A Z Warrior took to conventional dirt in style, contesting
the pace and drawing clear in the stretch to win the Grade 1, $300,000 Frizette
by 1 ¾ lengths on Saturday at Belmont Park.
Seeking an automatic berth in the November 5 Breeders’ Cup
Juvenile Fillies, A Z Warrior led briefly before ceding the front end to longshot
Coax Liberty, who set brisk fractions of 22.87 and 46.25. A Z Warrior took over
when the pacesetter gave way midway on the turn, then opened on her rivals nearing
the eighth pole, with R Heat Lightning giving vain chase to finish second
following a troubled trip.
“I knew the fractions weren’t real fast, but she was very
comfortable and relaxed in my hands,” said winning jockey Alan Garcia. “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.”
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert for owner/breeder Zayat Stables, A
Z Warrior covered one mile in 1:35.68 and returned $9.80 for a $2 win wager as
the 7-2 third choice.
A Z Warrior entered the Frizette off three starts over artificial
surfaces in Southern California, including a second-place finish in the Grade 3
Sorrento at Del Mar on August 6 and a fifth in that venue’s Grade 1
Darley Debutante on September 4.
“We leave these decisions up to Mr. Baffert, but he’s been
saying all along that she’s a dirt filly,” said Brad Weisbord, finance
and racing manager for Zayat Stables. “We think this filly is special and
we look forward to running her in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Todd Pletcher, who trains R Heat Lightning and additional Frizette
starters Valiant Passion, Tap for Luck, and Maple Forest,
said he was pleased with the favorite’s performance, despite her
“[R Heat Lightning] took a left turn leaving the gate and was
actually inside the gap by the chute,” said Pletcher. “She
recovered and put herself in a decent position but she was just sort of boxed
in. The winner [A Z Warrior] 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.”
Joyful Victory finished 5 ¼ lengths behind the winner in third, with
Valiant Passion, Tap for Luck, Coax Liberty, Maple Forest, and After Later
completing the order of finish. Promise Me a Cat was scratched.