Excitement builds for 'Ebby' debut

Social media sites have been buzzing for months

Social media sites have been buzzing for months. She already has her own Facebook page. Now the time is at hand; Zenyatta's half-sister is ready to make her debut in Friday's fourth race at Hollywood Park.

Eblouissante (pronounced a-bloo-e-sahn), by Bernardini out of the prolific broodmare Vertigineux, has been in training more than a year and has dozens of published workouts. Such a long preparation time might sound alarm bells to some, but not to those who know trainer John Shirreffs, a master of patience.

"If you care anything about your horse, you stop and give them time," said Shirreffs, who also trained Zenyatta throughout her career. "Then you start over again, you don't just pick up where you left off. It's a matter of letting the filly grow and develop. Zenyatta was unique in that she grew into the horse she became. She started out one way and grew and developed."

Naturally, the comparisons with Zenyatta come with the territory.

"Obviously, there are a lot of similarities, a lot," Shirreffs emphasized. "She's almost like having Zenyatta in the barn because they're so much alike. As far as characteristics, both like to hold their head up high and are really into what's going on around them. Both are imposing fillies and both are big and rangy."

Shirreffs added that "Ebby," as she's called around the barn and by a growing legion of fans, "looks a lot like her, except she's missing Zenyatta's white markings on her head. We don't know what her style is, so we'll have to wait and see."

Shirreffs wanted to make it clear, though, that "she's her own horse. She's not Zenyatta."

Asked why Eblouissante starts out at a 1 1/16-mile distance as opposed to Zenyatta, who graduated first time out (Nov. 22, 2007) at 6 1/2 furlongs, Shirreffs explained that "up until her last work, she didn't show a lot of speed in her workouts, so we thought we'd go long with her."

Adding intrigue to the race is the presence of Belonging, who races for Jerry and Ann Moss, owners of Zenyatta. The John Sadler-trained filly will be making her second career start after finishing sixth in an August 12 maiden special weight at Del Mar.

Eblouissante is owned by Eric Kronfeld, who is scheduled to be on hand for her debut. Kronfeld bred both Zenyatta and Eblouissante under the stable name Maverick Productions Ltd.

If Eblouissant runs anything like her pedigree and name (Eblouissante is French for "brilliant"), racing fans are in for a treat Friday.

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