Zindaya doubles up in Intercontinental; Suffused reigns in Coronation

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June 9th, 2016

The owner, trainer, and jockey had changed since this time a year ago, but Zindaya was once again a convincing winner of the $150,000 Intercontinental on Thursday of Belmont (G1) week.

In the 2015 running, Regis Racing’s Zindaya stalked and pounced off a quick pace for trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Manuel Franco. Subsequently sold for $550,000 at Keeneland November, the More Than Ready mare was transferred to trainer Chad Brown by new owner e Five Racing Thoroughbreds.

Zindaya returned from a 10-month layoff to mount a title defense in the May 1 License Fee at Belmont Park. Although finishing second, she lost no caste – the winner was a certain speed freak named Lady Shipman. That made Zindaya the even-money favorite to repeat in the Intercontinental.

Parked just off Shrinking Violet’s tepid pace of :24.39 and :48.86 on the good Widener turf, Zindaya readily ranged into contention turning into the stretch, and turned on the turbo. The dark bay opened up by 3 1/2 lengths, zipping the seven furlongs in 1:22.44 with Javier Castellano.

“I had the best horse in the race,” Castellano said. “The confidence payed off. The way we handicapped the race, there were all the horses that we thought were going to come from behind.

“My horse had speed today but I wanted to cover her up and find the best rhythm and that's exactly what I did. The pace was slow, 24 and change, 48 and change so I had to step up a little bit outside to find the last kick. With that pace, you don't see too many horses do that. When I asked her she took off unbelievably.”

“I've just had her for this season,” Brown said, “but she seems to have settled as she's gotten older. We've been trying to get her to relax and have plans to stretch her out [to one mile] down the road. She's been a work in progress, but she's switching off nicely now [from having to be on the lead]. I thought Javier executed our plan perfectly.”

There was a blanket finish for the minors, with the 14-1 Rumble Doll grabbing second by a half-length from Miss Ella. Notte d’Oro, now trained by Clement, rallied from last for fourth. Shrinking Violet faded to seventh of eight. A notable scratch was La Berma, who’s opted for Saturday’s Just a Game (G1) instead.

Earlier, Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Suffused looked like a different animal when stretching out to 1 15/16 miles in the inaugural Belmont Coronation Invitational (as recapped by Ed DeRosa here).

English shipper Brandybend never really seemed to relax on the front end. After shrugging off pace rival Return to Grace through an opening quarter in :25.18, the Marco Botti trainee looked a bit lit up. Perhaps that was from the early company, or maybe just seeing too much daylight. But from what I saw on the video, she also appeared a bit on her toes beforehand.

Jockey Florent Geroux did well to gather Brandybend in and persuade her to settle better as they made their way down the backstretch for the second time. By that point, an already questionable stayer had probably made it too hard on herself to see out the trip.

Of course, this was terra incognita for nearly everyone, except for San Juan Capistrano (G3) runner-up Generosidade. Suffused had a reasonable claim on stamina, thanks to sire Champs Elysees and broodmare sire Daylami, despite being out of a half-sister to Dubai Duty Free (G1) star Cityscape and high-class sprinter Bated Breath. Even so, there’s only one way to tell: try her over it.

Her trainer, Hall of Famer Bill Mott, admitted the degree of uncertainty.

“I didn't know what to expect, frankly,” Mott said. “I thought we'd be up in the race at one point, but you wonder when you get going for that last half-mile how durable you are. It's just something you never know. We've run her over two distances that were not that far. We knew she'd stay, but whether they stay that far you never know.”

We all knew turning into the homestretch, when Suffused was cantering under Jose Ortiz, while the rest were under varying degrees of pressure. Inhaling Brandybend in a couple of strides, Suffused powered 4 3/4 lengths clear and was still going great guns on the gallop-out.

A promising type for Roger Charlton in England, Suffused was second to Journey in the Upavon Fillies’ S. at Salisbury in her first listed stakes foray. The chestnut was fourth in her subsequent stakes attempts in the Galtres at York and the John Musker Fillies’ at Yarmouth. That Musker form looks pretty good now: the winner Talmada was the next-out second in the E.P. Taylor (G1), runner-up Speedy Boarding just captured the Prix Corrida (G2) on May 29, and third-placer Elbereth landed the June 1 Nottinghamshire Oaks.

Suffused made her U.S. debut in the April 2 Orchid (G3) at Gulfstream Park, where she checked in fifth after a curious passage through the race. She turned back to an inadequate 1 1/16 miles for a Belmont allowance May 21, and wound up third behind course record-setting Onus. Although the Coronation is a one-of-a-kind on the stakes schedule, this breakout performance may set her up for a productive campaign in the division’s more typical long-distance events. Suffused has hit her stride, and obviously hits it off with Jose Ortiz.

Zindaya from photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese Photography.