01/13/2011 3:55PM

Rosario replaces Smith on Zazu in Santa Ynez

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Zazu will have a new jockey when she makes her first start of the season as the favorite in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Jockey changes are no big deal, usually. It is a big deal Saturday at Santa Anita because Zazu is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and was ridden in her last three starts by the Mosses’ regular jockey, Mike Smith.

Trainer John Sadler said he recognizes the implications of replacing Smith with Joel Rosario. The change splits one of the most popular jockey-owner teams in recent California history, two days before Team Zenyatta is honored with a special Eclipse Award.

Sadler said he is more focused on winning the race, less concerned with political repercussions. He said the Mosses do not meddle in the affairs of the trainer, anyway.

“What they do is give me a free hand,” Sadler said. “I am trying something different, mixing it up.”

Sadler said Zazu was ridden fine by Smith during a three-race sequence that included a maiden win, a runner-up finish in the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes, and a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. But he said the switch to Rosario should take none by surprise.

“He’s my main rider, I use him a lot,” Sadler said. “Rosario fits [Zazu]. He understands what I want to do.”

In the seven-furlong Santa Ynez, Sadler might want Rosario to take back and make a run. As a daughter of Tapit, she may prefer the sprint over the 1 1/16-mile Starlet, in which she finished fifth behind undefeated Turbulent Descent.

“Right now, at this time, I like her short,” Sadler said. “She’ll have more opportunities later to run long.”

A field of seven entered the Santa Ynez, race 6 on the nine-race card.

California Nectar, winner of the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on Dec. 27, could set the pace under Pat Valenzuela. She has two wins and three seconds in six starts for trainer Doug O’Neill.

Plum Pretty, trained by Bob Baffert, makes her second start with super works and blinkers off.

“I want to get her to relax a little bit,” Baffert said.

Rafael Bejarano chose Plum Pretty over Star Presence, a Baffert-trained horse who will be ridden by Smith.

Other starters include Warren’s Flyer, Alec’s Moon, and Sadler-trained Teroda.