15 miles north of here on a farm. My father bred horses and he decided that the best, most honest way to get a good trainer was to breed his trainers as well as his horses. So he would divvy up all his horses among his children and have us train them for him. So he kind of got us hooked in the horse business early, and also in the breeding.”
“I’ve been lucky to have some pretty special horses, but this is the most special one.”
Winning Jockey Florent Geroux (Caravel): “ I was just hoping for an opening sooner rather than later. It looked like we got it just in time. I was full of horse and just couldn’t get out when I wanted to. When she saw the split about the eighth pole, she dug in for me and made the difference. It was all her. I’m very proud of her. Thanks to the connections. They have a nice filly.”
“I thought I might have it the last jump. But sometimes it doesn’t go your way. At the finish line she had her head down, and I was hoping to get the win.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz (Gotta Go Mo; 2nd): “She broke well and put me in a nice spot, but she drifted off the turn. I couldn’t make the turn very well and she lost her advantage and [jockey] Flavien [Prat on Victory Kingdom] got to the hole. At the finish, I knew we had Flavien beat but we got unlucky with the winner [Caravel].”
Jockey Flavien Prat (Victory Kingdom, 3rd): “I got a great trip, obviously she ran too good to get beat a nose in the end but she ran a good race.”