Zaajel improves to 2-for-2, earns Ky. Oaks points with Forward Gal win

Zaajel improves to 2-for-2, earns Ky. Oaks points with Forward Gal win
Photo: Gulfstream Park

Zaajel started her road to the 2021 Kentucky Oaks on Saturday by backing up heavy favoritism in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3, $100,000 Forward Gal Stakes.

Todd Pletcher trains the Shadwell Stable homebred Zaajel, a 3-year-old Street Sense filly. She covered the Forward Gal’s seven furlongs in 1:24.72, returning $3.20 as a 3-5 favorite.

Zaajel’s win earned the filly her first 10 points in the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard. Also picking up Oaks points Saturday were second-through-fourth-place finishers Lady Traveler (four points), Wholebodemeister (two) and Dial to Win (one).

Breaking from post No. 7 in the eight-filly field, Zaajel took a few steps to find her stride. She started out near the back of the field but moved up along the backstretch to assume an outside spot mid-pack.

Up front, 40-1 long shot Queen Arella led the field through fractions of 22.77 and 46.03 but had no answers when Zaajel approached her through the turn. The favorite cruised by the pace setter and built enough of a cushion to withstand a late rally down the center of the track from Lady Traveler, winning by 1 1/4 lengths.

“She was misbehaving in the gate and she missed the break a little,” Saez said. “After that, she just kept coming and everything went well, and she kept coming.”

The Forward Gal marked just the second career start for Zaajel. She debuted in another seven-furlong race Dec. 20 at Gulfstream, scoring that day by 7¼ lengths.

“I was really pleased with the outcome," Pletcher said. "I was pretty concerned at the start. She got a little antsy in the gate and missed the break, and she put in a long, sustained run.

“That’s hard to do, especially in her second start going from a maiden to a graded stake. But she’s trained like a quality filly and she overcame some adversity today so we’re proud of her.”

Gulfstream offers two more points-paying Kentucky Oaks preps, the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (G2) on Feb. 27 and the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) on March 27.

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