Unzip Me Buttons Up Monrovia Hillside Rivals
by Jack Shinar
Date Posted: 1/2/2011 5:14:13 PM
Last Updated: 1/4/2011 3:10:06 PM
When it comes to Santa Anita's hillside turf course, it seems there is no getting by Unzip Me, who turned back a couple of challengers in the lane to win the $100,000 Monrovia Stakes (gr. IIIT) under threatening skies Jan. 2 (VIDEO).
The Monrovia was carded as the second on the program due to expected rain later in the day and the decision turned out to be a good one when the skies began to open up following the race.
Trained by Marty Jones for California owners/breeders John Harris and Don Valpredo and co-owner Per Antonsen, odds-on choice Unzip Me won for the fourth time in five starts over the about 6 1/2-furlong layout. The 5-year-old City Zip mare was making her first start since finishing third against males in the five-furlong Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) after an uncharacteristically poor start at Churchill Downs Nov. 6.
Unzip Me won six of eight in 2010 and got the new year off to a good start as well. Sent off as the 7-10 choice in a field of six older fillies and mares after a pair of scratches, Unzip Me recorded her fourth graded stakes win while clocking a time of 1:12.72 on a firm course. Rafael Bejarano was the winning jockey.
The winning margin was 1 1/4 lengths over Broken Dreams, who outfought Reba Is Tops for second by a half-length. Multiple grade I winner Evening Jewel was a disappointment in her hillside debut, finishing fifth in her first start as a 4-year-old and signaling that she may need more ground.
As expected, Bejarano sped to the lead soon after the start with Unzip Me. The swift mare then dictated a brisk tempo from slightly off the rail with quarter-mile fractions of :22.34 and :44.80; Reba Is Tops and Lilly Fa Pootz pressed the pace. Unzip Me drifted out crossing the dirt portion of the track and Reba Is Tops and the stalking Broken Dreams drew close in upper stretch. But Unzip Me responded to urging when challenged to edge away gamely. She finished up strongly after receiving a late crack of the whip from Bejarano.
“She ended up having a great trip," said Jones, who also owns a piece of the mare. "She got a nice, easy lead like she likes and did her thing. She’s a special horse. She did break a little bit slow. She’s not real, real quick the first eighth of a mile, but once she gets out of there and she gets going, she’s something special."
Unzip Me, who shared the top weight assignment of 123 pounds with Evening Jewel, improved her career record to 10-2-3 in 17 starts with earnings of $643,513.
The chestnut mare is out of the Arazi mare Escape With Me.
"We bred the first three dams of this filly, so we go way back with her," said Harris. "She's a thrill to own."
Unzip Me paid $3.40, $2.40, and $2.20. Glen Hill Farm homebred Broken Dreams, making her graded stakes debut for trainer Tom Proctor, returned $4.20 and $3.20 and completed a $14 exacta. Reba Is Tops was $4.40 to show.
It was 2 1/4 lengths to Lilly Fa Pootz in fourth, followed by Evening Jewel and La Nez. Candace Gold, expected to vie for the early lead, was scratched in the post parade and Gilded Gem was withdrawn earlier.
“After I saw the other speed horse scratch in the post parade I decided to be on the lead," said Bejarano, who won last year's Monrovia aboard Tuscan Evening. "In the beginning I wanted to get the lead, but not let her go too fast. When I saw everybody getting close to me, I was just waiting for the top of the stretch to close the door. As soon as I got to the dirt, I let her go. She kept running and finished strong.”
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