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Anne M. Eberhardt

Lizza's Legacy Lives On With Pure Gossip

Top New York breeder died before ever seeing BC Juvenile Turf filly competitor run.

Carl Lizza in recent years revamped his breeding program to upgrade his stock, but he didn’t live long enough to reap the rewards. The New York owner and breeder died at age 73 July 8, just two weeks before Pure Gossip made her racing debut. The 2-year-old filly developed so quickly that she will start in the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT).

For trainer Philip Serpe and Lizza’s widow, Viane, a win by Pure Gossip would honor Lizza’s memory and the fervor with which he bred and raced horses.

“The only thing Carl loved more than racing was Viane,” said Serpe.

When Lizza was undergoing some health issues several years ago, he and Serpe embarked on a mission to improve the caliber of runner coming out of Lizza’s Highcliff Farm in Delanson, N.Y. It was an ambitious undertaking because Lizza already was a major force in New York breeding.

“He asked me to come to the hospital to talk to him,” said Serpe. “He wanted to upgrade his breeding operation. At the time of his death, he was the biggest single breeder in New York. But he wanted to upgrade it because we weren’t winning the races that he wanted to win.”

Lizza and Serpe culled a broodmare band of about 140 down to more manageable levels, keeping the best and adding to the quality.

“This filly is a result of that project,” said Serpe of Pure Gossip, a daughter of Pure Prize--Dixieland Achiever, by Dixieland Band.

Pure Gossip’s family has produced a host of talented runners. Her half sister Lady Vi has won a New York-bred stakes. The second dam, Thunder Achiever, won the First Flight Handicap (gr. II) and has produced graded stakes winner Street Game. Lizza’s Flying Zee Stable bred Dixieland Achiever and Thunder Achiever.

Pure Gossip was bred in the name of Nustar Breeding, which consisted of Lizza and a few partners. Viane is continuing the Flying Zee stable name under which Pure Gossip competes.

Serpe unveiled Pure Gossip at Saratoga, where she won a state-bred maiden event on the dirt in her first start.

“We were pleasantly surprised that she won on the dirt,” said Serpe. “We really had no expectations of her winning that day. I’m guessing that just showed her class.”

Pure Gossip raced once more on the dirt, finishing fourth in the Ann Clare Stakes for New York-breds. Because her pedigree is rich in turf runners, Serpe wanted to try her on the turf. He probably would have attempted an easier allowance race, but nothing filled and so he entered her in the Oct. 2 Miss Grillo Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Belmont Park.

That serendipitous move gave Pure Gossip the points to qualify for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. On a soft turf, she exploded in the stretch to win the 1 1/16-mile Miss Grillo by 6 1/2 lengths at odds of 23-1.

Now Pure Gossip will tackle a quality field of turf fillies from this country, Europe, and Canada. A win would focus the spotlight on Carl Lizza, a man who was a credit to New York’s Thoroughbred industry and left it too soon.