A Win and a Loss, Neither a Toss
Posted by Brian Appleton on August 8, 2011
All year long we’ve been talking about how impressively the female divisions have been performing this year, and how many fillies have held up consistent, stellar form. off the top of my head I can think of nine sophomore fillies that have become multiple graded stakes winners this year. If you throw in fillies like St. John’s River and Plum Pretty who are incredibly consistent, but not quite there, and Queen’s Plate and Woodbine Oaks winner Inglorious, you’ve got one very deep, and consistent pool of talent. Taking a look at the 3-year-old male runners this year I can think of just four multiple graded stakes winners still running; Banned, Pant’s On Fire, Coil and Stay Thirsty. If not for a wave of injuries that took out the vast majority of the nation’s best sophomore colts, we could have included Animal Kingdom, Dialed In, Premier Pegasus, Archarcharch and Tapizar to the list of multiple graded stakes winners. The Factor is working his way back to the races after sustaining an injury earlier in the year, and colts like Shackleford, Dominus and Mucho Macho Man have proven consistent but still haven’t won that elusive second graded stakes race. While Uncle Mo is making his return to the races later this month and is already a multiple graded stakes winner, he has yet to win a graded stakes this year. The fact is that the fillies are proving superior in almost every way to the males so far this year.
Consistency continued to blaze the way on Saturday when two of the nation’s leading sophomore fillies once again turned in outstanding efforts in Grade 1 races on the East and West Coast. “We’re going to try to win the Eclipse with her this year, you don’t have to go a mile and an eighth to get the Eclipse.” Trainer Mike Puype spoke those words after watching Turbulent Descent romp to victory in the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes. Two months later that plane seemed to be in jeopardy when his star filly finished a well beaten second in the Acorn Stakes (gr.1), more than three lengths behind It’s Tricky. Offering no excuses for Turbulent Descent, Puype continued to forge ahead with the plans he had laid out for the daughter of Congrats, targeting the Test Stakes (gr.1) at Saratoga and ramping up her training schedule in anticipation of a deeper track and talented field.
On Saturday, Turbulent Descent toyed with her seven rivals in the Test Stakes, turning the stretch run into an exhibition of pure class. After breaking cleanly from the gate for jockey David Flores, Turbulent Descent rated in fourth behind the three frontrunners as Roman Treasure led the field through an opening quarter in :23.02. As the field entered the far turn Turbulent Descent began to pick up the tempo on the outside, overtaking Pomeroy’s Pistol in second and quickly closing the two length lead Roman Treasure had opened up. As the fillies flew off the turn Turbulent Descent seized the lead and rolled through the stretch, zipping under the wire a winner by 3 ¾ lengths in a hand ride. Pomeroy’s Pistol got up for second in a game effort but proved no match for the winner.
Turbulent Descent is now back in line to win an Eclipse if she can keep the momentum going and according to Mike Puype, the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in three months could be her next start. If that truly is the case he can probably kiss that Eclipse goodbye. It’s Tricky is the only filly to have won back-to-back Grade 1’s and easily defeated Turbulent Descent in the Acorn. If she wins the Alabama (gr.1) in her next start the Eclipse goes to It’s Tricky hands down, unless Puype rethinks his strategy and sends Turbulent Descent out for some extra preps.
Whild Turbulent Descent was across the country in New York, proving her mettle at Saratoga, her greatest rival was taking care of things at home in California. Zazu ran a huge race at Del Mar on Saturday when she took on four older females for the first time and came depressingly close to victory. In her fourth Grade 1 race of the year, Zazu and Jockey Garrett Gomez broke from post two and took up third position behind Freedom Star and Switch as the field entered the first turn in the 1 1/16 mile race. The opening quarter went in an easy :24.36 as Freedom Star led Switch by just over a length, Zazu just a neck behind with St. Trinians two lengths back in fourth. After a half mile in :48.40 Switch moved up to pressure Freedom Star for the lead with Zazu in third on the rail, St. Trinians just to her outside. Ultra Blend took up the rear of the field, no more than four lengths behind and running smoothly. The positions remained unchanged as the field entered the far turn and tempo began to visibly pick up. Switch made the first move, sweeping up to Freedom Star and taking the lead as Ultra Blend surged from behind, over taking St. Trinians on the outside. Zazu was raring to go under Garrett Gomez but could find no room to maneuver her way out from the rail. As the field swung into the homestretch Switch held a narrow lead over Freedom Star but Ultra Blend continued to close with a terrific rush on the far outside. Freedom Star moved off the rail coming into the turn and Gomez darted through with Zazu. Finally free to run the Tapit filly let it rip, flying up on the inside to come on even terms with Ultra Blend, both fillies digging deep to hold off the other’s rally. In the final strides Ultra Blend thrust her neck in front of her game younger rival, while Switch finished in the money for the fourth consecutive time in a Grade 1.
Zazu ran a terrific race in defeat and came within a neck of giving the Mosses their fourth consecutive win in the Hirsch. After the race Garrett Gomez voiced his regret that Zazu was trapped on the inside for so long, stating, “ I had to wait with her. If I’d have gotten out sooner I’m going to win. Too bad.” While she did lose the race, I think Zazu actually gained more respect than she lost. She put up a phenomenal fight against some of the best older fillies in the nation and lost by just a neck. Earlier in the year she defeated Turbulent Descent and Plum Pretty, so you have to think she has the potential to win the Eclipse this year as well.