disappointing as the prohibitive favorite in 4 of her 6 previous starts,
6-year-old Unzip Me reaffirmed her status as the West Coast’s premier
female turf sprinter Sunday with a half-length victory over Teroda in Santa
Anita’s $86,600 Wishing Well Stakes.
With longtime companion Rafael Bejarano in the saddle,
Unzip Me gained control entering the stretch and safely rebuffed the
runner-up’s last charge while running the 6 ½-furlong distance of Santa
Anita’s hillside turf course in a swift 1:11.94.
Her connections had considered stretching the
California-bred chestnut mare out to one mile for the first time in
Saturday’s $100,000 Valentine Dancer Stakes for state-breds, but changed
course in an eleventh-hour decision. “It looked like there was a lot of
pace in there on Saturday,” trainer Marty Jones had explained.
But Unzip Me didn’t need all her speed to reach the
Wishing Well’s winner’s circle on Sunday after settling into fourth
early in the field of eight fillies and mares. In the end, her class prevailed
at odds of 7-10 under high weight of 123 pounds.
Teroda, the 3-1 second choice with Joel Rosario aboard,
made a solid late run for the place, finishing a neck length ahead of Remit and
jockey Corey Nakatani, who edged Givine for the show by a similar margin.
The victory was the seventh in 11 starts over the unique
downhill strip for Unzip Me. It was the 18th time in her
last 19 races that the homebred daughter of City Zip owned by Harris Farms,
Donald Valpredo, Per Antonsen and partners had finished in the money. The
exception was a fourth-place finish, one length behind the winner.
“She’s just all heart, she’s a special
horse,” remarked Jones, whose father, Gary, had trained the race’s
namesake,Wishing Well, who went on to become the dam of the great classic
winner, Sunday Silence.
“I think the race was a little quicker than it looked
on paper,” Jones said. “I think Raf (Bejarano) did a good job in
trying to get her to settle off those horses a little bit. It’s nice to
see her get back on track.”
“I could have been on the lead,” Bejarano said.
“I didn’t try to use too much horse this time. I knew the three
(Catchy Tune) was going to put on pressure. My filly broke really sharp from
the gate and I saw the three rush a little bit. So I decided to take her back
and wait a little bit. She showed me a big kick in the stretch.”
“I had a perfect trip,” said Rosario after dismounting from Teroda.
“That’s a tough horse (Unzip Me) to beat.”
Unzip Me drew closer to millionaire status with the
victory. The winning purse of $57,000 boosted her career earnings to $959,228
from an overall record of 14-4-4 in 25 starts.
She returned mutuels of $3.40, $2.40 and $2.20 to her
legion of supporters. Teroda paid $3.40 and $2.80. Remit paid $4.20 to show.
Jones said there were no specific plans for Unzip
Me’s next start. “We’ll play it by ear,” he said.
“Obviously, she likes running down the hill, so if there are spots like
that, it’s tough to pass them up if you know she likes it.”