Photo courtesy of Benoit & Associates
By Mike Curry, @currymj19, America’s Best Racing
Evoking memories of her much adored older sibling — 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta — Eblouissante charged from off the pace for a smashing debut victory on Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Zenyatta’s half-sister (same mother, different father) registered at least an 8.5 on the social media scale after she dispatched Chestnut Moon in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race and pulled away to win by 4 ¼ lengths under Corey Nakatani.
In addition to trending nationally on Twitter and generating Facebook shockwaves, Eblouissante perhaps even exceeded the immense hype that preceded her debut and certainly lived up to her name, which is French for brilliant or dazzling.
Eblouissante is owned by Eric Kronfeld and trained by John Shirreffs, the horseman who expertly handled Zenyatta for straight 19 victories to begin her career before her lone defeat, a valiant runner-up finish in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) for owners Jerry and Ann Moss.
Zenyatta thrived rallying from well back of the early leaders during her career, which was highlighted by her 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic win. Eblouissante won in similar fashion Friday in her career debut, toying with seven challengers, all with previous racing experience.
Eblouissante has her work cut out for her if she wants to emerge from Zenyatta’s robust shadow on the racetrack — earnings of more than $7.3 million, three Eclipse Awards as champion older female, her Horse of the year hardware and, oh yeah, that 19-race winning streak — but on Friday she flashed some pretty serious potential and proved she has quite a following of her own.
“I thought she handled everything well. As a first time starter, she didn’t really know what was going on,” Shirreffs said. “Going a mile and a sixteenth the first time, that was really something. It’s like something clicked and she knew she was supposed to catch the horses in front of her.
“Each succeeding workout was a little better than the prior one and we saw that turn of foot in the mornings. We’ve been waiting for this day a long time.”
Count Nakatani among the believers after just one race.
"It felt so easy it was scary,” he said. “She did everything I asked. Anytime you get to ride a sister of a champion like Zenyatta, it’s a pleasure, especially at this stage in my career. I’m excited right now and that’s an understatement."
A 3-year-old, Eblouissante is by 2006 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner and that year’s champion 3-year-old male Bernardini and her dam (mother) is the Kris S. mare Vertigineux, who produced 3-time Grade 1 winner Balance in addition to Zenyatta. The comparisons to Zenyatta are inevitable and, according to Shirreffs, not without merit.
“She has so many mannerisms like Zenyatta, so when she left and Eblouissante came in, it was like she was still there,’’ Shirreffs said. “It’s a thrill, it really is. We’re very excited about her. She’s such a beautiful racehorse.”
For an Equibase chart, click here.