Turbulent Descent, who lost a decision to Zazu in last month's Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I), turned the tables on her rival with an exhilirating neck victory as the even-money favorite in the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) March 5 (VIDEO).
Ridden by David Flores for trainer Mike Puype, the 3-year-old Congrats filly held a two-length advantage in mid-stretch but had to dig in for the final strides to hold off the hard-charging Zazu.The final time in the 1 1/16-mile race was a stakes record 1:41.05, breaking the mark of 1:41 1/5 set by Bold ‘n Determined in 1980.
Owned by Blinkers On Racing Stable, Bill Strauss, and Tiger Racing, Turbulent Descent won the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) in December. She likely needed an outing when Zazu swept past her in deep stretch to take the one-mile Las Virgenes by 1 1/4 lengths Feb. 5.
Turbulent Descent has defeated Zazu in three of their four meetings since last fall's Mocccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park.
Puype said after the race that Turbulent Descent would not go to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 6 but would instead point for a summer campaign with a main goal being the Test Stakes (gr.I) at Saratoga.
“She was a little fitter today, obviously," Puype said. "Having had the layoff last time when it was raining, I gave her a lot of walking days and that helped.
"I basically told (the owners before this race), I’m afraid after watching her work so brilliantly every time that this (distance) would be the max for her. She won the Starlet (at a mile and a sixteenth), she won this, so to say she can’t do it is not right, because she’s done it. But let’s face it; the video on her first two races were breathtaking. I know the company wasn’t as strong as it is now, but look at how she cruised up into the turn (today) like a beast. She’s a lot of horse going one turn.”
According to the principals, Blinkers On Racing Stable's partnership owns 65% of Turbulent Descent, with Bill Strauss holding 25%, and Tiger Racing 10%.
The bay filly, bred in Florida by Ocala Stud, cost $160,000 as a 2-year-old in last April's Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. auction. She is out of Roger's Sue, by Forestry .
As in the Las Virgenes, pace played a big role once again in the Oaks as May Day Rose, leaving from the rail, showed the way but at a much more moderate clip than she established in the previous race. Her Bob Baffert stablemate A Z Warrior settled in second, just off the leader, and Kilograeme raced third. Turbulent Descent rated comfortably in fourth down the backstretch and Zazu, ridden by Joel Rosario, was a couple of lengths farther back at the back after being in tight on the clubhouse turn.
Rounding the final turn, Turbulent Descent advanced three wide to challenge the Baffert duo and came into the stretch in control with Zazu chasing. Turbulent Descent opened up a clear advantage through the lane and had enough left to stave off her challenger in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Quarter-mile fractions for the opening six furlongs were :23.31, :46.67, and 1:10.67.
“Last time, I didn’t want to put too much pressure on my filly because she was coming off a layoff and because we had so much rain, she had missed a work," Flores said. "I was confident she was going to run big. I took a peek back at the three-eighths pole and I saw the gray shadow (Zazu), so I knew where she was. At the quarter pole I let her go and she gave me everything.”
It was 5 1/2 lengths to A Z Warrior, ridden by Rafael Bejarano in the filly's first race since finishing last in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
Turbulent Descent began her career last Oct. 3 with a maiden win at Oak Tree's Hollywood meet and followed that with wins in the Moccasin and Hollywood Starlet. She has now won four of five starts while earning $528,350.
Under equal weights of 122 pounds, she paid $4, $2.40, and $2.10, topping an $8.60 exacta. Zazu, trained by John Sadler for owners Jerry and ann Moss, returned $2.80 and $2.20. A Z Warrior, winner of the Frizette Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park last fall, was $3 to show.
Sadler said he was happy with Zazu's effort. “She really ran well, so we’re really excited," he said. "She ran great, and she looks like she’ll be ready for the Kentucky Oaks. If the race were a little longer, she may have gotten there."