Zandon Runs Down Smile Happy For Breakthrough In Blue Grass - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Zandon Runs Down Smile Happy For Breakthrough In Blue Grass

Jim Dandy runner-up Zandon, winner of the Blue Grass in April at Keeneland

Narrowly beaten last Dec. 4 in the Grade 2 Remsen and third in the G2 Risen Star Feb. 19, Jeff Drown's Zandon broke through for his initial stakes success on Saturday with a 2 1/2-length, last-to-first win in the G1 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

Ridden by Flavien Prat for trainer Chad Brown, Zandon – a son of Upstart bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones – ran down slight favorite Smile Happy in deep stretch to give Brown his second Blue Grass success (following Good Magic in 2018). Smile Happy held second by 3 3/4 lengths, with pacesetter Emmanuel third and Golden Glider fourth in the field of 11 3-year-olds. Grantham was scratched.

The Blue Grass is a qualifying points race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby on May 7, awarding 100 points to the winner, with 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth.

Updated Kentucky Derby/Oaks leaderboard

Zandon ran the 1 1/8 miles on a muddy track in 1:50.35 and paid $6.20 as the second choice in the wagering.

Breaking from the number four post, Zandon raced near the back of the pack and in between horses as the field rounded the first turn, the opening quarter mile in :23.93. Heading down the backstretch as Emmanuel showed the way with a half in :48.35, Zandon had just two horses beat and even slipped back to last as the field approached the far turn, the first six furlongs in 1:12.65.

Smile Happy, meanwhile, was enjoying a trouble-free trip in third and moved to take on Emmanuel turning into the stretch.

Prat moved between horses on Zandon rounding the turn and swung out when the field straightened into the stretch. Smile Happy held the advantage with a furlong to run, but Zandon was bearing down on him, catching him inside the sixteenth pole and pulling away in the late stages.

“He broke just OK,” said Prat. “Then I got myself covered up so I was there with nothing I could do about it. The pace was a bit slow, so I was wandering down the backside. But I was traveling super – it was just a matter of finding a gap and getting a clean run down the lane.

“It's going to be a bigger field (in the Kentucky Derby), but it was already a good field today. It's just a matter of getting a clean break and getting yourself into position. That's always key.”

Corey Lanerie, aboard Smile Happy, said: “I had a great trip. When I turned for home, I didn't think anybody could beat him. He went so easy through the half-mile and the fractions were nice. He had his ears up and he was happy. I called on him and he kept going. The other horse was just better than us today.”

Smile Happy's trainer, Kenny McPeek, added: “I am not disappointed whatsoever. I thought the timing of this race was good. I think the next race will be his best race. He got a little tired at the end. We will see how much water he drinks and how (tired) he is. This is a really good horse. This is only his fourth career start. I feel like I could win the Derby or the Preakness with this horse. The only horse I was worried about (in this race) is the one who won.”

A $170,000 yearling purchased by agent Mike Ryan from the Airdrie Stud consignment at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Zandon debuted last Oct. 9 with a sharp maiden score going six furlongs. He was second, beaten a nose by Mo Donegal, in the Remsen in his next start, getting pinned down on the rail by Mo Donegal and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. in deep stretch. Mo Donegal won another Kentucky Derby qualifying race, the G2 Wood Memorial for trainer Todd Pletcher, shortly before the Blue Grass was run.

The Remsen was Zandon's final start of 2021, and he came back with a third-place finish in his 3-year-old debut in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds in February.

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