July 14, 2024

Adare Manor coasts in Zenyatta; Balladeer wires John Henry

Adare Manor racked up her fifth straight win in the Zenyatta (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Michael Lund Petersen’s Adare Manor appeared to have a straightforward task on paper in Sunday’s $196,000 Zenyatta (G2) at Santa Anita, and the 1-10 favorite ensured that there would be no suspense. As the controlling speed on the rail, the Bob Baffert filly glided straight to the front and widened her margin in a cakewalk prep for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Zenyatta (G2)

Adare Manor was extending her winning streak to five, while reiterating her preference her this track. The daughter of Uncle Mo delivered similar romps in the April 29 Santa Maria (G2) and June 10 Santa Margarita (G2), but turned in a more workmanlike effort at Del Mar in the “Win and You’re In” Clement L. Hirsch (G1). Back at Santa Anita on Sunday, and with a no-brainer pace scenario, the statuesque dark bay simply galloped her three rivals into submission.

The one minimal challenge came early, when Micro Share attempted to go with her. Adare Manor swatted her away through an opening quarter in :23.71, and regular jockey Juan Hernandez enjoyed an armchair ride around the circuit. Coasting in her comfort zone, the favorite galloped through fractions of :47.91, 1:11.96, and 1:37.04, and she drew 5 1/4 lengths clear while polishing off 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.70 on a good track.

“Today all the credit goes to my filly, to Bob (Baffert) and his team – they brought her ready,” Hernandez said. “She broke a little slow the last couple of times, but today she broke on her own. I didn’t even have to push her. She was just galloping around on the lead, and I didn’t do much today.”

Desert Dawn was easily second-best by 6 1/4 lengths from Micro Share. Window Shopping was eased across the wire after trailing at every call.

Adare Manor is flirting with millionaire status, with $981,600 in her account. Her 13-7-4-0 line reflects five graded stakes victories, including a 13-length demolition job in the 2022 Las Virgenes (G3). She also placed in a pair of major stakes during her sophomore campaign, the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2), but her size and scope intimated that she’d excel with age.

The Breeders’ Cup Distaff will pose a much more formidable task than her typical Southern California soirees. Yet Adare Manor could wring the most out of her home court advantage.

“She had been training really well,” Baffert said. “Morgan who gets on her in the morning said she couldn’t get any better. She just keeps improving and we wanted to see something like this to see if we were going to take a crack at the Breeders’ Cup. So I think if she comes out of it well, we will go for it.”

Bred by Town & Country Horse Farms and Gary Broad in Kentucky, the $375,000 OBS Summer juvenile is out of the Grade 3-winning Brooklynsway, by Giant Gizmo.

John Henry Turf Championship (G2)

Balladeer holds off Masteroffoxhounds in the John Henry Turf Championship (Photo by Benoit Photo)

The $201,500 John Henry Turf Championship (G2) also witnessed a front-running coup, but by a 6.50-1 newcomer to the stakes ranks in Balladeer. Trainer George Papaprodromou spotted an opportunity here for the well-bred four-year-old, who aired in a 1 5/16-mile allowance at Kentucky Downs last out.

With Victor Espinoza aboard, Balladeer scampered to the lead despite veering out as the field crossed over the dirt. The colt quickly righted himself upon linking up with the main turf course, and had too much speed for defending champion Masteroffoxhounds. Opening up by daylight through splits of :23.36, :47.41, and 1:12.07 on the firm course, Balladeer had enough in reserve when Masteroffoxhounds drew nearer to threaten. His advantage was shaved to a length passing the mile in 1:35.95, and Masteroffoxhounds issued a sustained challenge in the stretch. But Balladeer repelled him by a half-length in 1:58.94 for 1 1/4 miles.

Speaking Scout rallied for third, and Planetario chugged on in fourth. Gold Phoenix, the 1.30-1 favorite, never factored in fifth in his stepping stone to the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). Yes This Time tired to sixth after chasing in third early. Offlee Naughty, who was “pinballed leaving the gate,” couldn’t get competitive in seventh, and Cash Equity trailed.

Campaigned by Calvin Nguyen and Joey Tran, Balladeer improved his record to 18-4-2-2, $367,290.

“He ran huge at Kentucky Downs, and he came out of the race great,” Papaprodromou said. “This race came up and there was nothing else until Del Mar, so we figured just give him one more shot then give him a break after this, so it worked out perfectly.

“At the three-eighths, I saw (Edwin) Maldonado (on Masteroffoxhounds) getting close, but I knew my horse, and he had another gear based on the distance of his last race. He was fit enough to take them all the way.”

Espinoza also felt confident as the race unfolded.

“He took the dirt crossing wide,” Espinoza recapped, “but it wasn’t really important because I was able to control him without fighting with him or irritating him. When I crossed the dirt, we just went towards the rail and he was just going at a nice speed. I was just pleased with the way he responded to my command.

“He was strong all the way, even when the horses came to him, he would not let them go by. I just have fun riding these types of horses that just go out there and do their job.”

Balladeer is a three-quarter brother to Drosselmeyer, the 2010 Belmont (G1) and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner. Both are by Distorted Humor, and Balladeer’s dam, the Galileo mare Golden Ballad, is a half-sister to Drosselmeyer. They were produced by multiple Grade 1 vixen Golden Ballet.

Bred by Bonne Chance Farm in Kentucky, Balladeer was sold for $355,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton.

Tokyo City Cup (G3)

Missed the Cut looked like the next big thing for British-based trainer George Boughey last season, but it’s taken the Quality Road colt a while to regain the winning thread this term. The $98,000 Tokyo City Cup (G3), going 1 1/2 miles on dirt, proved the right spot for him to get a confidence-builder for John Sadler.

The 3-5 favorite hovered in third in a four-horse field before Umberto Rispoli turned him loose. Missed the Cut summarily dispatched pacesetter Azul Coast, and the attending Kiss Today Goodbye, and ran up the score to 5 1/2 lengths in a final time of 2:32.78. Kiss Today Goodbye was alone in second, and Azul Coast was likewise isolated from the trailing Order and Law. Donner Lake was a last-minute vet scratch.

Missed the Cut, an impressive winner of a handicap at the 2022 Royal Ascot meeting, had not won since nailing Algiers in last November’s Churchill S. on Lingfield’s Polytrack. That form took on fresh significance when Algiers emerged as a dirt prodigy during the Dubai Carnival. Algiers was expected to test his Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) ideas in Sunday’s Woodward (G2), only to end up scratching.

Conversely, Missed the Cut had gone the opposite way. A disappointing fourth behind Mostahdaf in the Feb. 25 Neom Turf Cup (G3) on Saudi Cup Day, he subsequently joined Sadler with ambitions of major dirt prizes. That didn’t pan out after a second in a Santa Anita allowance and a seventh in the San Diego H. (G2). Reverting to turf for the Del Mar H. (G2) in his latest, Missed the Cut checked in fourth.

“He’s a horse that can run long distance,” Sadler said of the four-year-old, who is out of the stakes-winning Sea the Stars mare Beauly. “He had a good race here in the spring before we went to Del Mar, he showed he liked the main track. This is his fourth start (stateside), so his whole story isn’t written yet, but it was a good race for him today.

“He might be a good horse for an international race. He’s already run in England and Saudi Arabia so who knows.”

One race on the radar is the Champions Cup (G1), formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt. It would be apt if the Tokyo City Cup puts him on that path for co-owners Bee Zee, Lanes End Racing, St. Elias Stables, Edward Babington, Edward Hudson Jr., and Lynne Hudson.

Unzip Me S.

The other stakes on the card, the $102,500 Unzip Me S. for three-year-old fillies, went to 8-5 favorite Ruby Nell. Trained by Richard Mandella, the Spendthrift Farm runner appreciated shortening up from a fourth in the Del Mar Oaks (G1). Edwin Maldonado guided her from off the pace to run down Fast and Shiny by one length, covering about 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill turf in 1:11.35.

Ruby Nell, the $1.2 million sales topper at Fasig-Tipton’s Gulfstream Sale of two-year-olds in training, was a work in progress for a while.

“She’s a good filly,” Mandella said. “It took us a couple of races to kind of find out what she wanted, but she really wanted grass and is pretty good at it. I thought she would do better in the Oaks at Del Mar, but she needed a little more seasoning. She was a little rank early and I think eventually she will learn. Sometimes it takes a little while for them to understand my training.”