Anjaz Returns In The Very One (G3)
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - The $100,000 The Very One Stakes going 11 furlongs on Saturday at Gulfstream Park will feature the return of Anjaz, who has not faced the starter since early August. Godolphin's regally bred daughter of Street Cry and Group 1 winner Playful Act has been scheduled to run several times in the interim, but has been at the mercy of external forces, according to trainer Tom Albertrani.
After beginning her career in Europe, Anjaz finished fourth in the Orchid Handicap (G3) last March at Gulfstream in her first start for Albertrani. She was second in the Sheepshead Bay Stakes (G2) at Belmont in May and rallied for the runner-up spot in the Waya Stakes at Saratoga on August 5.
"You talk about having bad luck. Every time she was supposed to run something happened," Albertrani explained. "At Saratoga, the Glens Falls (on September 2) came off the grass and we scratched her. She was supposed to run at Belmont, but the week before she bruised her foot, so we didn't get to run her in that race. And then she was supposed to run in the La Prevoyante [at Calder in December] and they decided to not even card the race. So between the weather and races that didn't go, she hasn't run in a while."
The 5-year-old has been breezing steadily at Palm Meadows since mid-November. Her dam, Playful Act, established a world record when she sold to Sheikh Mohammed for $10.5 million at Keeneland in 2007, and Albertrani is optimistic that Anjaz can live up to her pedigree in 2014.
"She's training really well and we are looking forward to getting her back on track," Albertrani added. "She's run some really good races in the past. We're trying to get a graded win for her, so hopefully she has a good season ahead of her this year. We're going to target all of the long races with her."
Anjaz will have Jose Lezcano in the irons when she breaks from post seven in The Very One.
Drawn outside in the eight-horse field is Viva Rafaela, a Brazilian import who is stretching back out in distance for trainer Todd Pletcher. The 5-year-old captured the Grande Premio Diana (G1) over a mile and a quarter in her Brazilian finale for owner-breeder Stud TNT, but has been competing in shorter contests in four starts in this country. While the bay mare notched a win in a nine-furlong allowance over the Gulfstream sod on November 11, her pace-pressing tactics in the Marshua's River Stakes (G3) in January didn't pay off and she faded to eighth.
"We are hoping for improvement in a three-turn race," Pletcher said. "She's been training well."
John Velazquez will pilot Viva Rafaela on Saturday.
Trainer Bill Mott, who saddled recent The Very One heroines Starformer (2013) and Changing Skies (2010), will have a serious contender in Preferential in Saturday's 29th renewal. Juddmonte Farms' daughter of Dansili has improved steadily since arriving in the U.S., most recently notching the 12-furlong Dowager Stakes at Keeneland on October 20. Jockey Julien Leparoux has the mount aboard Preferential, who is drawn in post five. Trainer Tom Proctor will have a pair of runners in The Very One. Glen Hill Farm's Left a Message, whose best form has come in longer events, stretches back out following a sixth in the Endeavour Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay on January 25. Gary Chervenell's Seanchai scored over this course and distance last January before finishing fourth in the 2013 running of The Very One. In her most recent outing, the daughter of English Channel came home fifth in an 8 1/2-furlong allowance at Gulfstream on January 18.
Left a Message and Seanchai will be next to one another in posts two and three on Saturday. Javier Castellano will ride Left a Message, while Paco Lopez will be aboard Seanchai.
The field for The Very One is completed by Aigue Marine (Joel Rosario), Dame Marie (Edgar Prado) and Inimitable Romanee (Alan Garcia).