Zandon returns to the win column with an impressive score in the Woodward (Janet Napolitano)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— After enduring a frustrating start to his 4-year-old campaign with three runner-up finishes in as many starts, Jeff Drown’s Zandon made a shining return to the winner’s circle when he gunned down Film Star in the final furlong to capture the 70th running of Sunday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Woodward for 3-year-olds and upward going nine furlongs at Belmont at the Big A.
Winless in eight starts since capturing last year’s Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, Zandon was last seen finishing 6 1/4 lengths in arrears of White Abarrio in the Grade 1 Whitney on August 5 at Saratoga Race Course, which saw third-place finisher Cody’s Wish capture the Grade 2 Vosburgh earlier on the program. The dark bay Upstart colt also posted second-place efforts in the Grade 1 Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan on June 10 at Belmont Park, beaten 3 1/4 lengths to Cody’s Wish after making his 2023 debut in Belmont’s Grade 3 Westchester on May 5, finishing 5 1/4 lengths behind Repo Rocks.
“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. 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,” said trainer Chad Brown. “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.”
Leaving from post 3 under Flavien Prat, Zandon was in tight entering the first turn, just to the outside of a rank Law Professor, as his 43-1 stablemate Pipeline set the tempo through an opening quarter-mile in 23.43 seconds and a half-mile in 46.66 over the fast main track. Film Star sat just off the flank of the pacesetter in second with Zandon four lengths back in sixth.
Around the far turn through three-quarters in 1:10.52, Zandon began to advance position and made a sweeping five-wide move with Film Star to catch as Pipeline dropped out of contention. Under Prat’s right-handed encouragement, Zandon moved past Film Star and powered home a 4 1/4-length winner in a final time of 1:48.48. Film Star held second a neck ahead of an advancing Law Professor, who finished second in last year’s Woodward.
Completing the order of finish were Charge It, O’Connor, Tyson, Costa Terra and Pipeline. Algiers and Un Ojo were scratched.
Prat said the run into the first turn was a bit of a scramble.
“We were all trying to be in the same position, pretty much,” Prat said. “I was trying to get position, but my horse didn’t want to be there so we went to ‘Plan B.’ I grabbed a hold of him and got him to settle down and from there I was traveling super. A bit worried when we hit the turn, it looked like he wasn’t going anywhere and then as soon as he got into a rhythm, he kicked on well.
“From the five-sixteenths to the quarter-pole he was really grabbing the bridle and making a nice move,” Prat continued. “As soon as I tipped him out and he swapped leads, he really made another good move.”
Brown admitted having some anxious moments heading into the first turn.
“Law Professor ducked out right next to him and kind of took him wide and then Flavien had to take back,” Brown said. “He then got him in a nice, comfortable spot, but I just thought potentially all that commotion and being pitched a little wide in the first turn would discourage the horse. I’ll tell you, his consistency really came through. He was able to get up in through the dirt and out in the clear and once he did, he just really grabbed the bit finally and really powered home. I loved the way he finished the race.”
The well-travelled Zandon has never finished worse than fourth while contesting over seven different racetracks, including a game third-place finish in last year’s Grade 1 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
“I’m really proud of this horse and I’m just so happy for him. He’s showed up every week breezing for us, he has a well-traveled history – running in the Kentucky Derby and nearly winning it, and a bunch of other races in between that he’s taken us to all over,” Brown said. “The Met Mile, the Whitney, and winning a race like the Blue Grass. This horse has really taken us to some great races. This horse has always showed a lot of heart and battled to the wire, win or lose.”
Zandon will soon take up stallion duty at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, but will likely race one more time in the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita according to Brown, who added that a Woodward win was important for the horse’s reception at stud.
“He’ll probably have his last career start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Brown said. “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.
“I’m so happy for [owner] Jeff Drown and his family. They love this horse and he’s been so important to them,” Brown added. “They’ve always thought highly of this horse, win or lose, and they’ve never been overly disappointed with some of those close calls. Spendthrift Farm, who really invested in this horse last year to get him before the [Kentucky] Derby, I’m happy that he’s got another graded win, and he looks like a really exciting prospect next year. We couldn’t be happier he’s going over there. With one start to go, hopefully he goes out on the highest note of all. We’ll see.”
Zandon, who returned $4 for a $2 win wager as the even-money favorite, improved his overall record to 13-3-6-3 and bankroll to $2,140,000 after earning $220,000 for Saturday’s win.
Bred in Kentucky by the late Brereton C. Jones, Zandon was purchased for $170,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Creative Cause mare Memories Prevail – a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winner Cairo Memories.
Live racing resumes Wednesday at Belmont at the Big A with a 10-race card that is co-headlined by a pair of Grade 2, $200,000 “Win and You’re In” qualifiers at 1 1/16 miles on turf in the Pilgrim [Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf] and the Miss Grillo [Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf]. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.