Zipessa gets breakthrough win in G1 First Lady

Zipessa wins Keeneland’s Grade 1 First Lady under Joe Bravo. Coady Photography photos

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Zipessa became the sixth horse to go from Kentucky Downs to victory in the first two days of Keeneland’s fall meet, taking the $400,000, Grade 1 First Lady by 1 1/2 lengths over Hawksmoor before a Saturday crowd of 28,763.

Zipessa led most of the way before giving way to drop the Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf by a neck to the world-class mare Miss Temple City. That second extended Zipessa’s winless streak to eight but encouraged Maryland-based trainer Mike Stidham that Zipessa deserved a shot at the First Lady.

“Certainly that race tipped her hand to say that she belonged in this race today, running that hard against Miss Temple City,” he said. “And even after Miss Temple City went by, she came back and tried to get up on the fence. So we felt optimistic today. But in a Grade 1 at Keeneland, you can never be too confident.”

Zipessa now is 5-3-3 in 16 starts, boosting her earnings to $783,550. Even during her drought, she was a good second and third in a pair of Grade 1 races last fall.

“She certainly had this one coming,” Stidham said. “It was owed to her. She ran so hard last year, this year and just couldn’t quite get it done. And today she was pretty dominate. It was sweet victory.”

Stidham now faces a choice between the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, in which she was a respectable fifth last year, or the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf against males at Del Mar.

“It wasn’t even something we were thinking really hard about,” he said. “We actually were thinking about the ($200,000) Goldikova Stakes (on the Breeders’ Cup undercard) depending on how she ran today. But the way she ran, and as good as she is right now, we’ll look at all possible options.”

Kentucky Downs produced four winners on Friday, including maiden winner Heavenly Love capturing the Grade 1 Alcibiades. Our Girl Abby, fifth in a maiden race at Kentucky Downs, won a $50,000 maiden-claiming race to kick off Saturday’s Keeneland card for Kentucky Downs’ three-time training champion Mike Maker.

In addition, Maker’s Grade 3 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint winner Hogy was second by 1 3/4 lengths behind 26-1 Bucchero in the $200,000 Woodford Stakes presented by Keeneland Select (G2).

“Hey listen, that’s good racing over there,” Stidham said of Kentucky Downs. “When they put the money up, the horses will show up. And they show up over there. If you run good at Kentucky Downs, you have a shot at running good anywhere.”

With Joe Bravo back in the saddle, Zipessa settled into striking position behind the front-running Hawksmoor in the First Lady, taking the lead in mid-stretch and finishing the mile in 1:36.99. The Kentucky-bred daughter of the late City Zip paid $35.20 to win as the sixth choice in the field of seven fillies and mares.

“On paper it looked like we might be on the lead,” Stidham said. “Joe said, ‘Mike, if I can just let her kind of come out of there and just let her do what she wants to do, is that all right?’ I said, ‘You’re the boss. You ride her the way the race comes up.’ And he did. It worked out perfectly.”

Said Bravo: “He let me go out there and ride with an open mind. 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.”

Miss Temple City looked like she could be on her way to her third Grade 1 victory over males at Keeneland as she joined the leaders on the far turn of the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, a race she won last year. But the 5-year-old mare was unable to sustain her momentum and weakened to sixth, albeit losing by only a total of 2 1/2 lengths behind victorious British invader Suedois.

“We’ll talk to the owners,” said Graham Motion, Miss Temple City’s trainer. “But to me, she’s had an amazing run and it’s time for her to be a mom.”

Flatlined, winner of Ellis Park’s Cliff Guilliams Handicap and second in Kentucky Downs’ Tourist Mile, finished ninth, with Tourist winner Applicator was 12th in the field of 14.

Also Saturday, Churchill Downs-based Free Drop Billy, who lost a photo finish in Saratoga’s Hopeful Stakes, won his first stakes in stylish fashion under Robby Albarado, rolling through the stretch for a four-length victory over 47-1 Bravazo. Free Drop Billy will join his Dale Romans-trained and Albaugh Family Stables-owned stablemate Holiday Star in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Ten City took the lead on the far turn but was pulled up by Corey Lanerie. Churchill Downs’ Bashford Manor winner suffered a condylar fracture that penetrated the skin and had to be euthanized, according to Kentucky Horse Racing Commission equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay.

Odds-on favorite Finley’sluckycharm, trained by Churchill Downs-based Bret Calhoun, ran her record to 9 for 12, with a pair of seconds, settling off the early pace and driving to the lead in the final eighth-mile for a 1 3/4-length victory over Chalon in the $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2). That earned her a free trip to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

Kenny McPeek, trainer of Ten City, may have the horse to beat in Sunday’s $250,000, Grade 3 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes for 2-year-olds on turf in Kentucky Downs’ Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile runner-up John Tippmann. The capacity field of 14 includes Fasig-Tipton third-place Arawak and Kentucky Downs maiden winners, Tigers Rule, Fred’stwirlincandy, Tap Daddy and King Valero.







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