Race of the Week 2017

Aotearoa Pays $28.60 in Zuma Beach

Santa Anita Park
Lightly raced Aotearoa, who had neither routed nor run on grass in two previous starts and was the longest shot in Sunday’s $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes for 2-year-olds at one mile on turf at 13-1, rallied from last in a field of six to run down 2-5 favorite Diamond Bachelor by three-quarters of a length under sub-rider Corey Nakatani while getting the distance in 1:34.42.

Trained by Leonard Powell, Aotearoa was originally scheduled to be ridden by Garrett Gomez, who rode yesterday at Keeneland and subsequently missed a flight back to Los Angeles—causing him to miss all six of his scheduled mounts today at Santa Anita.

“I’ve asked Leonard to ride the horse before, so I was stoked to get the opportunity,” said Nakatani.  “It’s kinda funny, I rode a horse that I loved at Del Mar and this horse blew right by us the day he broke his maiden (Aug. 4), so I knew this horse could really run. 

“I rode his daddy (Good Journey, a Grade I turf winner) and I knew he’d love the grass.  On paper, there was a lotta speed in the race, I thought, top to bottom.  My horse broke on the lead, but I was able to ease him back, no problem, and he ran a big race.”

Owned by Paul A. Viskovich, Aotearoa paid $28.60, $7.60 and $4.60.  With the winner’s share of $60,000, he more than doubled his earnings to $114,000.

“The breeding was there,” said Powell.  “He’s by Good Journey and we always thought he would like the grass, especially the way he moves in the morning.  Today I was happy because he was a lot better in the pre-race than he was at Del Mar…and Nakatani gave him a great ride.”

Though the Zuma Beach could serve as a prep for those wishing to run in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 1, Powell said that his horse is not nominated “so it would be expensive.  We’ll see how he comes out of this race first.”

While Nakatani and Aotearoa had an idyllic trip, Julien Leparoux and Diamond Bachelor, a $570,000 Barretts March 2-year-old in training purchase, had anything but, as they were pressured from the outset by Gary Stevens and Station House through early splits of 22.53 and 45.76, with Station House getting the lead past the half mile and succumbing mid way on the far turn after six furlongs in 1:10.19 and seven in 1:22.44.

“We went fast to the first turn, so I was content to tuck in behind (Stevens, aboard Station House), which was good for me since the first part took a lot out of him.  He ran his race.  He got a little distracted in the stretch, looking around, but I’m not taking anything away from the winner.  He ran big, but my horse did too.  He ran a good race.”

Trained by Patrick Biancone, Diamond Bachelor finished 1 ¾ lengths in front of Got Shades and Joe Talamo, and paid $2.40 and $2.10.

“We have nothing to complain about,” said Biancone.  “Breeders’ Cup?  We’ll go home, we’ll talk.”

Off at 8-1, Got Shades was next-to-last going to the far turn, split horses into the stretch and outfinished Irish-bred Home School with Rafael Bejarano, securing a third place finish by a half length.

Got Shades paid $3.20 to show.

Station House tired badly, finishing last, 13 lengths behind the winner.




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