The Bob Baffert trained daughter of Bernardini earned her first stakes win in her dirt debut, covering one mile on the fast track in 1:35.68 under Alan Garcia. The California-based 2-year-old filly is a homebred for Zayat Stables.
A Z Warrior defeated seven rivals, including four fillies trained by Todd Pletcher, who saddled half the field in the Frizette. One of those fillies, 9-5 favorite R Heat Lightning, rallied for runner-up, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Joyful Victory.
Longshot Coax Liberty set a quick pace under Jose Caraballo, posting opening splits of :22.87 and :46.25 while A Z Warrior received a perfect stalking trip in second. Valiant Passion was also up close while racing wide.
A tiring Coax Liberty gave way to A Z Warrior at the quarter pole and the dark bay/brown filly, who ran six furlongs in 1:10.58, took a commanding four-length lead into the stretch. It looked as though Valiant Passion would have something to say about the outcome when they straightened away, but she tired badly while A Z Warrior extended her advantage in upper stretch. R Heat Lightning made up ground in deep stretch but it was much too late.
“I knew the fractions weren’t real fast, but she was very comfortable and relaxed in my hands,” Garcia said. “Turning for home, she really took off, but towards the end I said, ‘We don’t want to use her up for this one.’ We wanted her to come back safe and sound and take the next step.”
A Z Warrior had made three starts entering the Frizette, breaking her maiden in her debut at Hollywood Park in July before finishing runner-up to Wickedly Perfect in the Sorrento (gr. III) Aug. 6 at Del Mar. Last out in the grade I Darley Debutante at Del Mar, the filly finished fifth during a rough trip.
Now it looks like it’s on to the Nov. 5 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. Baffert was not available immediately after the race, but Zayat racing manager Brad Weisbord said: “We think this filly is special, and we look forward to running her in the Breeders’ Cup.”
A Z Warrior was bred in Kentucky and is out of the Carson City mare Carson Jen. She has earned $239,600 from her starts.
Sent off as the third choice, the winner paid $9.80, $4.30, and $3.10. The exacta (5-1) returned $36.40 and the trifecta (5-1-8) was $91.
Valiant Passion and Tap for Luck, both trained by Pletcher, finished fourth and fifth, respectively, followed by Coax Liberty, Maple Forest, and After Later.
Pletcher was not displeased with R Heat Lightning's effort. The filly entered the race off a decisive win in the Spinaway (gr. I) at Saratoga.
“She had a pretty tough trip," Pletcher said. "She took a left turn leaving the gate and was actually inside the gap by the chute. She recovered and put herself in a decent position but she was just sort of boxed in. The winner snuck away from her, but we were gaining on the end and galloped out past her. We just couldn’t find room as early as we needed it. She finished well and I’m pleased with her effort.”