Friday, March 18, 2016
Zenyatta and Azeri are among the very fine fillies and mares who have shipped to Oaklawn Park from Southern California over the decades and captured important graded stakes. Now trainer Peter Eurton hopes that Kyriaki will soon join such esteemed company when she contests Saturday's Grade 2 $350,000 event named in honor of Azeri.
The 6-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy has been competing of late in Grade 2 company on her home track at Santa Anita, and most recently was a solid fourth in the Santa Maria against some of the West Coast's top females after encountering a troubled trip.
“The other day (Feb. 15) she was running against some nice fillies and was making a nice little inside move and some good progress but she got checked,” said Eurton, from Florida where he attending the sales. “It's tough to get her back going again. I'd like to see her running behind the pace. If he (Mario Gutierrez) can get her out in the clear when the running starts and not get stopped, I think she can be competitive," he said from Florida, where he is attending the sales.”
Kyriaki, who has four wins from 20 starts, is 10-1 in the morning line and is co-highweighted at 119 pounds. She gas won three times at the distance of one mile, all last year, but has never finished first at the 1 1/6 miles distance of the Azeri.
“I think a mile isn't that much different than a mile and a sixteenth,” said Eurton. “That's a lot better than going one turn, because with one turn she tries to stay up in the race and the fractions are so quick that she meets her anaerobic end way too soon and she gets herself fried because she's so competitive. The pace is a little bit slower when you're going the two turns, but I do think that a mile and a sixteenth is as far as she wants to go.”
Not only will Kyriaki have to handle the shipping, the trip, and competing on a new racing strip for the first time, but the salty field of eight includes champion and multiple Grade 1 winner Untapable, who has earned more than $3.8 million in her career and is the even-money favorite.
“This isn't going to be an easy race by any means, not with (Grade 2 winner) Sarah Sis and Untapable in there,” said Eurton. “But she's a fighter, and there are so many races she's won by just a nose.
I'm not saying she can win, especially if Untapable shows up as the 'Real Girl' and then it's her race to lose, but I know she's going to try and I think she's going to make it interesting in the last part of the race. We'll just have to see.”
Kyriaki, who reportedly handled her travel extremely well and has not missed an oat, was bright-eyed and energetic when she went out on the track Thursday morning for an easy gallop.
“I haven't over-trained her. I put one useful work into her and galloped her a lot,” said her conditioner.
Eurton was trying to arrange flights so he could saddle the mare Saturday, but just in case, fellow Southern California-based trainer Doug O’Neill will tighten the girth. O'Neill, who runs Reddam Racing’s homebred Ralis in the Grade 2 $900,000 Rebel, is traveling to Hot Springs with Zillah and Paul Reddam on their private jet.
Trainer Jeffery Lynn has been on the racetrack and around Oaklawn Park for about 30 years and once worked as a groom for noted horseman T.V. Smith. Since going out on his own 20 years back, he has never experienced the glory of a graded stakes victory.
On Saturday, he's pinning his hopes on a 4yo old filly named Meshell to give him that career milestone.
“Winning a race like the $100,000Azeri (Grade 2) would be a big deal for me," Lynn said. "A really big deal.”
The daughter of Elusive Quality, who is the sire of Oaklawn's multiple graded stakes-winning Smarty Jones, has come in third when competing in the $100,000 American Beauty and Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes here 8n her last two races against some of the same fillies and mares she'll line up in the gate with Saturday. Now that champion Untapable enters the fray, the waters have gotten much deeper.
“This filly has a lot of pedigree and we're trying to see if this is where we belong. It looks like we belong at the $100,000 level and we'll try this and hopefully, we fit it this level. She's only four and she seems to be getting better. She's always been very competitive and tries hard. Just look at her record. She's been in the money in ten out of twelve races. She's a nice little filly," he said.
Lynn has 12 horses in his barn and there is no question who is the stable star, and the adored one.
“She's by far the best of them, by far. We go five thousand (claiming horses) and then there's her,” he said. “She's pretty special.”
Although Theogony has been installed at 10-1 in the early line, trainer Mark Casse thinks it may be unwise to overlook the 6-year-ol daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the Azeri field.
Theogony finished a badly beaten fourth last time out in the Grade 3 Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston, but he thinks her second by a neck finish in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes here in the race before is more indicative of her ability.
“She should have won that race,” said Casse, who did not get her until she was a 4-year-old and termed her a “project.”
“She was extremely wide. I thought she was the best horse in the race. Then I took her down to Houston and that was probably a mistake. It was back a little quick for her. We had trouble with the trip and nothing went right. I'm just throwing that one out. I brought her back to Oaklawn to regroup but this is a much tougher group.”
Theogony will be piloted by Oaklawn's three-time and current leading rider Ricardo Santana, Jr. as they break from post No. 3 from a gate that will also hold graded stakes winners Untapable, Sarah Sis, Call Pat, and High Dollar Woman.
“This is a tough field. We're just hoping for the best," said Casse. “I don't know what to think about it. I guess she'll let us know Saturday afternoon.”