09/29/2011 4:13PM

Santa Anita: Zazu a legitimate threat in Lady's Secret

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Zazu was a sharp second against older horses in the Clement Hirsch.

ARCADIA, Calif. – While the focus of the Grade 1, $250,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita rightly focuses on the match between champion Blind Luck and Eastern invader Ask the Moon, trainer John Sadler is hoping he can sneak up on those two with Zazu, who twice in her career has pulled off mild upsets against marquee runners.

Earlier this year at Santa Anita, Zazu defeated the previously unbeaten Turbulent Descent in the Las Virgenes Stakes, and then this summer at Hollywood Park, Zazu upset Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty in the Hollywood Oaks. Zazu, 3, comes into the Lady’s Secret following a sharp, second-place effort in her first start against older horses in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar. She has proven repeatedly that she should not be taken lightly.

“She’s run well on whatever surface she’s been on,” Sadler said Thursday morning, a little more than 48 hours before the race. “She won a Grade 1 here in the winter, was unlucky in the Kentucky Oaks, won at Hollywood Park, and ran great at Del Mar. She’s never seen one she hasn’t handled.”

Zazu will encounter another new surface on Saturday. Santa Anita’s main track was refurbished during the summer. It is not the same dirt that was here for the Las Virgenes, and it is certainly not the synthetic surface over which Zazu defeated maidens here one year ago.

“If it’s similar to what was here earlier this year, that’s probably good for her,” Sadler said.

With an outside post, Zazu figures to be placed wherever jockey Joel Rosario desires.

“As the year has progressed, she’s gotten more into her races earlier,” Sadler said. “She used to drop out of it, but now she can sneak up on them mid-race.”

The Lady’s Secret will be won by someone other than Zenyatta for the first time since 2007. Zenyatta won it the last three years. But owners Jerry and Ann Moss are going for a four-peat, because Zenyatta’s owners also own Zazu.

The Lady’s Secret, at 1 1/16 miles, is Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race, earning its winner a fees-paid berth in the BC Ladies’ Classic on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

Blind Luck will be making her first start in 2 1/2 months. Though she has won three straight races, she was beaten in her two starts at Santa Anita earlier this year. Jerry Hollendorfer, her trainer and co-owner, said Blind Luck’s feet were bothering her while training at Santa Anita last winter, and that’s one reason he chose to keep her at Hollywood Park since vacating Del Mar.

“Another reason is that we weren’t sure how that track would be after they laid it down, so we took the conservative route,” Hollendorfer said the other morning at Hollywood Park. “We knew what we were getting here.”

Ask the Moon comes off front-running victories in the Ruffian and Personal Ensign at Saratoga in her last two starts. A desire to keep her around two turns, and away from Havre de Grace, prompted trainer Marty Wolfson to come here rather than run in the Beldame at Belmont Park on Saturday. Ask the Moon is the one to catch, though Champagne d’Oro has shown enough speed in the past to at least be an early nuisance.

Ultra Blend has won 6 of her last 8 starts, including the Hirsch last time out against Zazu. Though Ultra Blend is accomplished in sprints, too, trainer Art Sherman said he is looking at the Lady’s Secret as a springboard to the Ladies’ Classic.

“She’s fresh and coming into the race in good shape,” Sherman said. “The key is to give her a month between races. When you’re going to the Breeders’ Cup, you can’t duck anybody. We’ll see if she fits. After Saturday, we’ll have a little better clue.”

Lady's Secret Field

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER

1

Blind Luck G. Gomez
124 Lbs
J. Hollendorfer

1

Champagne d'Oro J. Talamo
119 Lbs
E. Guillot

1

Ask the Moon M. Garcia
124 Lbs
M. Wolfson

1

Love Theway Youare C. Santiago Reyes
116 Lbs
M. Cho

1

Great Hot (BRZ) C. Sutherland
116 Lbs
A. Avila

1

Ultra Blend D. Flores
124 Lbs
A. Sherman

1

Zazu J. Rosario
118 Lbs
J. Sadler