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Zazu upsets Turbulent Descent in Las Virgenes
Saturday was already going to be a big day for Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss at Santa Anita, for they were to accept the inaugural Secretariat Vox Populi Award on behalf of their retired fan-favorite Zenyatta. The popular owners took the spotlight a little earlier than expected, however, with another "Z" -- ZAZU (Tapit) -- who ironically ended the unbeaten run of 2-5 favorite Turbulent Descent (Congrats) in the $250,000 Las Virgenes S. (G1).
Trained by John Sadler, Zazu had been no match for Turbulent Descent in their previous meetings, settling for second in the November 21 Moccasin S. and fifth in the December 11 Hollywood Starlet S. (G1). While Turbulent Descent hadn't run since then, Zazu had the benefit of a prep. The bright gray had finished a hard-charging second to California Nectar (Stormy Atlantic) in the January 15 Santa Ynez S. (G2) at Santa Anita, and she kept that momentum going right into the Las Virgenes.
California Nectar had wired the seven-furlong Santa Ynez, so it was no surprise that she pursued the early lead here as well. This time, she had company in the form of another confirmed front runner, May Day Rose (Rockport Harbor), who was coming off a victory in the January 9 Santa Ysabel S. (G3).
The two speedsters hooked up in a cut-throat duel, rapidly opening up on the rest of the field through demanding fractions of :21 2/5 and :44 1/5. The patiently-ridden Turbulent Descent and Zazu dropped back to the last two spots in the field, but began to advance down the backstretch.
May Day Rose dueled California Nectar into submission, and as that erstwhile pace rival backpedaled, May Day Rose spurted away through six furlongs in 1:08 3/5. She won the pace battle, but she was about to lose the war.
Zazu was rocketing along the inside for Joel Rosario, while Turbulent Descent was gaining ground on the outside. The two were already in second and third, respectively, on the far turn, and were poised to overtake the weakening May Day Rose entering into the stretch. Zazu struck the front first, but when Turbulent Descent rolled alongside, she briefly appeared ready to extend her mark to four-for-four.
A game Zazu found something extra and held off Turbulent Descent. Once repelling the heavy favorite, Zazu kept pulling out more and edged away to prevail by 1 1/4 lengths. The 4-1 second choice, Zazu reeled off one mile on the fast track in 1:34 4/5 and returned $10, $3.20 and $2.40.
"I saw I was going to have a clean trip inside, and I took it," Rosario said. "She's a nice filly. Last time I rode her she finished second to another nice filly (California Nectar) at seven furlongs. Today she showed me a little more and we took it from there. John (Sadler) told me to lie in the saddle and come with one late run. Same thing we always do with nice horses like her."
"She was second to that other mare (Turbulent Descent) at Hollywood, in the Moccasin," Sadler noted, "and what I liked about today's race, even though you're so scared to say what you think might happen, because it never does, but it looked like there were three or four that wanted the front, and when I saw we had a lot of pace in front of her, I thought that would really help her today.
"She has a short run and she wants to close, and some of the other races, it hasn't played that way for her. So there was a fast pace in front (of her) and that's what we were hoping for."
Mike Puype, the trainer of Turbulent Descent, cited the time off since the Starlet.
"She probably got a little tired," Puype said. "She hasn't run in eight weeks. She ran good. She got outrun by the Mosses (Zazu). It was a good race. She just got outrun today."
Turbulent Descent had 4 1/4 lengths to spare over third-placer Plum Pretty (Medaglia d'Oro), who passed May Day Rose by 1 1/2 lengths. California Nectar stopped badly and was eased in fifth, and the trailing Tiz the Route (Tiznow) was also eased. Bluegrass Chatter (Bluegrass Cat) was scratched.
Zazu's first stakes victory boosted her bankroll to $240,985 from her 6-2-3-0 line. She finished second in her debut at Del Mar on September 4, then graduated next time out by 2 3/4 lengths on October 15 at Oak Tree at Hollywood. Zazu made a promising stakes debut in the aforementioned Moccasin, failed to build on that effort when running evenly in the Starlet, but got back on track when missing by a neck in the Santa Ynez.
Bred by Summerhill Equine in Kentucky, Zazu was first sold for $100,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November weanling, and later went to the Mosses for $285,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She was produced by the winning Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line, whose other foals include English Group 2-placed Art Princess (Officer), a juvenile colt named Corinthian's Jewel (Corinthian) and a yearling full brother to Zazu.
Sadler confirmed that Zazu would now aim for the March 5 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) at 1 1/16 miles.
"Absolutely," Sadler said of the upcoming target.