The field behind Zagora at the wire was running after more than just this accomplished 5-year-old.
To beat her, they would have had to beat Leroidesanimaux, too.
Zagora and jockey Ramon Dominguez picked their spot to make a move outside and around pace-setter Summer Soiree, kicking away through the stretch to win the Grade II $250,000 Ballston Spa on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course. As they did it, they beat the previous track record set in 2005 by Leroidesanimaux by nearly a second.
The old mark for 11⁄16 miles on the turf was 1:39.92, and Zagora finished in 1:39.07.
“Down the backside, I was feeling pretty good,” winning trainer and Mechanicville native Chad Brown said. “The field was a little strung out, that would have been my only concern for me. She had a horse directly in front of her. But those fractions were pretty demanding, and I knew she was ready to run, so when he tipped her out, I knew it was pretty much over.”
Zagora watched as Summer Soiree go out on the lead through a 23.70 quarter mile and 46.35 half. She closed to within a length early in the stretch and had wrested the lead from Summer Soiree by the eighth pole.
She then had to fend off the late kick of Hungry Island under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, winning by 11⁄2 lengths. Summer Soiree was able to hold on to third, a half length in front of closing Ruthenia.
Tapitsfly never made the lead, the closest she got a 11⁄2 length deficit after three quarters of a mile. She didn’t respond when jockey Javier Castellano called on her shortly afterward.
The win returned Zagora to the winner’s circle after she finished third by 43⁄4 lengths to Winter Memories in the Grade I Diana while trying to repeat, having won the race in 2011.
“This filly’s had two really good works since the Diana. In hindsight, she probably needed the race,” Brown said. “She loves Saratoga, especially when it’s firm, and she just exploded today. Ramon rode her beautiful.”
“I had an absolutely beautiful trip,” Dominguez said. “The filly with speed [Summer Soiree] went at it, and I was able to sit back. When it was time, I went around and she finished up very nicely for me.”
French-bred Zagora has won four graded stakes this year, the other three being Grade III affairs, the Endeavor, Hillsborough and Gallorette. She was fifth by 33⁄4 lengths in the Grade I Jenny Wiley. She is 9-4-3 from 20 career starts, 5-2-2 from 11 starts for Brown, all in graded stakes.
She won Brown his first Grade I race when she claimed last year’s Diana. Now he’s considering trying to get her another
Grade I, the $500,000 Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 7.
“Maybe the Spinster. She’s never run on polytrack,” Brown said. “I think a mile and a sixteenth to a mile and an eighth, we’re learning, is her best race. She’s trained a little bit on it. I’ve had her there, and she’s trained OK on it. So calendar wise, I think the Spinster might fit. That’d be my first choice, but I’ll talk to Mr. [Martin] Schwartz about that.”