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A virtual gate to wire graded stakes winner in her most recent start, Phil D’Amato’s Irish-bred Zona Verde looks tough right back as she heads a field of nine juvenile fillies in Friday’s $100,000 Blue Norther Stakes—to be contested at one mile on turf at Santa Anita Park.
First post time for a nine-race card on Friday is at 12 noon with free parking and admission, as well as $3 beers and $5 margaritas.
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A one mile turf maiden winner in her U.S. debut three starts back at Santa Anita Park on Sept. 8, Zona Verde was subsequently a troubled sixth at the same trip in the Grade III Surfer Girl on Oct. 8.
Ridden for the first time by Juan Hernandez in the Grade III Jimmy Durante at a mile on turf Dec. 2 at Del Mar, Zona Verde, dismissed at 10-1 from her number 10 post position, was in-hand out of the gate, but Hernandez seized the moment passing the three quarter pole and cut to the fence, from where Zona Verde dictated the pace thereafter en route to a rousing one length win.
A gray filly owned by the Benowitz Family Trust, CYBT, Michael Nentwig, et al, Zona Verde, winless in four tries earlier this year in Ireland, is now two for three with D’Amato—with all three stateside starts coming at the Blue Norther distance.
One of four fillies exiting the Jimmy Durante won by Zona Verde, John Sadler’s French-bred Antifona would appear to have considerable upside. Devoid of early speed 42-1 in what was her U.S. debut, Antifona saved ground at the rail while last to the far turn where she idled under Tiago Pereira, who waited in the hopes of not losing too much ground.
Four-wide turning for home, Antifona put in a solid late bid, finishing fourth in a field of 10, beaten 1 ¾ lengths. With a local start to her credit, Antifona, who is owned by Hronis Racing, LLC and will be ridden by Hector Berrios, will hope for clear sailing from off the pace.
The speed of the race would appear to be Peter Miller’s April Vintage, a five furlong maiden turf winner three races back who will be stretching out for the first time in what will be her fifth career start. A Florida-bred daughter of Vino Rosso, April Vintage, owned by Peter Redekop, B.C. Ltd., gets the services of speed king Edwin Maldonado, who was aboard for the maiden victory as well.
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