Updated on 01/18/2013 9:43AM

Santa Anita: Zenyatta sister Eblouissante returns at next level

Shigeki Kikkawa
Based on a maiden win by more than four lengths, Eblouissante will be strongly favored Thursday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – One other-than, take two.

Eblouissante, Zenyatta’s half-sister and crushing maiden winner in her only start, resumes her career Thursday in a first-level allowance at Santa Anita, one month after she banged her hip on a receiving barn door at Betfair Hollywood Park and scratched 30 minutes out.

“She had a little swelling after she hit her hip, but it went away and she seems fine,” trainer John Shirreffs said. In fact, Eblouissante missed no training after the allowance-race scratch Dec. 15. She returned to the track the next day and worked four times since.

[SANTA ANITA: Get Thursday's past performances]

Based on a maiden win by more than four lengths (88 Beyer Speed Figure), Eblouissante will be strongly favored Thursday in the 1 1/16-mile race. Meanwhile, Shirreffs and owner-breeder Eric Kronfeld will try to stay realistic with a filly who has raced only once. It is easier said than done.

“It’s a little tough when it is Zenyatta’s sister. You think of all the possibilities,” Shirreffs said. “You have to keep your feet on the ground, right? And the horse has to prove it in the afternoon.”

A 4-year-old by Bernardini, Eblouissante was patiently prepared to make her career debut late in her 3-year-old year, same as Zenyatta.

Racing 1 1/16 miles first out, Eblouissante was rated by Corey Nakatani near the back and guided outside nearing the far turn.

She rallied in the clear, made the lead inside the eighth pole, and pulled away.

Eblouissante beat an ordinary field. Only one of her rivals has run back – fourth-place Belonging returned to finish second against maidens. It is not a knock on Eblouissante, but her competition will get tougher as she moves forward. Shirreffs believes Eblouissante also will improve, now that she knows what racing is all about.

“She had to go through all the steps,” he said. “She had to go over there, get saddled, and run. It’s something you can’t really do in the morning, gaining a piece of experience. She went to the next level of fitness and experience for a racehorse. As they progress, they have to keep better and better.”

Eblouissante faces four rivals Thursday, including Folk Dancer, a 9-for-37 veteran trained by Vladimir Cerin who is the only multiple winner in the field.

“I filled the race for” Eblouissante, Cerin said.

Sure, he did. Folk Dancer, who is entered for a $40,000 claiming price, might not win, but nine wins and $240,042 proves she is no slouch. She also has established form on the Santa Anita dirt track, where she is stabled. Three others in the field also have raced or trained at Santa Anita – Double Ante, Viva Carina, and Pink Blossom.

Eblouissante has never run over a track other than Hollywood.

Shirreffs was asked – does it matter? “Only if you don’t believe she can handle the dirt,” he said.

What does Shirreffs think?

“I think she can handle anything,” he said