INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Dec. 5, 2009) — Brazilian-bred Zardana rallied in the stretch to register a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park, giving trainer John Shirreffs a record fifth victory in the Grade II event.
Zardana, ridden confidently by Victor Espinoza, sat comfortably in third on the backstretch before moving off the rail to take command from tiring pacesetter and defending champ Briecat just inside the sixteenth pole.
The 5-year-old mare, owned by Arnold Zetcher, covered 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track in 1:42.24 while paying $24, $9.80 and $6.20 as an 11-1 outsider in the field of ten.
Second-choice Silver Swallow finished well for second money under Mike Smith, paying $5.40 and $3.80. Cat by the Tale, another half-length back with Joel Rosario up, returned $4.40.
Floating Heart finished fourth, followed by Briecat, 3-1 favorite Teamgeist, Eissoai, Made for Magic, Lucky Copy and Smooth Performer in the 28th running of the race.
Shirreffs, the trainer of champion mare Zenyatta, who was honored here last Sunday in celebration of her perfect 14-for-14 career which culminated with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was back in his familiar spot nearby the gap leading to the winner’s circle following the Bayakoa.
It became a familiar spot for Shirreffs in the late 1990s when he began his Bayakoa run with consecutive wins by Manistique in 1998 and 1999. Shirreffs, who also won the Bayakoa with Starrer in 2002 and Hollywood Story in 2004, prefers to remain in the background during the winner’s circle proceedings.
“She’s really adjusted well training on this track,” he said. “She’s getting a little better . . . she can pull if she wants to. Her workouts have been good — she’s worked really well here. She won three races on the dirt in Brazil. We’ve been thinking of running her on the dirt since we got back here (from Santa Anita). It seemed like the thing to do.”
Zardana, a winner of seven of 17 starts for earnings of $293,421, has started 14 times in the United States. In two previous races on the main track in this country she finished out of the money.
“The first time I rode her it was tough on me,” said Espinoza, who has ridden three others Bayakoa winners including Hollywood Story. “She really got into the bridle. After the second time, I figured out how she really likes to run. Now I know how to control the reins on her . . . it’s all in the hands with some horses. She likes to run free or she gets angry. I thought today would be her day and that she would run big in this race. She’s great right now.”
Joe Talamo and Riviera Cocktail, meanwhile, emerged on top in a three-horse photo finish in the $53,100 Contested Bid Stakes.
Riviera Cocktail saved ground under Talamo and prevailed in a tough stretch drive to win by a nose over Pleasure to Ride. Feisty Suances was another neck back in third in the field of six 3-year-olds.
Riviera Cocktail, trained by Neil Drysdale, covered one mile on the Lakeside Turf Course in 1:34.53 while rewarding backers with a $16 win payoff.
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