10/09/2010 5:03PM

A Z Warrior strong on dirt in Frizette

Barbara D. Livingston
A Z Warrior scores a 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Just because the Breeders’ Cup is going to be held on a dirt surface this year doesn’t mean the California-based horses used to running exclusively on synthetic surfaces are going to be at a disadvantage.

A Z Warrior, after a disappointing finish in the Grade 1 Darley Debutante, relished the dirt surface at Belmont Park with an eye-catching 1 3/4-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Frizette Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Belmont Park. The victory earned A Z Warrior an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

R Heat Lightning, the Spinaway winner and 9-5 Frizette favorite, rallied to be second after breaking terribly and racing rank. It was 3 1/2 lengths back to Joyful Victory in third. She was followed in the order of finish by Valiant Passion, Tap for Luck, Coax Liberty, Maple Forest, and After Later. Promise Me a Cat scratched.

A Z Warrior won her debut at Hollywood Park before finishing second in the Grade 3 Sorrento and fifth in the Debutante, the latter two at Del Mar. Trainer Bob Baffert didn’t think his A Z Warrior liked Del Mar, something that was confirmed when he brought her back to Hollywood Park in early September.

“We got her to Hollywood, she started working just really awesome,” Baffert said by phone from Hollywood Park. “Different filly when she got up here; she hated Del Mar. We’ve always been very high on her. The last race was disappointing. It wasn’t her. I thought the one-turn mile would be a good spot. It worked.”

A Z Warrior broke alertly under Alan Garcia, who was content to stalk Coax Liberty through a quarter in 22.87 seconds and a half-mile in 46.25. A Z Warrior poked a head in front at the three-eighths pole. As Coax Liberty dropped back, Joyful Victory looked poised to challenge A Z Warrior.

Turning into the stretch, however, Garcia shook A Z Warrior up, and she ran away from her seven rivals. A Z Warrior, a daughter of Bernardini owned by Ahmed Zayat, covered the mile in 1:35.68 and returned $9.80 to win.

“I knew the fractions weren’t real fast, but she was very comfortable and relaxed in my hands,” Garcia said. “Turning for home, she really took off, but towards the end I said ‘We don’t want to use her up for this one.’ We wanted her to come back safe and sound and take the next step.”

Baffert said A Z Warrior would return to California to train before shipping to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup.

“She’s a classy filly, she’s got a great mind,” Baffert said. “She can ship and run.”

The rail was no help for R Heat Lightning, who broke to the left so far that she was inside the chute briefly. She tossed her head about down the backside, before relaxing somewhat around the turn under John Velazquez. Though she re-rallied to get second, it was clear she wasn’t going to catch the winner.

“By the time she got going, the other horse already had four or five lengths on her,” Velazquez said. “By the time I got her clear and running, it was too late for her.”