03/05/2011 6:35PM

Santa Anita Oaks goes to Turbulent Descent

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Benoit & Associates
Turbulent Descent just holds off Zazu to win the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Round Four of the match between Turbulent Descent and Zazu, on Saturday in the Santa Anita Oaks, went to Turbulent Descent, giving her a 3-1 edge, but the manner in which both horses finished indicates the rivalry may be over. They are headed in different directions, with Turbulent Descent off the trail to the Kentucky Oaks, while Zazu is very much on it.

Turbulent Descent got first run on Zazu on the final turn of the Grade 1, $250,000 Oaks, but she just lasted to win the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies by a neck. It was the fourth win in five starts for Turbulent Descent, her second Grade 1 win, her second victory at 1 1/16 miles, and avenged her lone loss, which came in last month’s Las Virgenes Stakes to Zazu.

But trainer Mike Puype was soberly realistic about what he had just seen.

“She’s a brilliant filly, I think she’s tops in the country, but I think she’s maxed out at a mile and a sixteenth,” Puype said in the winner’s circle on a sunny, warm afternoon. “I’d say the Kentucky Oaks is out of the picture.”

Instead, Puype said, he would look at Grade 1 races around one turn, the likely candidates being the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in June and the Test Stakes at Saratoga in August.

“She can still be the 3-year-old filly horse of the year,” Puype said, referring to the divisional Eclipse Award, “by winning those types of races.”

David Flores gave Turbulent Descent a perfect trip. She settled into third place during the run down the backstretch, behind and to the outside of pacesetter May Day Rose, who set fractions of 23.31 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 46.67 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:10.67 for six furlongs.

As the field went around the turn, Turbulent Descent crept toward the lead, and Flores sneaked a peak to see if Zazu was coming. She was.

Turbulent Descent burst clear at the top of the stretch and was two lengths in front with a furlong to go, but Zazu surged late, and they flashed under the wire in a stakes-record 1:41.05 for 1 1/16 miles. A Z Warrior was third, 5 1/2 lengths behind, then came Kilograeme and May Day Rose.

Turbulent Descent, a daughter of Congrats, was purchased as a 2-year-old in training in Florida by former trainer Greg Gilchrist. She is owned by a partnership that includes the Blinkers On Racing stable and Bill Strauss.