Photo by Terri Cage
The dark, large horse loped along the backside of Hollywood Park on Thanksgiving Day, several lengths separating the debuting three-year-old filly from the pacesetter. It was just another maiden race, featuring a field of Thoroughbreds that, as three-year-olds or older, weren’t nearly as exciting as a group of maiden juveniles. But that dark, large horse swept past her rivals in the stretch with a stunning turn of foot that left witnesses in awe of her triumph. Little did the world know, this filly would become America’s sweetheart, garnering over $7 million in earnings, winning thirteen grade one events, and capturing the hearts of racing fans across the world. The filly was none other than Zenyatta.
Almost exactly five years later, Zenyatta’s half-sister, Eblouissante, debuted at Hollywood Park, becoming one of the most hyped maidens of all-time. Prior to her initial race, the huge, dark-colored three-year-old filly had recorded forty-five works under trainer John Shirreffs, acquiring a large fan club before she even went to post for the first time. As the considerably sized filly sauntered before fans in the post parade for her first start, the racing world was abuzz regarding whether or not Eblouissante could live up to the hype.
She did. Breaking from the third gate among a field of eight as the only first-time starter in the group, Eblouissante emerged from the starting gate cleanly, settling amid the closers with Corey Nakatani aboard. With just one horse behind her, Eblouissante galloped easily into the backstretch, racing along the rail. Her long, dark tail flowed behind her, her powerful stride covering ground as she ran near the rear of the field. It was impossible not to see shades of Zenyatta as one gazed upon the debuting filly.
Eblouissante appeared comfortable down the backside and began to inch forward as the far turn approached. With minimal urging from Nakatani, Eblouissante gradually commenced her rally as the track began to curve, passing the forerunning group with easy strides in just a short amount of time. By the time the field reached the quarter pole, Eblouissante was just a length behind the leader, looming large on the outside as the fillies prepared to enter the homestretch.
Despite not being the carrier of the Moss’ silks, it was like watching Zenyatta as the Thoroughbreds came into the final stretch. To Nakatani’s asking, Eblouissante accelerated, overtaking the leader mid-stretch while displaying an impressive turn of foot, galloping effortlessly to a 4 ¼-length victory with an authoritative stride that resembled that of her older sister.
It’s no secret that this maiden winner has a royal pedigree. Just her title of “Zenyatta’s half-sister” is intimidating enough. However, there is more to her ancestry than that.
Interestingly, Eblouissante is sired by Bernardini, who is also the sire of Zenyatta’s first foal. Bernardini, victor of three grade ones, has proven to be a quality sire in his young stud career, producing five grade one winners. The choice for many top-class racemares, Bernardini is a son of the great A.P. Indy, who has produced nearly thirty grade one winners, including Bernardini, Flashing, Mineshaft, Little Belle, Music Note, and Rags to Riches. The A.P. Indy sire line from which Eblouissante descends has been highly successful, as A.P. Indy is also the sire of such productive studs as Congrats, Malibu Moon, Mineshaft, Pulpit, and Stephen Got Even.
The dam of Eblouissante is of course the incredibly successful Vertigineux, who quickly became a useful broodmare when her first foal, Where’s Bailey, became a black-type winner in the South. But she really made impressions when her second foal, Balance, had a terrific two-year-old campaign in southern California, winning a stakes race while placing in not only a non-graded stakes, but also the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (GI). Balance furthered Vertigineux’s value when she later triumphed in the Las Virgenes Stakes (GI), the Santa Anita Oaks (GI), the La Canada Stakes (GII), and the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (GI). Shortly after Balance’s career ended came the debut of not only Vertigineux’s best offspring, but one of the best racehorses the world has ever seen: Zenyatta. The great mare went nineteen-for-twenty, winning thirteen grade ones, including the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), the latter in which she became the only female racehorse to ever win the race. Zenyatta captured four Eclipse Award titles throughout her career– including Horse of the Year. Vertigineux has also produced Souper Spectacular, an earner of over $100,000 who has twice finished fourth in grade three events.
Vertigineux had the support of Kris S as her sire when she entered her career as a broodmare, as the son of the influential Roberto has recently proven to be among the best broodmare sires. Vertigineux herself is out of a successful broodmare, being a daughter of the dam of the multiple stakes-winning and group stakes-placed Restrained and the group stakes-placed On the Staff. Her damsire, the Argentinian Horse of the Year Forli, was also the broodmare sire of such horses as the champions Nureyev, Precisionist, and Swale. As a member of female family four, Vertigineux is among an elite group that descends from the Layton Barb mare. Other descendants of this female family include the dams of the Triple Crown winners Assault and Gallant Fox, as well as the champions Afleet Alex, Bowl of Flowers, Hail to Reason, Real Quiet, and Sunny’s Halo. Vertigineux was recently named not only 2008 Broodmare of the Year, but also a Reine De Course mare, and rightfully so.
One cannot expect for Eblouissante to become another Zenyatta, as the racing world will never see another Zenyatta. However, we do seem to have another superstar on our hands. Regal bloodlines and famous sister aside, Eblouissante’s debut truly lived up to her name, which means “dazzling” in French. A Thoroughbred simply cannot have much more remarkable parentage than this filly and it is impossible to deny that Eblouissante’s maiden victory was brilliant.