11/15/2012 1:58PM

Breeders' Cup winners Zagora, Flotilla pay off for Zerolo

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Barbara D. Livingston
Zagora, bred by Michel Zerolo, won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Nov. 2 and three days later was sold for $2.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton mixed sale.

Few breeders have experienced the sort of whirlwind Michel Zerolo did the first weekend of November.

Zerolo, the owner of Oceanic Bloodstock, watched two horses he co-bred, Zagora and Flotilla, capture Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 2, the Filly and Mare Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf. Oceanic was the only breeder represented by two winners at this year’s event.

Some 72 hours later, Zerolo watched Zagora, consigned by Oceanic on behalf of owner Martin Schwartz, sell for $2.5 million to Nicolas de Watrigant’s Mandore International Agency at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky selected fall mixed sale. It was the sixth-highest price on a star-studded evening.

“It’s been an outstanding week,” Zerolo said, standing in the barn at the Newtown Paddocks in Lexington moments after Zagora’s sale. “I’m not going to say ‘once in a lifetime,’ because I hope it will happen again. It’s fabulous when you go every step of the way [with a horse]. You breed them, you sell them, you’re given the opportunity to buy them back, you follow their racing career, you watch them sell to a very good home. I know she’s going to a very good home − she’s actually going back to France. It’s wonderful. It’s beyond emotion.”

Zerolo, now based in Miami, began his career with show jumpers before moving to the racetrack, working for several trainers and eventually for the Aga Khan breeding operation in Ireland. After a period working with stallions at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, he went out on his own and found success for many years purchasing European horses for the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Among the dozens of graded stakes winners Zerolo helped select for the trainer was Starine, who won the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Zerolo bred Zagora, by Green Tune, in France in partnership with Eric Puerari, who originally selected the mare’s dam, the unraced Mtoto mare Zaneton. Zagora sold for $139,394 at the 2008 Deauville yearling sale. About two years later, Zerolo helped purchase her on behalf of Schwartz.

“We met at the sales, and one day he called me and asked me to select a couple of horses for him,” Zerolo said of Schwartz. “And we’ve had pretty good luck together.”

Schwartz sent Zagora to trainer Chad Brown in the U.S. In a nice twist of fate, Brown was a longtime assistant to Frankel who went out on his own in late 2007, the year Zagora was foaled.

Zagora already had a stellar résumé before winning the Filly and Mare Turf. The mare arrived at Santa Anita with four graded stakes victories to her credit in 2012, and seven graded or group stakes wins overall, including the Grade 1 Diana Stakes in 2011 at Saratoga Race Course. Her Breeders’ Cup victory, which put her into the conversation for the female turf championship, gave her 10 wins in 22 career starts and earnings of $2,368,589.

“It’s a bonus, there’s no question,” Zerolo said of Zagora winning a Breeders’ Cup event. “For me as a breeder, it means way more, because I would say she is the Eclipse Award winner. I don’t know how [they’re] going to vote, but I would be heartbroken if she didn’t get it. She’s a wonderful filly because she’s so consistent. She has never run a really bad race, never, in her life.”

After being purchased by Mandore, Zagora will return to the country of her birth for her broodmare career.
Despite Zagora’s retirement, Oceanic will still be represented on the track by a rising star in 2013. Flotilla, bred in partnership with Puerari and Ariane Gravereaux, appears to be just getting started.

Zerolo purchased Flotilla’s dam, the Sinndar mare Louvain, for $322,712 as a 2-year-old at the 2004 Goffs France Arc de Triomphe sale on behalf of Frankel’s client Edmund Gann, who campaigned her in the U.S. for the latter half of her career. The owner hoped to campaign horses in Europe, leading to the selection of Mizzen Mast for the mare’s 2009 mating. But when Gann died in early 2010, Zerolo purchased Louvain from his estate, eventually selling the resulting yearling filly for $172,740 in 2011.

A year later, Zerolo watched Flotilla storm down the track for an upset victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

“They’re phenomenal. What can I say?” Zerolo said of watching Flotilla’s and Zagora’s victories. “I love them both. It’s like asking a parent − you’re going to get a silly response. You’re full of pride, and hope that they go on to the next level. In the case of Zagora [you hope she becomes] a very good broodmare and very lucky for the owner. And in the case of Flotilla, I hope she becomes a classic winner next year.”