Mauro Eli Zaborowsky will enjoy his return flight to Brazil on Monday after his 6-year-old mare Thisfeatureisspecial won the $31,100 Merial California Distaff Challenge on Saturday at Los Alamitos after finishing second last year.
“I flew 14 hours from Brazil to Los Alamitos just to see this race,” said the longtime South American Quarter Horse owner. “The trip was well worth it. She’s our baby and we love her. My son, Marcos, has come to see most of her races, but it was my turn this time.”
The sorrel mare by Feature Mr Jess scored a head victory over Dean Frey’s Shez Jess Toxic to earn a berth to the Grade 1 Merial Distaff Challenge to be held at Los Alamitos on Saturday, November 9. The win was especially sweet for the connections after Thisfeatureisspecial ran second to AQHA champion aged mare Fredaville in last year’s Merial California Challenge. Her connections decided to leave the J.E. III, D.C., and C.T. Jumonville-bred mare in California for the winter and the mare nearly qualified to the Champion of Champions.
“We ran her in the (Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trials) and she finished a nose behind Jess You And I for the final spot to the Champion of Champions,” Zaborowsky said. “(Thisfeatureisspecial) should not even be racing right now. We bought her for a broodmare, but my son wanted to race her and (trainer) Paul Jones wanted to run her as well. My son manages our racehorses so we went ahead and raced her. She’s made nearly $150,000. The money is his because he makes the decisions.”
Ridden by Raul Valenzuela, who enjoyed a four-win night on Saturday at Los Alamitos, Thisfeatureisspecial covered the 400 yards in :19.616. The mare improved her career record to six wins from 25 starts and her career earnings to $150,758 after earning $13,155 for her Merial California victory. With Jones doing the training, the talented mare’s stakes record last year included a victory in the Junos Request Handicap at Remington Park, a second place finish in Grade 1 Mildred Vessels Memorial Handicap at Los Alamitos and a fourth place finish when facing the opposite sex in the Grade 1 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. In her previous start, Thisfeatureisspecial finished second to Tres Of Linda in the Grade 2 Charger Bar Handicap.
“She had a leg issue after her last start so she was off for 30 weeks,” the owner added. “She returned today with this effort. We got two embryos out of her as well - one by Fantastic Corona Jr and another one by Walk Thru Fire.”
Zaborowsky has been racing Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos for about 20 years.
“Benny Rosset and Marcelo Jorge are my good friends,” he said about his countrymen. “They started racing horses here a few years after I started. We’ll campaign this mare the rest of this year and probably next year as well. She’ll go to Brazil after that to start her broodmare career. We have 25 broodmares back home and 20 of them (came from the United States).”
Zaborowsky is one of his country’s all-time leading breeders. On Saturday, August 10, he earned his 200th Quarter Horse win as a breeder in Brazil, making him only the fifth breeder in the country to reach the mark. He’s currently the leading Quarter Horse breeder in Brazil.
As for Valenzuela, the young rider is making an impact at Los Alamitos. The jockey has won 28 Quarter Horse races this season with all of his victories coming since June 1. He’s the meet’s leading rider over that span.
“This is my biggest win at Los Alamitos and I can’t explain how great it feels,” he said. “I’ve worked hard, but I have to thank all the people that have supported and I have to thank Paul Jones for giving me the opportunity to ride this mare and I also have to thank my agent, Frank Quezada.”
Dean Frey’s Shez Jess Toxic, who won the 2011 John Deere Juvenile Challenge at Los Alamitos and the 2013 Merial Distaff Regional Challenge at Remington Park, earned $5,598 for her runner-up finish in this race. The 4-year-old mare by Take Off Jess was second to Check My Thoughts in last year’s Grade 1 Southern California Derby and was fourth in the Grade 2 Charger Bar Handicap earlier this year. She’s finished second or better in 11 of 13 career starts. Oscar Peinado piloted Shez Jess Toxic.
Lorena Velazquez Rodriguez’s Check N Fetch and Joleen Hales and Christian and Ru Anna Singletary’s Tres Of Linda finished in a dead-heat for third place. Check N Fetch was going after her fourth stakes win in a row, while Tres Of Linda was looking for her third stakes win of the year after winning the Charger Bar and the Garden Grove Handicap.
“I ran second to Check N Fetch in her last start so I know how very tough she is to beat,” Valenzuela said. “When we broke in this race I was right there with her at the start. I felt good about my chances at that point because (Check N Fetch) is such a quick starter.”
The complete order of finish is as follows; Thisfeatureisspecial, Shez Jess Toxic, Check N Fetch and Tres of Linda, Queens R Blue, Attack The Cartel, Azoom To The Top, Touch Of Paso and Classic Sassy Check. Tac It To Heart was scratched.