DEL MAR, CA – Former claimer Zuzanna pulled off a major upset to claim her first graded score in Saturday’s $100,000 Red Carpet Handicap (G3) at Del Mar.
Breaking from the outside post 7 under Paco Lopez as the longest shot on the board at 23/1, Zuzanna took back to second-last and watched. Up front, Lostintranzlation posted opening fractions of :24.44, :49.17, 1:14.74, and 1:39.70 for the opening mile while Keeper Ofthe Stars kept closest watch.
Nearing the top of the far turn, Zuzanna began making headway between Vibrance and a fading Keeper Ofthe Stars, the 6/5 favorite. Off the far turn, Strike At Dawn was the new leader, but Zuzanna tackled her shortly after straightening for home.
Late runs from Vibrance on the rail and Curlin’s Journey were not enough to catch the new leader, who pulled away inside the final 1/16. The Bob Hess, Jr., trainee finished 1 1/2 lengths the best in a final time of 2:16.29 for the 1 3/8-mile event over the good turf course.
“Bob told me I could put her anywhere I wanted to in the race,” Lopez said. “Front, back, inside, outside. He said this mare would run anywhere you wanted, so I rode her with a lot of confidence. I had a bit of trouble on the turn (for home), horses inside and outside me, but I got clear and she was game.”
Curlin’s Journey had to steady late in the stretch run but still got up for second by a head over Vibrance, who nosed out Strike At Dawn for third. Tiny Tina, Keeper Ofthe Stars, and Lostintranzlation completed the order of finish. Siberian Iris, the morning line favorite, was a veterinarian scratch.
Zuzanna’s win came in her stakes debut and improved her overall record to 32-9-2-3 with $271,751 earned. The 5-year-old daughter of Wilburn was claimed for $8,000 last September by Hess, Jr., and co-owners Brian Ferguson, Kurt Hoover, Jeffrey Lambert, Larry Rodriguez, and Robert Toland.
“I really wasn’t looking at this race,” said Hess, Jr. “I had her (booked) on a plane next week to go to Florida for the claiming crown, but Kurt nudged me to go here. My reservation (about running) was that I’ve never trained an $8,000 claimer to win a Grade 3, but on the other hand, we thought a mile and 3/8 could work. She loves Del Mar and she really worked well over this turf course. To me, she’s an easy read; when she’s ready, she’s ready, and she said, ‘Hey Bob, let’s run.’”
Zuzanna returned $48 to win, $15.80 to place, and $7 to show. Curlin’s Journey brought back $13.80 to place and $6.40 to show, while Vibrance paid $5.40 to show.