A groomsman no more. After three consecutive second-place efforts from as many starts this season, Jeff Drown's Zandon (Upstart) finally got his place at the altar with a come-from-behind victory in the rescheduled GII Woodward S. at Belmont's Aqueduct meet.
Not seen in the winner's enclosure since a victory in the GI Toyota Blue Grass S. on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail, the 4-year-old continued to throw good performance after good performance throughout the rest of last year and into his season's campaign. Just this year alone, he's finished behind the likes of Sunday's GII Vosburgh S. winner Cody's Wish (Curlin), runaway GI Whitney S. hero White Abarrio (Race Day) and MGSW Repo Rocks (Tapiture). Always just a step after some of the best of his generatio, Zandon seemed poised to deliver when bet down to even money Sunday.
Away in orderly fashion under jockey Flavien Prat, the Chad Brown trainee was caught in a mid-pack scrum into the first turn and had to check back off of heels while in tight between horses. Taken back to race a solo sixth, Zandon chased in pursuit of pacesetter Pipeline (Speightstown) up the backstretch as the opening half went in :46.66. The field stayed together with only one trailing runner with four furlongs to run but Prat stayed motionless until the quarter pole when, still faced with a wall of horses in front of him, Zandon began to pick up the bridle. Angled outside of the frontrunners at the head of the lane, the favorite got clear running room and made the most of it, striking the front at the sixteenth pole and opening up daylight on a pair of closing longshots to win going away.
“He's been a horse that's been knocking on the door and he's had a little bit of bad luck running into really, really top horses in some of these races,” said winning trainer Chad Brown. “I felt a little bad for him because he's run such fast numbers in defeat that would have been good enough to win a lot of these races any other year when you really look at it. He's always run into really top class horses along the way. Like I've said before, one thing I'll always point out is even in a lot of runner-up finishes, look at the horses that were behind him. I mean, he's beat a pile of good horses in those valiant runner-up races. This horse is a really consistent horse and has been a pleasure to train.”
“He'll probably have his last career start in the Breeders' Cup Classic,” Brown continued. “Obviously, it's going to be a much, much tougher race than today, but at least we're going in off of a decisive victory and a horse that's had a very consistent year. That's all you can ask for and anything can happen in a horse race.”
Saturday, Belmont at the Big A
WOODWARD S.-GII, $400,000, Belmont The Big A, 10-1, 3yo/up, 1 1/8m, 1:48.48, ft.
1–ZANDON, 122, c, 4, by Upstart
1st Dam: Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause
2nd Dam: Incarnate Memories, by Indian Charlie
3rd Dam: Witness Post, by Gone West
($170,000 Ylg '20 KEESEP). O-Jeff Drown; B-Brereton C. Jones (KY); T-Chad C. Brown; J-Flavien Prat. $220,000. Lifetime Record: GISW, 13-3-6-3, $2,140,000. *1/2 to Sol Principe Gris (Summer Front), Ch. 2-year-old Colt-Pan, MSW-Pan, $102,210. Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Film Star, 122, c, 4, Flatter–Rebelle, by Hard Spun. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE. ($300,000 Ylg '20 KEESEP). O-Ronald P. Stewart; B-Indian Creek & Mill Pond Bloodstock (KY); T-Linda Rice. $80,000.
3–Law Professor, 122, g, 5, Constitution–Haunted Heroine, by Ghostzapper. O/B-Twin Creeks Farm (KY); T-Rob Atras. $48,000.
Margins: 4 1/4, NK, 1. Odds: 1.00, 13.20, 17.10.
Also Ran: Charge It, O'Connor (Chi), Tyson, Costa Terra, Pipeline. Scratched: Algiers (Ire), Un Ojo.
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.
ZANDON wins the Grade 2 Woodward Stakes with Flavien Prat aboard for trainer Chad Brown! pic.twitter.com/3smBfgTGU8
— NYRA (🌳) (@TheNYRA) October 1, 2023