Zagora is on track to pursue consecutive victories in the race that gave her grade I status—the Diana Stakes at Saratoga.
The 5-year-old French-bred daughter of Green Tune took another step toward that goal and proved her mettle March 10 by winning impressively as the 4-5 favorite against a field of eight challengers in the $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Tampa Bay Downs (VIDEO). Zagora started the year with a 2 1/4-length win in the Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) over the Tampa grass course Feb. 4.
"I thought she showed good turn of foot when he turned her loose," said trainer Chad Brown. "Today was a harder race than the Endeavour so she can use a little bit more time to recover. My main goal with her this summer would be the Diana again. We know she likes Saratoga and it is a very prestigious race to win."
Zagora, one of four graded stakes winners in the 1 1/8-mile race on firm turf, started in mid-pack as the field rolled passed the Tampa Bay Downs grandstand and into the first turn. Taking the lead early and holding it for the better part of the race was 96-1 shot Megaspiel ridden by Scott Spieth. The daughter of Singspiel clicked off solid fractions of :23.49, :47.38, and hit the six-furlong mark in 1:11.57.
As the field approached the second turn, jockey Javier Castellano moved Zagora to the outside of Federation and shot quickly past five horses to the lead. Out of the turn, Zagora fanned wide into the middle of the track and lost some momentum but quickly regained her focus. A sixteenth of a mile from the wire, Zagora hit the passing gear again and rolled to a 1 3/4-length win over the Great Britain-bred Federation and jockey Pablo Morales. They held on to finish second by a neck over Unbridled Humor, ridden by Joe Rocco Jr.
The final time was 1:46.97, slightly off the course record of 1:46.34. Carrying the high weight of 122 pounds, Zagora ran the final quarter-mile in :23 1/5.
"When I asked her for run getting to the stretch she just took off," said Castellano, who rode her to victory in the Diana last year. "I let her go wide so there would be no traffic, and she did the rest on her own."
Brown said he thought Castellano rode a smart race.
"He kept her in the clear, knowing he’s on the best horse," Brown said. "He got carried out a little on the final turn but it wasn’t his fault as far as I could see. She still overcame it. She’s a pro. I think she is bigger and stronger this year."
Zagora is owned by Martin Schwartz who gave a lot of credit to Michel Zerolo of Oceanic Bloodstock, who bred the mare and picks out most of Schwartz’s runners. The winner is out of Zaneton, by Mtoto.
"And Chad Brown is second to none," Schwartz said following the race. "He is going to rewrite history along the way."
As for Zagora’s next race, Schwartz said he’d like to try the Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland April 14 on the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) undercard. He added, however, that Brown is "slapping his hand" because he likes to space out the mare's races.
"The Diana is our main goal with her. That would be something special," Schwartz said.
Zagora paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.40. Federation paid $5.20 and $4.00, while Unbridled Humor paid $5.20. The $2 exacta paid $19.40, and the $2 trifecta paid $57.40.