With an electric burst that propelled her past the entire field turning for home, Speak of the Devil made a dazzling U.S. debut for owner Peter Brant and trainer Chad Brown in Saturday’s $500,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2).
Indeed, you might say that the French import ran like $2.2 million. That’s about what Brant paid for the multiple Group 1-placed performer at Arqana last December, and Speak of the Devil made every euro of her €1.95 million purchase price well spent.
Under Flavien Prat, who rides Brown’s well-regarded Zandon in the Kentucky Derby (G1), the 11-10 favorite was reserved at the tail of the field early. As expected, her speedy stablemate In Italian led the way through fractions of :24.86 and :49.70 on a still-firm Churchill Downs course. But by the time In Italian reached the six-furlong mark in 1:14.60, the entire complexion of the race had changed.
Speak of the Devil made a slingshot move on the far turn, her two-toned green silks catching the eye as she circled her rivals. The daughter of Wootton Bassett inhaled In Italian, who did her utmost to respond and make a race of it. But Speak of the Devil had too much firepower. Widening her margin to 2 3/4 lengths at the wire, she polished off the mile in 1:37.47. According to Trakus, Speak of the Devil reeled off her final quarter in :22.72.
In Italian was easily second by three lengths from Wakanaka, with the same gap back to fourth-placer Lady Speightspeare. Flower Point checked in fifth, and Abscond trailed. She Can’t Sing and Mona Stella were scratched after running fifth and ninth, respectively, in Friday’s Modesty (G3).
Although Speak of the Devil was earning her first graded score, the French co-highweight was arguably unlucky not to be a classic winner. She had to extricate herself from traffic in the 2020 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) (G1), and missed by a nose to Dream and Do. Capping her sophomore campaign with a score in the Prix de Saint-Cyr, she added the 2021 Prix de Calonne.
In last summer’s Prix Rothschild (G1), Speak of the Devil endured another near-miss when third to Mother Earth. She placed third again in the Prix du Pin (G3), and sixth to next-out Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) hero Space Blues in the Prix de la Foret (G1). Speak of the Devil then reverted to listed company at Saint-Cloud, completing her French career with victories in the Prix Isola Bella and Prix Tantieme. In the latter, she showed heart to see off an odds-on colt from Godolphin, Midtown, while conceding him five pounds.
Aside from advancing her resume to 15-6-3-2, $589,080, Speak of the Devil made a statement about the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The bay had been mentioned as a Breeders’ Cup candidate in both 2020 and 2021, but didn’t make the trip.
Speak of the Devil was bred by Herve Viallon and initially sold for $52,970 as an Arqana December weanling. Her original trainer, Fabrice Chappet, bought her as an October yearling at the same venue for $70,748.
A half-sister to multiple Group 3 hero Morando, Speak of the Devil is out of the Indian Rocket mare Moranda. The mare is in turn a full sister to stakes-winning Matwan (dam of Group 3 scorer Batwan among others), and their half-brother is multiple Group 3 victor Myasun. Speak of the Devil’s fourth dam, Silvermine, captured the 1985 edition of the Pouliches and produced 1991 Prix Jean Prat (G1) star Sillery.