Odds-on favorite Zagora, off for nearly five months, was razor sharp in her return Feb. 4 at Tampa Bay Downs, taking over at the top of the stretch en route to winning the $150,000 Endeavour Stakes (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO).
A grade I winner last year, the French-bred Zagora notched her second win in the United States, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths under Javier Castellano. The 5-year-old daughter of Green Tune is owned by Martin Schwartz and trained by Chad Brown. She covered 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf course in a splendid 1:40.92.
Zagora, bred by E Puerari and Oceanic Bloodstock, was making her seventh start in the U.S. since shipping over from France. She has hit the board in all but one of those starts, each of them coming in graded stakes company. The chestnut mare tallied in the Diana (gr. IT) last summer at Saratoga for her biggest victory.
Overall, it was her sixth win from 15 starts and it upped her earnings to $769,589. She is a two-time grade III winner in France. Zagora is out of the Mtoto mare Zaneton.
Castellano gave Zagora the perfect stalking trip, as she sat third behind pacesetter Exclusive Love
in a field of eight fillies and mares. Exclusive Love, with Luis Contreras aboard, posted fractions of :24.41, :49.13, and 1:12.96. Crying Lightening
raced in second for three-quarters.
Zagora angled off the rail leaving the far turn and drove past Exclusive Love when she reached the eighth-pole. She was much the best in the final furlong, with Exclusive Love holding gamely for second. Keertana
, the second choice, rallied to get third in her first start since May.
“It’s the first time I’ve been up on her since last year but it was like getting back with an old friend,” Castellano said. “We really had a perfect trip, I got her to the inside and she relaxed. When I asked her getting near the stretch, I asked her and she put in a strong run and that was that.”
Zagora had been off since Sept. 18 when she finished seventh as the favorite in the Canadian (Can-IIT) at Woodbine. She finished second by a neck in the Hillsborough (gr. IIIT) last March over this course.
The winner paid $3.80, $2.60, and $2.10. The exacta (4-6) returned $19.80 and the trifecta (4-6-10) was worth $42.80.