March 4, 2024

Endlessly keeps surging in Zuma Beach; Dreamfyre withstands test in Surfer Girl

Endlessly stayed unbeaten in the Zuma Beach (Photo by Benoit Photo)

Sunday’s turf stakes for juveniles at Santa Anita produced a pair of winning favorites with credentials for their respective Breeders’ Cup races over the same course and distance. But although Endlessly and Dreamfyre each stayed perfect from three career starts, their trajectories were very different.

Amerman Racing’s homebred Endlessly has raced exclusively at a grassy mile, so the Michael McCarthy pupil was performing as forecast with another smart rally in the $201,500 Zuma Beach (G3). In contrast, Danny Eplin’s Dreamfyre was trying two new things simultaneously – going dirt to turf, and stretching out from sprinting to a route – in the $202,000 Surfer Girl (G3). The O.J. Jauregui filly showed great resolve on the front end to withstand every challenge, including an objection and stewards’ inquiry.

Zuma Beach (G3)

Endlessly’s job was accordingly more straightforward. The 4-5 favorite off his victory in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf (G3), the bay was settled several lengths off the pace by regular rider Juan Hernandez. Up front, stablemate Ngannou scampered to the lead through fractions of :22.86, :46.27, and 1:09.99.

Ngannou tried to deliver the knockout blow in the stretch, but Endlessly had too strong a kick. Employing a nifty inside move to advance before angling out, the son of 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) star Oscar Performance drove to a 2 1/4-length decision in 1:34.52.

Grand Mo the First closed from last for third, followed by Ace of Clubs, Mici’s Express, Formidable Man, Boltage, and tailed-off French import Pour Dompter. Rothschild was scratched after running fifth in Saturday’s American Pharoah (G1).

“I had a really nice trip,” Hernandez recapped. “My horse broke sharp today, and he always puts himself in a good spot. I was tracking the pace. There were a couple of horses in front of me, and I was saving ground the first turn. Around the three-eighths, when I was ready to start making my move I was a little surprised because he is the kind of horse when you ask him he picks it up right away, but today it took him a couple of jumps to figure out that he had to start making his move.

“I wanted to go outside, but then I saw the rail open for me and saw the opportunity to come through and make up more ground, so I decided to come between horses. My horse is really professional – he came through the horses really well, and after that he just passed everybody like the last couple of races. He’s improving with every race.”

Endlessly has now bankrolled $229,200. A stalk-and-pounce debut winner at Del Mar July 30, he has rallied from a little further back in his two stakes wins, thanks to a hotter tempo than in his maiden.

The Kentucky-bred was produced by the Langfuhr mare Dream Fuhrever, from the immediately family of Grade 1-winning millionaire Coffee Clique and multiple Grade 3 victor Admission Office.

Surfer Girl (G3)

Dreamfyre fends off Buttercream Babe in the Surfer Girl (Photo by Benoit Photo)

In addition to her task of transferring dirt sprint speed to a turf mile, Dreamfyre had not raced since wiring the Aug. 12 Sorrento (G3). The daughter of up-and-coming freshman sire Flameaway was entered in the Sept. 9 Del Mar Debutante (G1), but withdrawn when Jauregui was concerned about her being off her feed. Judging by how Tamara demolished the Debutante, it might have been a blessing in disguise that prompted her turf experiment.

Bettor stuck with Dreamfyre as the 1.90-1 favorite, and she sped right ahead through an opening quarter in :23.55. Jockey Hector Berrios then dialed it back through a moderate half in :48.59, and slowed a bit more to the six-furlong mark, when the attending Buttercream Babe headed Dreamfyre in 1:13.91. Soho, the 5-2 second choice, also circled up menacingly alongside, and the favorite appeared in danger of being swamped.

But Dreamfyre had a lot more up her sleeve. Responding on cue turning for home, she spurted back into the lead. Soho couldn’t go on, while Buttercream Babe stayed close enough to remain a danger, and kept trying to wear down Dreamfyre. As the longtime leader dug in, she came out and bumped Buttercream Babe slightly before holding on by a neck.

Ramon Vaquez, the rider of Buttercream Babe, lodged an objection against the winner. The stewards posted an inquiry sign as well, but upon review, they unanimously ruled that the contact did not affect the result. Hence Dreamfyre retained her hard-fought win in 1:37.11, a time reflecting the much slower pace than in the Zuma Beach.

“There was a little bit of contact,” Berrios admitted, “but I always stayed in my lane. The other horse came very close on my outside, and I think that was all that happened. They were just coming too close together. I didn’t think that interfered with the result.”

Flattery, the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, tracked in third early, lost position, then came again for the show spot. Where’s My Ring, Soho, Zona Verde, Angiolleta, Putt for Dough, and Sushi Sticks completed the order of finish. Loterie was a vet scratch.

Dreamfyre has collected $285,000 while racing exclusively in stakes. The $140,000 OBS April purchase debuted versus the boys in the Everett Nevin S. at Pleasanton, establishing her pacesetting style in a 3 1/2-length conquest. In the Sorrento, Dreamfyre upstaged Benedetta and Dua, who came back to place third in Saturday’s Chandelier (G2).

Jauregui commented on the stretch-out to a mile.

“The question was going to be the distance, as fast as she is,” her trainer said. “She is very ratable; she let me do whatever I wanted in the mornings, so I knew there was a chance. Even though you work them, you think they could do it, but in a race it is different. But she ran big and I’m glad she did.

“She should get a lot out of this, and maybe after this race she could go a little further. That was the question, the distance and the turf. The sire was a turf horse, so I knew we had a shot.

“If she looks great, we will go and give Breeders’ Cup a shot.”

Bred by John C. Oxley in Kentucky, Dreamfyre is a half to Nasreddine, the third-placer in the 2020 Starlet (G1). Their dam is Oxley’s Grade 2-placed Appreciating, a Sky Mesa mare from the family of Grade 1-winning millionaire Celestine as well as Grade 3 scorers Law Professor and Zozos.