ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 20, 2016)—Whenever the legendary mare Zenyatta’s name is mentioned, expectations run high. And so was the case leading into Saturday’s third race at Santa Anita, a $56,000 maiden special weight for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, as Zenyatta’s second foal, a Jerry and Ann Moss homebred colt by top sire Tapit, named Ziconic, made his career debut.
Breaking from post position five in a field of seven, the John Shirreffs-conditioned Ziconic, with Gary Stevens aboard, was devoid of any early speed and was more than 15 ½ lengths off the lead after a half mile. Coming to the quarter pole though, Ziconic was in high gear and although he was next to last turning for home, he rallied in a manner reminiscent of his mother to finish third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths.
“We knew he was going to break slow and it took him a little while to get wound up,” said Stevens. “I was at the three eighths pole and was so far back I said ‘Buddy, your momma could win from here, do it!’
“I told John that I never got to ride the big mare Zenyatta, but I know what she felt like now. They’re going to have a lot of fun with him. The best part is that he enjoys his job. He loved what he was doing today, especially that last eighth of a mile.”
As for Shirreffs, who trained Zenyatta through 19 victories from 20 starts, including the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2009, he was understandably pleased with Ziconic’s first performance.
“He warmed up well and he did as good as he could do today,” he said. “You always have expectations. You dream. With Zenyatta, we realized those dreams.”
Given Zenyatta’s come from behind style of running, Shirreffs was asked if he felt a small sense of déjà vu as Ziconic’s debut unfolded.
“When they were going down the backside, I said ‘My goodness, I hope some things change, and they did,” he said. “We didn’t really know that much about him. He’s been working okay and we wanted to see what he’d do. He’ll run in a (two turn) maiden race next time.”
Stevens, who was pinch hitting for fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who is serving a three-day riding suspension, was struck by the crowd’s reaction.
“I’ve never been cheered when I got third in a maiden special weight before, but the whole day has been fun,” he said. “It’s an honor to get to ride him. John had a big smile on his face when I came back. He’s a man of few words, but that smile said it all.”
The race was won by another first time starter, Fast Munny, who paid $25.80 to win. Fractions on the race were 22.10, 44.34 and 1:10.20.
Source: Santa Anita Park