Last year, Brown captured the Flower Bowl with Stacelita, who like Zagora and Dream Peace began her career in Europe. Zagora has competed 11 times since arriving in the United States, while Dream Peace has made one stateside start.
Following the Ballston Spa, Zagora’s connections had to choose between stretching her out for the Flower Bowl Invitational or having her try a synthetic track for the first time in the Grade 1, 1 1/8-mile Spinster in October at Keeneland. She is 1-1-1 in three starts at the 1 ¼-mile Flower Bowl distance, including a win in a French Group 3 stakes and a runner-up effort in the 2011 Grade 2 New York.
“She can go 1 ¼ miles,” said Brown. “She’s done it over in Europe, she’s done it here. The question is, can she run her best race at 1 ¼ miles? Is she a Grade 1 horse at 1 ¼ miles? After the [Ballston Spa] I was leaning towards the Spinster, but when I watch her moving, I think she’s absolutely in career form right now, physically, so I’m willing to try 1 ¼ miles again because she is doing so well. The distance of the Spinster looks appealing, but I’d rather take my chances on the turf and go a little farther than she wants to go than go for the unknown on the Polytrack.”
Zagora will attempt to give owner Martin Schwartz his second Flower Bowl trophy as he also campaigned Stacelita.
Ramon Dominguez will ride Zagora, tabbed at 7-2 on the morning line, from post position 7.
The Flower Bowl will be Dream Peace’s first start for Brown. She was previously campaigned by Robert Collet, for whom she won a Group 2 event in France and finished third by a head in Woodbine’s Grade 1 E.P. Taylor in 2011. This year, the Etreham Farm color-bearer has finished fourth in the Group 3 Prix Allez France in April at Chantilly, eighth against males in the Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup in May at Kranji, and second in the Diana.
“She came to me in excellent shape,” said Brown. “Along with that, she has blended into our program and the American way of training horses. She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do. I haven’t seen any negatives in her game. I’m expecting her to run real well.”
Dream Peace, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, will leave from the rail with Julien Leparoux in the irons.
Flower Bowl entrants I’m A Dreamer and Nahrain also have a European provenance. I’m A Dreamer has returned to the United States after flying in to win the Grade 1 Beverly D. on August 18 at Arlington Park, with Nahrain set to make her first start on this side of the Atlantic since a second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf last November at Churchill Downs.
In 2011, Andrew Stone’s I’m A Dreamer captured a Group 3 at Newmarket and missed by a head when second in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor. This year, the 5-year-old was third in the Group 2 Middleton and fourth in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes in England before going on to report home third in the Group 1 Pretty Polly in Ireland and take the Beverly D.
I’m A Dreamer, the 3-1 morning-line second choice for trainer David Simcock, will depart from post 4 with Hayley Turner aboard. Turner will attempt to become the first female jockey to win the Flower Bowl since Hall of Famer Julie Krone guided Gaily Gaily to victory in 1988.
Nahrain won the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera last October at Longchamp before she came up three-quarters of a length short in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She seeks her first win of 2012, having finished ninth in the Group 2 Windsor Forest and eighth in the Group 1 Nassau this summer in England and third in the Group 2 Blandford on September 9 at the Curragh in Ireland.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Nahrain, 5-1, from post 8. Roger Varian trains Nahrain for Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum.
Hessonite, a six-time stakes winner against New York-bred or restricted company, steps up in class for the Flower Bowl off a 5 ¼-length romp against statebreds on September 9 at Belmont. Saturday’s race will be her first start beyond 1 1/8 miles.
“I think the mile and a quarter suits her,” said David Donk, who trains Hessonite for William J. Punk, Jr. and Philip DiLeo. “She’s in good form. Obviously it’s a big step up in class. There’s a little rain in the forecast; that doesn’t hurt. She’ll appreciate any give in the ground. We’ve looked forward to trying her at [1 ¼ miles] at some point, but we didn’t know it was going to be this kind of race.”
Jose Lezcano takes over on Hessonite, who drew post 2 and was installed at 20-1 on the morning line.
Hit It Rich, winner of the Grade 3 Glens Falls; Starformer, victorious in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial and second in the Waya; Bizzy Caroline, second in the Glens Falls; and Halo Dolly, triumphant in the Grade 2 Yellow Ribbon Handicap, complete the Flower Bowl field.