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QUEEN OF THE HILL’ UNZIP ME HAS SCORE TO SETTLE WITH JIM ROME’S MIZDIRECTION IN SATURDAY’S GRADE III LAS CIENEGAS HANDICAP
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 11, 2012) – Just about the closest thing to a lock over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course, seven-for-eleven Unzip Me has a score to settle among six entrants in Saturday’s 38th running of the Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap for older fillies and mares.
The 6-year-old California-bred daughter of City Zip might seem headed in the direction of yet another triumph over the 6 ½-furlong layout she adores except for a single gray area: Mizdirection.
Owned by popular sports-talk radio and television personality Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing and partners, Mizdirection upset Unzip Me in their only previous meeting, the Grade III Monrovia Stakes over the course on Jan. 2. And it was a convincing victory; the pair was separated by 1 ¾ lengths as Unzip Me dead-heated for third.
Marty Jones, who trains homebred Unzip Me for Harris Farms, Donald Valpredo, Per Antonsen and partners, offered little excuse for the 6-5 favorite. “She had a pretty good trip,” Jones said. “They were flying. They really set it up for someone from behind.”
With Garrett Gomez in the saddle at odds of 3-1, Mizdirection did come from well off the pace. The 4-year-old gray filly rallied from sixth to win going away. The outcome left Rome gushing after achieving his first graded stakes victory as a Thoroughbred owner.
“Garrett Gomez can host the show tomorrow,” he exclaimed. “Garrett can do my TV show; it’s Garrett’s world, whatever he wants. Garrett Gomez is burning. I’ve had a lot of really good things happen to me in business and in life, but nothing has ever felt as good as that, in a professional sense. . .I don’t know anything that’s ever felt that good.”
Rome, one must assume, would be hopeful that David Flores can handle his next TV show. With Gomez riding at Keeneland on Saturday, Flores has been named to ride Mizdirection, who drew post position No. 5. Unzip Me must start from the less desirable rail coming down the hill.
Under the handicap conditions of the Las Cienegas, Mizdirection and Unzip Me each will carry co-high weight of 122 pounds on Saturday. The latter carried a career high 127 one year ago when losing by a neck to Separate Forest in the Las Cienegas. She won the event under 118 pounds the previous year.
Joe Talamo, who has ridden Unzip Me to five victories, will take over for absent Rafael Bejarano as the chestnut mare attempts to become a millionaire. She has earned $959,228 from an overall record of 14-4-4 in 25 starts. The winner’s share of the Las Cienegas is $60,000. Unzip Me has been so consistent that she has hit the board in 18 of her last 19 starts, and she missed victory by one length in the exception: a fourth-place finish behind Broken Dreams in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes last September.
A daughter of Mizzen Mast trained by Mike Puype, Mizdirection seeks her fourth straight victory on Saturday. Her 2 ½-length win in the Clockers’ Corner Handicap on Feb. 25 made Mizdirection two-for-two over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course. The $50,000 auction purchase has earned $300,111 from a record of 5-3-1 in nine career starts.
Broken Dreams, a 5-1 shot when upsetting Unzip Me in the Maddy Stakes, will try to accomplish the same for a third time. Glen Hill Farms’ 5-year-old mare also defeated Unzip Me in a six furlong allowance event on turf at Hollywood Park last July when scoring by 1 ¼ lengths.
Broken Dreams, however, has been beaten by Unzip Me on three occasions. The homebred daughter of Broken Vow has earned $257,833 from a 5-5-1 record in 17 lifetime starts. She was assigned 119 pounds for the La Cienegas. Alonso Quinonez will be aboard for trainer Tom Proctor.
The complete field for the Las Cienegas Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Unzip Me, Joseph Talamo, 122; Teroda, Martin Garcia, 116; Saanneen, Eswan Flores, 114; Broken Dreams, Alonso Quinonez, 119; Mizdirection, David Flores, 122, and La Nez, Martin Pedroza, 116.
The Las Cienegas will be contested as the eighth race on a nine-race program. First post is at 12:30 p.m.