After tracking the pace in second during the opening stages, Zayat Stables' homebred A Z WARRIOR (Bernardini) accelerated away from her foes in upper stretch and went on to a comfortable 1 3/4-length score in Saturday's $300,000 Frizette S. (G1) at Belmont Park. Trained by Bob Baffert, the dark bay filly established herself as a top contender for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) with a smashing performance in her dirt debut.
A Z Warrior also provided freshman sire Bernardini with his second Grade/Group 1 victory of the day following the success of Biondetti in the Gran Criterium (Ity-G1) in Milan, Italy.
A maiden winner in her career debut at Hollywood Park, the Kentucky-bred miss finished second to Friday's Alcibiades (G1) winner Wickedly Perfect (Congrats) when making her stakes debut in the August 15 Sorrento S. (G3) and shipped east off a fifth in the September 4 Darley Debutante (G1). She earned $180,000 for her first stakes victory Saturday, increasing her earnings to $239,600 from a 4-2-1-0 line.
"She's so classy and does everything the right way," said John Terranova, who saddled the filly for Baffert. "Bob has liked her all along, and sent her here thinking she was going to excel on dirt. He sends us a lot of good ones, but this one is really special."
Coax Liberty (Successful Appeal) showed the way early in the Frizette, establishing opening splits in :22 4/5 and :46 1/5 with A Z Warrior patiently biding her time in second. With jockey Alan Garcia offering little encouragement, she easily moved to the lead approaching the stretch drive and quickly scooted away from her rivals when asked for run at the top of the lane, passing the eighth-pole with a four-length advantage as Garcia wrapped up on his mount.
Spinaway (G1) winner R Heat Lightning (Trippi) offered a solid late rally for second on the far outside in deep stretch, but she was no match for A Z Warrior, who completed the one-mile fast test in 1:35 3/5.
"I knew the fractions weren't real fast, but she was very comfortable and relaxed in my hands," Garcia explained. "Turning for home, she really took off, but toward the end I said, 'We don't want to use her up for this one.' We wanted her to come back safe and sound and take the next step."
"We think this filly is special and we look forward to running her in the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile Fillies)," added Brad Weisbord, finance and racing manager for Zayat Stables.
Off as the near 4-1 third choice among eight rivals, A Z Warrior paid $9.80, $4.30 and $3.10. R Heat Lightning, the 9-5 favorite, yielded $3.40 and $2.50, and it was another 3 1/2 lengths back to the 3-1 Joyful Victory (Tapit), who totaled $3 for show. Valiant Passion (Lion Heart), Tap for Luck (Tapit), Coax Liberty, Maple Forest (Forestry) and After Later (Orientate) completed the order of finish. Promise Me a Cat (D'wildcat) was scratched.
The exotics returned $36.40 (exacta), $91 (trifecta) and $338 (5-1-8-9 superfecta).
A Z Warrior is the fifth foal out of the multiple stakes-placed Carson Jen (Carson City), who has also produced Grade 3 victor and Grade 1-placed E Z Warrior (Exploit); multiple stakes queen J Z Warrior (Harlan's Holiday); and a weanling colt by J Be K. This is the family of Grade 1 heroine Bring Out the Band (One for All) and Grade 1 runner-up Coronet of a Baron (Pure Prize). A Z Warrior RNA'ed for $775,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale.