December 3, 2023

Zozos faces eight in Hanshin; V V’s Dream, Wilson Q top juvenile stakes on closing-day program at Ellis

Zozos wins the Knicks Go Overnight Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

Transferred to Ellis Park, the Churchill Downs spring meet wraps up Sunday with a 10-race card featuring five stakes, including the $275,000 Hanshin. Zozos will bring a two-race win streak into the mile event, recording a front-running win most recently in the Knicks Go S. on the Kentucky Derby undercard, and the four-year-old colt will break from the rail with Florent Geroux against eight rivals.

Cody’s Wish, the world’s top dirt miler, captured last year’s Hanshin under the Twin Spires.

Runner-up in the 2022 Louisiana Derby (G2), Zozos missed nearly the remainder of his three-year-old season after a 10th in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He’s won three of four starts since returning in mid-December for Brad Cox, and Zozos netted a 100 Brisnet Speed rating, the top last-out number in the Hanshin field.

His rivals include multiple Grade 1 turf winner Santin, who will make his second consecutive dirt start following a fifth in the Blame (G3) on June 3; Knicks Go third-placer Three Technique, a neck second to Cody’s Wish in last year’s Hanshin; and last-out allowance winners Seize the Night, War Campaign, and Warrior Johny.

A pair of juvenile stakes, the $225,000 Bashford Manor and $225,000 Debutante for fillies, have attracted some promising types.

Wilson Q, winner of the top-rated maiden special weight during the spring meet, heads seven runners in the six-furlong Bashford Manor. Trained by Doug O’Neill, the Constitution colt won narrowly at first asking over Gold Sweep and Works for Me on May 18. Gold Sweep came back to destroy stakes rivals in the June 11 Tremont at Belmont Park, winning by nine lengths at odds-on. Works for Me rolled to a convincing maiden win at Belmont last week as the odds-on favorite.

Reylu Gutierrez retains the mount on Wilson Q.

Go Otto Go and Unified Point exit debut wins at Churchill in which they were bet down to favoritism. Call Me Andy graduated in fine fashion in his initial outing for Brendan Walsh. The Wine Steward invades from New York for Mike Maker after romping over state-bred maiden foes at Belmont. Magical Mark will step up after graduating by a 10-length margin at Lone Star Park in his first start.

In the six-furlong Debutante, V V’s Dream will look to make it two straight following an eye-catching win in mid-May. The gray daughter of freshman sire Mitole missed the break as the 6-5 favorite, rating well off the pace after the slow start, and swooped past rivals in the stretch to win going away by 6 1/4 lengths. Brian Hernandez Jr. will be back up for Kenny McPeek.

O’Neill will add blinkers to Easy Red, who got up to win her first start by a head at Churchill after breaking slowly. By freshman sire Omaha Beach, the chestnut retains the services of Cristian Torres. Other contenders in the six-horse field include last-out maiden winners Brightwork, George’s Honey, and Hibernacle.

The $175,000 Anchorage Overnight S. and $175,000 Maxfield Overnight S. will also be offered. Grade 3 winner White Frost, second at odds-on in the Mint Julep (G3), will try to rebound in the Anchorage, a mile turf affair that has attracted eight fillies and mares. New York Thunder, unbeaten from three starts on turf and synthetics, will make his dirt debut in the Maxfield. A 7 1/2-length winner of the April 30 Woodstock S. on Woodbine’s Tapeta, the speedy colt will face 10 three-year-old rivals in the seven-furlong race.