On a late afternoon punctuated by thunderstorms and weather delays at Ellis Park, the main track turned sloppy. Conditions proved just right for a pair of hot favorites with speed on the rail – the 2.40-1 Ryvit in the $171,100 Maxfield Overnight S. and the 0.81-1 Zozos in the $275,000 Hanshin S. A mild surprise came on the yielding turf in the $172,400 Anchorage Overnight S., as Fast as Flight overturned the troubled White Frost.
Maxfield Overnight S.
Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Ryvit racked up his fifth straight win in the Maxfield, continuing his rise in the sophomore sprint ranks. Under new rider Cristian Torres, the Steve Asmussen pupil splashed to the front through fast fractions of :21.99 and :44.70. Squire Creek, the slight second choice at 3.20-1, did his utmost to press the winner, but he could find no more in the stretch. Ryvit drew off by three lengths while covering seven furlongs in 1:22.33.
Mullikin, coming off a sensational maiden score at Churchill Downs, finished with good courage on the inside to place second. Squire Creek faded to third, a half-length up on an evenly-running Damon’s Mound. Frosted Departure, Tumbarumba, and Gunflash completed the order under the wire. Four were withdrawn – Determinedly, Top Recruit, Navy Man, and New York Thunder.
“He’s a very nice horse and his form shows it winning his last four races,” Torres said of Ryvit. “The track has been favoring towards speed, and this horse also didn’t mind the off track in the past. I was confident if we were able to break sharply that we’d have a good chance. He did that and really handled everything well.”
“He’s another very fast sprinter for Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said, alluding to such past stars as Mitole, Yaupon, Posse, and Lady Tak. “I wasn’t too worried about the track condition, just so he broke well coming out of the inside post. He did and ran a really super race.”
Ryvit’s resume now reads 8-5-1-1, $452,604, including a third in last year’s Kentucky Juvenile S. Unstoppable since breaking his maiden at Oaklawn Park March 25, the son of Competitive Edge added two more victories in Hot Springs, in an April 14 allowance and the April 29 Bachelor S. in the mud. Ryvit passed his graded test in the Chick Lang (G3) on Preakness Day.
Bred by Curt Leake in Kentucky, Ryvit brought $70,000 at the Texas Summer Yearling Sale. The bay is bred along similar lines to Grade 2 winner High Dollar Woman. By Competitive Edge’s sire Super Saver, High Dollar Woman is a half-sister to Ryvit’s dam. Ryvit is the first foal from She Is Bedazzling, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and multiple Grade 2-placed Melissa Jo.
Trainer Brad Cox thought about shipping Zozos to Belmont Park for Saturday’s John A. Nerud (G2), but opted to stay nearer to home base in the Hanshin. The decision paid off, as the Nerud set up for closers, particularly for the victorious Three Technique, who was himself cross-entered here. At Ellis, Zozos was able to leverage his pace advantage on a speed-conducive track, and extend his winning skein to three.
The odds-on favorite worked out a trip reminiscent of Ryvit, in that Zozos grabbed the lead from his rail post and shook free of his pace companion. With Florent Geroux back aboard, Zozos established splits of :23.11, :45.92, and 1:10.30 while hounded by Strava. Once that foe was disposed of, another emerged in the form of late-running War Campaign. But Zozos zoomed away again on cue, driving to a three-length victory in 1:35.73 for the mile.
War Campaign outperformed his 21-1 odds in second. Warrior Johny, who met with trouble on the backstretch, soldiered on for a solid third. Santin made headway from last to take fourth, followed by Seize the Night, Strava, and Collaborate. Three Technique was scratched along with Tartufo.
“We tried to keep it very simple,” Geroux recapped, “and when he broke alertly the way he did we just kept him on the lead. He handled things pretty easily from there. He’s got some good speed and stamina, but I think he’s much better at this one-mile distance.”
Indeed, Zozos was coming off his first stakes score in the Knicks Go S., around Churchill’s one-turn mile, on Kentucky Derby Day. Three Technique was third that day, so the Nerud was a form boost for Zozos.
Sporting a 9-6-1-0 record with $627,908 in earnings, Zozos had the class to place second to champion Epicenter in his track-record Louisiana Derby (G2) in 2022. The Kentucky Derby was too much for him, as Zozos retreated to 10th behind Rich Strike, but he’s won four of his ensuing five starts.
His pedigree hints of one-turn affinity. Kentucky-bred Zozos is by Munnings and out of the Forestry mare Papa’s Forest.
Anchorage Overnight S.
As the sky provided an eerie-looking atmosphere, backers of White Frost felt a sense of impending doom for another reason. Right out of the gate, the 0.29-1 favorite was pinched back and lost any semblance of position. White Frost recovered to sit about three lengths off the pace, but the race shape was all against her in a scratch-reduced field.
Taking advantage was the Brian Lynch-trained Fast as Flight, the 3.68-1 second choice, under hot-riding Luis Saez. Tracking the 30-1 Lady Hideaway through a slow tempo of :24.77, :49.63, and 1:13.92 on the yielding course, Fast as Flight got the decisive jump on the unlucky favorite. White Frost rallied, but could not overcome the winner’s superior position. Fast as Flight slogged 2 1/4 lengths clear to earn her first stakes credit. She was also giving Saez a fourth win on the card, polishing off a stakes triple that began with the juvenile races.
White Frost settled for second, while Lady Hideaway held third. Next came Napa Candy and the distant trailer, Contemporary Art. Princess Theorem, Sweet Dani Girl, and Kate’s Kingdom were all scratched.
Campaigned by Jim and Susan Hill, Fast as Flight negotiated the boggy mile in 1:38 to improve her scorecard to 15-4-5-2, $382,798. The five-year-old daughter of Air Force Blue was fourth in her only prior stakes attempt, the March 4 Honey Fox (G3) at Gulfstream Park. In her two subsequent allowance starts, she just missed to Viareggio at Keeneland and again to Henrietta Topham, the next-out Mint Julep (G3) winner, at Churchill May 21.
Fast as Flight was bred by Pursuit of Success in Kentucky and purchased for $47,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Out of the Tiznow mare Tiznow Peace, the bay hails from the family of Irish Group 1-winning highweight Pathfork and 2019 Preakness (G1) hero War of Will.