11/14/2012 3:27PM

Hollywood Park: Zenyatta's half-sister makes long awaited debut

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Emiy Shields
The 3-year-old filly Eblouissante, a half-sister to Zenyatta, will make her first start going 1 1/16 miles in a maiden race Friday at Hollywood Park.

They have the same trainer, are starting their careers at virtually the same time of their lives, and both have avid followings.

There is no way around it. All eyes will be on Zenyatta’s younger half-sister, the first-time starter Eblouissante, when she makes her career debut in the fourth race on Friday at Betfair Hollywood Park.

“We’re looking at her as another first-time starter, trying to at least,” trainer John Shirreffs said.

Shirreffs, who became nationally famous as Zenyatta’s trainer, knows that will not be easy.

Zenyatta, who retired after the 2010 season as a winner of 19 of 20 starts, was named the 2010 Horse of the Year and captured the attention of racing fans nationwide with her 19-race winning streak. She lost to Blame in her final start, which came in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

With Zenyatta now a broodmare in Kentucky, there is no horse in California that grabs the attention of horse enthusiasts and general sports fans like she did.

Eblouissante, a 3-year-old, lives in Zenyatta’s old stall at Shirreffs’s barn, and sometimes reminds the trainer of her older half-sister.

“She’s such a magnificent-looking horse,” Shirreffs said. “She has a lot of characteristics of her sister.”

Zenyatta was a massive racemare, and Eblouissante is similarly big, he said.

Zenyatta is by Street Cry and is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss.

Eblouissante is by Bernardini and is owned by Eric Kronfeld of New York, who bred Zenyatta and sold her as a yearling. Zenyatta and Eblouissante are out of Vertigineux, a mare by Kris S., whose first claim to fame was producing the millionaire Balance.

Eblouissante has been in training with Shirreffs since the spring of 2011. She has had 45 recorded workouts since June 2011, and has been working steadily since early August. There were times in the past year, Shirreffs said, that Eblouissante was close to a race, but that he was not content with her condition.

“I didn’t see any point in it,” Shirreffs said. “She’s grown so much.

“There were a couple of times she was close to running and needed one more work and she had a growth spurt or lost some weight. I couldn’t lean on her and run her.”

In the last month, Shirreffs said he has noticed improvement.

“Her last three or four works, she has started to put it together,” he said. “She worked in company and was going after the horse in front of her. That was a big change for her.”

Zenyatta began her career on Nov. 22, 2007, winning a maiden race at Hollywood Park over 6 1/2 furlongs. Eblouissante’s first start is over 1 1/16 miles.

“Her best chance is to get into a nice rhythm,” Shirreffs said. “If she gets upset or gets hurried, it could go against her.”

Mike Smith was the regular rider of Zenyatta, but Corey Nakatani will ride Eblouissante.

“Corey has won about three races for me and I was happy with how he was doing,” Shirreffs said. “I wanted to give him the opportunity.”

Kronfeld is scheduled to travel from New York for Friday’s race, which has drawn a field of eight 3-year-old fillies.

Chestnut Moon, second by a nose in a maiden race at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, will attract support as will Belonging. Trained by John Sadler, Belonging was a fast-closing sixth in a maiden race at Del Mar on Aug. 12, her only start.

Belonging is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss.