Breeders' Cup Sprint hopeful Zavata.

Breeders' Cup Sprint hopeful Zavata.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Biancone Patient With Sprinter Zavata

Patrick Biancone once had classic aspirations for Zavata. He doesn't mind admitting now the colt is a sprinter.

"He's exceptionally fast, but he matured very early," the third generation French horseman said of Michael Tabor's son of Phone Trick.
On Oct. 19, just after Biancone spoke, Zavata worked five furlongs at Santa Anita in :59 3/5.

He came to hand so quickly and showed so much ability that Biancone sent him out for his first start in the Three Chimneys Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day. Sent off nearly 18-1, he finished second. After victories in the Tremont Stakes (gr. III) and Saratoga Special (gr. II), plus a third in the Hopeful (gr. I), Zavata ran in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I).

The experience was not a good one. In his first start around two turns, Zavata was pulled up without finishing the race at Arlington Park.

"We found out he was limited," Biancone said bluntly.

The 51-year-old trainer was disappointed but not dissuaded. He knew he had a colt with talent. As he said, "it was time to map out a new plan."

Biancone decided the first part of the plan was to give Zavata some time off. "I thought it would allow him to mature a bit, plus this is a very tough race (the Breeders' Cup Sprint) for a 3-year-old to win."

Zavata did not make his first start of the year until late May.

"So many of the races are at seven furlongs," Biancone said. "I tried to be patient and wait for six-furlong races."

In five starts this year, Zavata has two wins, an optional claimer at
Monmouth and the Amsterdam (gr. II) at Saratoga.

In his final Breeders' Cup prep, Zavata ran fifth in the Oct. 5 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I). In that race, he was in a stalking position on the inside but was bottled up and had no place to go to make a run at the leaders.

Biancone is no stranger to preparing horses for big races. In France, he won the Arc de Triomphe twice, with All Along and Sagace (in 1983 and 1984), and the French Derby twice, with Bikala (1981) and Hours After (1988).

Preparing horses to win long classic grass races in France is a far cry from readying a horse to run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"You have to train what you have, and where you are," Biancone said in his thick French accent.

"I've been here (at Santa Anita) now for three years. I like it here, let's just hope Zavata likes it here."