June 13, 2024

Adare Manor streaks into Zenyatta; Gold Phoenix looks to keep rising in John Henry

Adare Manor holds Desert Dawn safe to win the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) contender Adare Manor brings a four-race winning streak into the $200,000 Zenyatta (G2), the first of four stakes at Santa Anita Sunday.

Already in the Distaff by virtue of her victory in the Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar last out, Adare Manor returns to the scene of her blowout wins. The Bob Baffert filly, who had romped in last year’s Las Virgenes (G3) by 13 lengths after a 12-length maiden rout, finally resumed her progress this term. Adare Manor was much the best in the April 29 Santa Maria (G2) at this 1 1/16-mile trip as well as in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Margarita (G2), and the daughter of Uncle Mo is the one to beat on the rail.

Phil D’Amato’s Desert Dawn, who shocked Adare Manor in the 2022 Santa Anita Oaks (G2), cut her margin to a length in the Hirsch. Hall of Famer Richard Mandella has the other two runners – Micro Share and sophomore Window Shopping. Micro Share has won three straight including the Sept. 1 Tranquility Lake S., while Summertime Oaks (G2) victress Window Shopping goes turf-to-dirt after a sixth in the Del Mar Oaks (G1).

Because only four have signed on for the Zenyatta, it comes early as the fourth race (5:30 p.m. ET). The fifth race (6 p.m. ET) is the $100,000 Unzip Me S. for three-year-old fillies on the downhill course, where Justique tries turf for the first time and shortens up to a sprint. Both of her wins came in dirt sprints as a juvenile, and the John Shirreffs pupil has been a bit player in her route attempts. As a Justify half-sister to the versatile Grade 1 winner Mo Town, she’s eligible to enjoy the surface switch.

Ruby Nell cuts back after tiring to fourth in the Del Mar Oaks, and Free and Humble does likewise after trailing elders in the John C. Mabee (G2). Fast and Shiny is proven over the about 6 1/2-furlong course as the winner of the March 26 Angel Flight S., and Baffert has freshened her since she tailed off in the July 20 San Clemente (G2) going a mile. Wed likewise aims to regroup from an eighth in her stateside bow in the San Clemente for Leonard Powell, who also has Havana Angel. Wide West, successful versus males in the Roar S. at Gulfstream Park, hopes to improve from an unplaced effort in the Daisycutter H. at Del Mar.

Dirt marathoners get their turn in the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup (G3), carded as the sixth race at 6:30 p.m. (ET). The top two from the Cougar II (G3) at Del Mar, Order and Law and Azul Coast, renew rivalry over the same 1 1/2-mile trip here. Both flopped in their interim starts in other conditions. Order and Law was eased in the Pacific Classic (G1), and Azul Coast was last in the Del Mar H. (G2) on turf.

Also exiting the Del Mar ‘Cap is Missed the Cut, who performed more respectably in fourth. Yet the repatriated son of Quality Road has failed to shine since arriving on this circuit, and if the distance experiment doesn’t pan out, it’s worth wondering what the plans might be. Donner Lake brings an improving profile for Michael McCarthy, and inconsistent veteran Kiss Today Goodbye rounds out the cast.

Anchoring the stakes action is the $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship (G2). Gold Phoenix, fresh off a repeat win in the Del Mar ‘Cap, aims to win the 1 1/4-mile prize that eluded him last year. In the 2022 John Henry, the D’Amato trainee was a close third to his pace-controlling stablemate Masteroffoxhounds, who hasn’t won since. Yet another D’Amato entrant, Cash Equity, was fourth here a year ago and most recently third in the Del Mar ‘Cap.

The Graham Motion-trained Speaking Scout has gone winless since last fall’s Hollywood Derby (G1), but he tends to rally thereabouts, as evidenced by his thirds in the Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) and Monmouth (G3). The step up in trip, and prospect of a decent pace courtesy of Balladeer and Masteroffoxhounds, figure to help his chances. Note that he was most recently fifth in the Tapit S. at Kentucky Downs, where Yes This Time was a nearer third.

Planetario looked like a rising presence in the division in the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano (G3), only to check in a one-paced fifth in both the United Nations (G1) and Del Mar ‘Cap. Offlee Naughty was in peak form in the spring, with scores in the course-and-distance Charles Whittingham (G2) and San Luis Rey (G3), but only seventh in the Del Mar ‘Cap.