11/17/2012 12:21PM

Hollywood Park: Shirreffs 'excited and relieved' by Eblouissante's debut victory

Shigeki Kikkawa
Eblouissante, a half-sister to the great Zenyatta, wins her career debut by 4 1/4 lengths Friday at Hollywood.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – So what if Eblouissante, the half-sister to Zenyatta, did not make her debut until Friday, well into November of her 3-year-old year?

It was worth the wait for owner-breeder Eric Kronfeld.

“It just validates John Shirreffs’s beliefs as a trainer,” Kronfeld said in the winner’s circle. “He wanted to do what it took to allow the filly to grow into herself.”

“What’s the point of racing in May? Let them develop.”

Kronfeld could enjoy himself after he watched Eblouissante, who is by Bernardini, win a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles by 4 1/4 lengths. Kronfeld also bred the popular mare Zenyatta, the 2010 Horse of the Year, but sold her as a yearling in 2005. He held on to Eblouissante, hoping for the best. Despite high expectations, Kronfeld was stunned by what he saw on Friday.

“I didn’t think she’d win like that,” Kronfeld said.

Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Eblouissante ($4.80) closed from seventh to win in 1:45.27. She caught pacesetter Saturday Nite Ride inside the eighth pole and drew off late. Chestnut Moon finished second, a half-length in front of Saturday Nite Ride.

While following the legacy of Zenyatta, who won 19 of 20 starts, is almost impossible to duplicate, Eblouissante won in a very promising style.

In the moments after Friday’s race, Shirreffs said he was both “excited and relieved” by the result.

“She’s such a beautiful racehorse and she performed so well,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this day.

“I thought she handled everything well. It was her first time and she didn’t know what was going on. She couldn’t have handled herself better.”

In recent weeks, Shirreffs said that Eblouissante had shown more determination in finishing her workouts. She displayed the same tendency in Friday’s race, moving from sixth-place to second from the end of the backstretch to early stretch.

“It looks like something clicks and she knows she should catch the horses in front of her,” Shirreffs said. “We’ve seen that in the morning.

“Corey did a great job with her. We wanted to find a rhythm.”

Shirreffs and Kronfeld are hoping that Eblouissante can start in an allowance race before this meeting ends on Dec. 16 or at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, which opens on Dec. 26. Kronfeld lives in New York, but admitted that transcontinental flights will be common for him next year to keep up with Eblouissante.

“I may have to move here,” he said.

Kronfeld no longer owns Vertigineux, the dam of Eblouissante and Zenyatta, having sold her privately in 2008.

Eblouissante’s win came almost five years to the day of Zenyatta’s debut on Nov. 22, 2007. Zenyatta started her career in a race over 6 1/2 furlongs, winning by three lengths. She won her first 19 starts before finishing second to Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in her final race.

Zenyatta, 8, resides in Kentucky as a broodmare.