LEXINGTON, KY – Empyrean Stables’ Zipessa overcame big odds and four multiple graded stakes-winning champions to spring the upset and win Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland.
The First Lady is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with winner receiving an automatic berth in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4.
Breaking cleanly from post 5 under Joe Bravo, Zipessa settled off the early pace set by Hawksmoor through early fractions of :24.59, :49.19, and 1:14.30. After ranging into striking distance in the far turn, Zipessa collared Hawksmoor with almost a furlong remaining. Shaking off her foe as the finish line approached, the Mike Stidham trainee cleared away to hit the wire first by 1 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:36.99 for the mile-long turf event.
“She had this one coming,” Stidham said. “She worked hard for it. She’s a really sweet, special filly. Joe Bravo is definitely the key to her success today, along with (being) a really nice filly.”
Hawksmoor held onto second by a neck ahead of Roca Rojo. Dona Bruja nosed out Dickinson for fourth, who in turn necked out One Liz for fifth. Delectation completed the order of finish.
The win, her second career graded score, improved Zipessa’s record to 16-5-3-3. Second by a neck to Miss Temple City last out in the Grade 3 Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs last out, the 5-year-old daughter of City Zip increased her career earnings to $783,550.
“That’s the great thing about Michael and his team, he let me go out there and ride with an open mind,” Bravo said. “This filly, she can relax. She’s gotten bigger, smarter, with age; she’s just gotten to be a better horse. She ran a big race last time, and she’s just getting better and better.”
Zipessa returned $35.20 to win, $12 to place, and $4.80 to show. Hawksmoor brought back $6 to place and $3.80 to show, while Roca Rojo paid $2.80 to show.