The long-anticipated career debut of Eblouissante, the three-year-old
half-sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, is at last set for Friday's
4TH race at Hollywood Park. Trained by John Shirreffs, like her famous
half-sibling, Eblouissante will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in the 1 1/16-mile
maiden on Cushion Track.
Her unveiling comes almost five years to the day since Zenyatta scored an electric last-to-first debut win at Hollywood on November 22, 2007. Although Eblouissante is getting a similarly late start near the end of her sophomore season, it would be both rash and unrealistic to believe that she can follow in Zenyatta's hoofsteps.
Unlike Zenyatta, who was sold to Jerry and Ann Moss for just $60,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Eblouissante was retained by her breeder, E.N. Kronfeld. Zenyatta is by Street Cry, while Eblouissante is by Bernardini.Ironically, the Mosses own one of Eblouissante's leading rivals on Friday, Belonging, and they could spoil her Hollywood premiere. Belonging was a closing sixth, beaten only 3 1/2 lengths, in her debut sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar. The John Sadler pupil is entitled to do much better on the stretch-out to two turns, and she picks up Rafael Bejarano.The most experienced runner in the race is Chestnut Moon, who will be making her eighth start. The Jim Cassidy filly has already had a run-in with another notable half-sibling. Last time out, she was just denied by the Mosses' Stanwyck, a half-sister to 2005 Kentucky Derby shocker Giacomo and to multiple Grade 1 hero Tiago. Chestnut Moon was the controlling speed on that occasion, and could play the same role with Victor Espinoza back in the saddle.
Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale sends out the royally-bred Playful Humor, a Distorted Humor half-sister to multiple Grade 1 turf star Marsh Side. Playful Humor has failed to break her maiden in three tries on turf, but has finished third twice, and could prefer the switch to the main track. She might also show early speed beneath a returning Joe Talamo.
Rounding out the eight-horse field are Saturday Nite Ride, who takes off the blinkers in her second try for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert; Stronach Stables' Urania, a daughter of Awesome Again; the Eric Guillot-trained Out for Revenge, another well-bred Bernardini filly who adds blinkers after showing little in her two outings; and Spin the Blues, who has yet to hit the board in four attempts.
Eblouissante made headlines upon her arrival at Shirreffs' barn in May 2011, and when she posted her first breeze at Hollywood about a month later. That summer, Shirreffs entertained the hope that she could be ready to run later in her juvenile year, but the ever-cautious horseman was in no rush with her.
For the past 17 months, Eblouissante has made fairly regular appearances on the Hollywood worktab, with a few notable gaps. She missed several works over the summer of 2011, and did not record any timed moves last November. After consistently posting works all winter and spring, Eblouissante was conspicuously absent from the worktab in July, but resumed in August and has been training steadily ever since. Her most recent drill came Sunday, when she blitzed five furlongs in :59 1/5, second-best of 66 trials at the trip.
Shirreffs has won with only 7 percent of his first-time starters, so Eblouissante would do very well to defy that statistic. More typically for the barn, her first start can be viewed as an introductory run to build on for the future.
Zenyatta, of course, was a spectacular exception. By inhaling the field in
her debut, in a 6 1/2-furlong dash that looked too short for one of her profile,
Zenyatta telegraphed that she could be something special. That three-length
maiden conquest was the beginning of a 19-race winning streak, punctuated by
Breeders' Cup victories in the 2008 Ladies' Classic and the 2009 Classic versus
At first retired following that historic success, Zenyatta was brought back for one final season of racing in 2010. The year began with her losing a fiercely-contested 2009 Horse of the Year vote to Rachel Alexandra, and ended with her only loss on the track. Seeking to cap her unbeaten career with a second straight Classic title, Zenyatta lagged impossibly far behind the field at Churchill Downs, and staged her customary rally, but could not get past the redoubtable Blame.
Although Zenyatta came up a head short in the 2010 Classic, she was honored as Horse of the Year. Her record reflects 19 wins, and one near-miss, from 20 starts and a bankroll worth $7,304,580.
Retiring to the paddocks at Lane's End near Versailles, Kentucky, Zenyatta began her career as a broodmare by visiting Bernardini. The choice of stallion was in part influenced by the fact that Eblouissante was reportedly shaping up nicely. Zenyatta's first foal, a colt, was born on March 8. He is a three-quarter brother to Eblouissante.
Zenyatta and Eblouissante were produced by Vertigineux, who has been honored as Broodmare of the Year. Vertigineux's first foal was stakes winner Where's Bailey, her second foal was multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Balance, and her third foal was Zenyatta. Her subsequent foals have not lived up to that standard -- Treasure Trail was unplaced from four starts, and Souper Spectacular has won three times from nine starts. Souper Spectacular was on the cusp of Grade 3 quality when fourth in both the 2010 Tropical Turf Handicap and 2011 Ft. Lauderdale.
Zenyatta has been immortalized with a life-size bronze statue at Santa Anita, and her legions of ardent fans stay connected through her official webpage and social media. Not to be outdone, Eblouissante has her own Facebook page.