Zandon explodes to win Bluegrass for Chad Brown

April 9, 2022

Keeneland Sets Single-Day Wagering Record

LEXINGTON, KY – Jeff Drown’s Zandon roared past favored Smile Happy approaching the sixteenth pole and drew off to a 2½-length victory to win the 98th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) for 3-year-olds on a brisk Saturday afternoon at Keeneland

All-sources handle for the 11-race card set a single-day wagering record, totaling $28,137,728 to exceed the previous record of $25,809,200 set on Toyota Blue Grass Day in 2019.Trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Flavien Prat, Zandon completed the mile and an eighth on a muddy track in 1:50.35.

It is the second victory in the race for Brown, who saddled Good Magic to win the 2018 running. With the victory, Zandon picked up 100 points toward qualification for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run May 7 at Churchill Downs. With 114 points, Zandon ranks second for the race that is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box. Picking up 40 points for second was Smile Happy to increase his total to 70 points, good for 10th place on the leaderboard.

Emmanuel added 20 points for finishing third to boost his total to 25 to rank 25th, and Golden Glider picked up 10 points for fourth to bring his total to 15 to rank 33rd. Emmanuel, with Luis Saez aboard, grabbed the lead out of the gate and led the field through fractions of :24.04 and :48.39 while being tracked by Golden Glider with Smile Happy in the clear racing third and Zandon far back in the pack. 

The top three remained unchanged going into the far turn as Zandon was last while racing between horses. On the turn, Prat began to weave his way through the field, while on the front end Corey Lanerie sent Smile Happy after Emmanuel. At the top of the stretch, Smile Happy brushed with Emmanuel as he surged to the front while behind him Zandon had clear sailing in his pursuit of Smile Happy. Smile Happy maintained the advantage passing the eighth pole but could not hold off Zandon. 

A Keeneland sales graduate, Zandon is a Kentucky-bred son of Upstart out of the Creative Cause mare Memories Prevail. Now 4-2-1-1 in his career, Zandon has earned $713,000 with $573,500 of it coming from the Toyota Blue Grass check.   Sent off as the second choice in the field of 11, Zandon returned $6.20, $3.20 and $2.40. Smile Happy returned $3.20 and $2.40 and finished 3¾ lengths in front of Emmanuel, who paid $3.60 to show. It was another half-length back to Golden Glider in fourth with Trademark, Rattle N Roll, Ethereal Road, Commandperformance, Blackadder, Volcanic and Fenwick following in order.

Flavien Prat (winning rider of Zandon)

“He broke just OK. 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.”

On navigating a larger field in the Kentucky Derby

“It’s going to be a bigger field, 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.”

Baldo Hernandez (assistant to winning trainer Chad Brown)

“After his last race (the Risen Star [G2] Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds, where Zandon was third), he is improving a lot. He’s a really nice colt and he’s been handling the track really well. Every morning he is training better and better. Flavien is a nice jockey and gave him a nice race and I think he is a really nice horse to go to the Kentucky Derby.”

Jeff Drown (winning owner)

“I’m working on (catching my breath), working on it. What a great race. What a fantastic performance.”

On how he viewed his chances early when Zandon was so far back

“You gotta trust the rider. The trainer had him ready – Chad did a fantastic job. Flavien rode him perfect. It just felt good.”

On dealing with the pressure having a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby

“One day at a time.”

Corey Lanerie (rider of runner-up and favorite Smile Happy)

“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.”

Kenny McPeek (trainer of Smile Happy and sixth-place finisher Rattle N Roll)

On Smile Happy

“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.

On being near the lead early

“That was part of the plan: to ask him (to go close to the lead) early and let him get in position and not be as far back as he was (in his last start.) He is tactical. He can be up close, not necessarily on the lead but he can be right off the pacesetters.

On Rattle N Roll

“(Jockey) Brian (Hernandez Jr.) said he was getting out a little. The horse has had a little trouble with his mouth on and off so that is something we will take a look at. We will probably have to regroup with him (and skip the Derby).”

Luis Saez (rider of third-place finisher Emmanuel)

“Pretty good trip, very comfortable, he broke sharp and he was right there. That’s the way he’s always been running. He never gave up. He’s always trying. I thought we were gonna get there but when I saw those two horses coming I knew I was in a little trouble because they’re nice horses.”

Todd Pletcher (trainer of Emmanuel)

“I thought Emmanuel ran well. He ended up on the lead and he seemed like he was in a good rhythm. He just flattened out in the last part. It’s a little premature (to say if he will go on to the Derby).”

Mark Casse (trainer of fourth-place finisher Golden Glider)

“I thought Golden Glider ran good. He gave us a thrill and ran well.”

Casse said Golden Glider would not be considered for the Kentucky Derby.

Click here for a replay of the race and the post-race interview with winning connections. 

Keeneland Press Release and Photo

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