Empyrean Stables' Zipessa notched her first Grade 1 win in Saturday's First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, adopting a new off-the-pace strategy and closing down the lane for a 1 1/2-length triumph. The 5-year-old City Zip mare, ridden by Joe Bravo, covered a mile over the firm turf in 1:36.99 for trainer Mike Stidham. Zipessa's win at odds of 16-1 earns her an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf over 1 1/8 miles next month at Del Mar. Off as the 2-1 favorite, Roca Rojo had to settle for third.
“She had this one (her first Grade 1 win) coming,” Stidham said. “She worked hard for it. She's a really sweet, special filly. (Winning rider) Joe Bravo is definitely the key to her success today along with (being) a really nice filly.”
Hawksmoor broke very awkwardly from her outside post position, darting toward the outside rail. Nonetheless, Julien Leparoux allowed the free-striding filly to rush up to the lead approaching the first turn, driving away to a three-length lead after a first quarter in :24.59. One Liz and Dickinson were trading punches in the second position while Zipessa was on the outside behind those in fourth.
Bravo felt the mild pace and moved Zipessa up to second behind the five-length leader to mark a half-mile in :49.19. Hawksmoor was still moving comfortably on the lead, though the field began to encroach on her lead nearing the far turn.
Zipessa was the quickest to make up ground, turning for home with two lengths to make up on Hawksmoor. Behind Zipessa was another two or so lengths to Dickinson and a wide-traveling Roca Rojo.
Down the stretch, Bravo urged Zipessa on with everything he had and she responded, taking over the lead nearing the sixteenth pole and holding on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Hawksmoor just held second at odds of 5-1 over the favorite Roca Rojo at 2-1, and Dona Bruja was up for fourth (2-1).
“That's the great thing about Michael and his team,” Bravo said. “He let me go out there and ride with an open mind. This filly, she can relax. She's gotten bigger, smarter, with age she's just gotten to be a better horse. She ran a big race last time (second by a neck in the Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs), and she's just getting better and better.”
Bred in Kentucky by G. Watts and Sally Humphrey, Zipessa was a $67,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall sale. She has improved with age, though she has always been a pretty consistent runner. The First Lady was her first top-level win and second graded win, improving Zipessa's overall record to 5-3-3 from 16 starts, with earnings of over $780,000.
Watch the race replay here:
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.