HILLSBOROUGH STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 3 | ABOUT 1 1/8 MILES
Martin S. Schwartz's Zagora, a smashing winner in her comeback in the Grade 3 Endeavour Stakes, made a successful return trip to Tampa Bay Downs for Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Hillsborough Stakes. Dispatched as the 4-5 favorite, the Chad Brown mare rallied powerfully leaving the far turn and mowed down Federation and Unbridled Humor, zipping about 1 1/8 miles in 1:46 4/5 on the firm turf.
Zagora was given a textbook ride by regular pilot Javier Castellano. The odds-on choice was reserved in sixth early, six lengths off the pace established by 96-1 longshot Megaspiel through fractions of :23 2/5 and :47 1/5. Unbridled Humor stalked in second, followed by Sea Level Drive and Federation. Zagora commenced her move entering the far turn, cutting her deficit to just 2 1/2 lengths when the leader reached six furlongs in 1:11 2/5.
Unbridled Humor soon took over from the weakening Megaspiel, but Federation was already lapped onto her, and Zagora was rocketing around the bend. Although her momentum caused her to swing out wider than necessary, Zagora had no difficulty in stamping her authority. She drew 1 3/4 lengths clear and rewarded her legions of fans with $3.60, $2.60 and $2.40.
Federation outdueled Unbridled Humor by a head for second. Sea Level Drive ran rather evenly in fourth, another 1 1/2 lengths behind. Denomination, who had edged Zagora in the 2011 Hillsborough, checked in fifth in her title defense, followed by Gold d'Oro, Snow Top Mountain, Hooh Why and a tailed-off Megaspiel. Last Full Measure was scratched.
Zagora's fifth stakes coup improved her mark to 16-7-4-2, $859,589. During the earlier portion of her career in France, the daughter of Green Tune captured the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux and Group 3 Prix de Psyche and placed in the Group 3 Prix de la Nonette and Prix La Camargo. She made her American debut in the 2010 Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, where she closed belatedly for second.
Subsequently transferred to Brown, Zagora reappeared with a near-miss second in last year's Hillsborough. Next came a third in the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley, and a fast-closing second in the Grade 2 New York, before she scored a career high in the Grade 1 Diana. Unfortunately, Zagora was not able to build on that Grade 1 breakthrough for herself, and for her trainer. She was a non-threatening seventh in her follow-up in the Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine, and headed to the sidelines. The time off did her a world of good, for she is two-for-two in 2012.
Zagora was bred by E. Puerari and Oceanic Bloodstock in France and sold for $139,602 as an Arqana August yearling. The five-year-old is out of the unraced Mtoto mare Zaneton, who is also responsible for the stakes-placed Zanet. Zagora hails from the family of French highweight older sprinter Titus Livius and Group 2 German One Thousand Guineas heroine Briseida. Further back, her fifth dam is noted broodmare Mia Pola, ancestress of French classic winner and multiple champion Sulamani, dual classic victor Dream Well and Grade 1 diva Tuzla, among others.