Bernardini breakthrough at Hollywood Park

A Z Warrior became the first winner for Darley hero Bernardini when she scored a front-running victory at Hollywood Park on Thursday.  The filly accelerated to a clear lead and stayed on resolutely under Martin Garcia to win by 1.5 lengths.  She clocked 64s for 1100m on the cushion track.

A Z Warrior (2f Bernardini – Carson Jen by Carson City) is trained by Bob Baffert and holds an entry for the G1 Darley Debutante Stakes at Del Mar on September 4.  She is a half-sister to G3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship winner E.Z. Warrior (Exploit).

Owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat refused a bid of $775,000 for A Z Warrior at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale.  That speaks volumes for her potential because Zayat’s creditors requested that a receiver should be appointed to take over his racing stable earlier this year.  

Zayat has been one of North America’s leading owners in recent years racing Group 1 winners like champion sprinter Zensational and Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof The Nile.

Thoroughbred Daily News reported that Zayat Stables lost $65.5 million from 2006 to 2009 and expected a cash flow deficit of almost $3 million in 2010.

Zayat would have wiped out all those debts in one hit if his Giant’s Causeway colt Eskendereya remained sound instead of breaking down in April.  He was the pre-post favourite for the Kentucky Derby and a win would have put him back in the black within two minutes at Churchill Downs.

Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables subsequently bought a share in Eskendereya and he is also a Bernardini fan.  He topped the Keeneland 2YO Sale in April when paying a $625,000 for a Bernardini colt.

Jackson is best known for campaigning USA Horse of the Year award winners Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.  The latter is by Darley shuttler Medaglia d’Oro.

Bernardini is another Darley sire scheduled to arrive at Kelvinside Stud next month.  He has averaged 150 mares in his two books in Australia and his first southern foals were in demand at the 2010 Magic Millions National weanling sale.

Rothwell Park offered for four of his foals at the Gold Coast and topping the bill was a colt from Palace Music mare Tennis that made $110,000 to the bid of Peter Walker.  Tennis has already thrown five winners and she is a sister to the dam of stakes winners Nediym’s Glow (General Nediym) and Red Colossus (Testa Rossa).  

Bernardini will stand for a $38,500 fee in Australia this year.  He stood the past northern season at Darley’s Jonabell base in Kentucky for US$60,000.  There are 109 juveniles in his first northern crop and, if anything like their sire, should keep improving as the year progresses.   

Bernardini (A.P. Indy) was unraced as a two year-old.  He was patiently handled by trainer Tom Albertrani and did not appear in Sheikh Mohammed’s colours until he was a new-season three year-old at the Gulfstream Park meeting in January 2006.

After an educational fourth on debut, he reeled off a seven length maiden win and followed up with a three length victory in the G3 Withers Stakes.

Taking on the best of his generation third time out, Bernardini sailed home by five lengths in the G1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.  He continued to dominate the three year-old division at the Saratoga meeting with a nine length runaway in the G2 Jim Dandy Stakes and a seven length stroll in the G1 Travers Stakes.

More seasoned rivals didn’t pose a serious challenge either in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont where he coasted to a six length victory.

Bernardini should have made it seven in a row in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.  He was sent off an even-money favourite but was the victim of early interference and an ill-judged ride.

The Bloodhorse reported jockey Javier Castellano “launched a premature move in the teeth of a demanding pace” down the back straight.  He took the lead into the lane but was left a sitting shot for Sheikh Hamdan’s Argentine import Invasor.

Bernardini was named the 3YO Eclipse Award winner and retired with a 8: 6-1-0 career card and over $3.06 million in prizemoney.