July 29, 2016 by Brandon Valvo.
Several Zilla Racing Stables’ partners belted out, “Come on Ben” from the winner’s circle during Thursday’s third race as they rooted home Benevolence in the 6 1/2-furlong maiden special for New York-breds.
“Ben” broke on top as jockey Eric Cancel’s lime green and black-striped sleeves pumped back and forth, pushing to the front. Benevolence crossed over to the rail from post eight and set fractions of :22.80 and :45.75 while Samadi Sky attended to the outside. Cancel shook up his mount again coming into the stretch and urged him home with a couple right-handed reminders. Inside the final sixteenth, Benevolence pulled away to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
“My legs were shaking the whole time, especially from the turn on,” Zilla Racing Stables partner Joy Brock said after the race. “It was just the most exciting thing. I couldn’t believe it, he was actually in the lead. I’m starting to stop shaking now, thank goodness.”
Although she’s been a partner for a few years, Brock had yet to meet a horse she owns a piece of in the winner’s circle. Because she lives in Canada, she is unable to make trips to the races in New York regularly.
“My husband and I rent a house in Saratoga for a month every summer,” she said. “A few years ago, we happened to stumble upon Mike (Piazza) walking around the backyard handing out pens, and I said, ‘that would make a great Christmas present for my husband,’ so that’s how that started that whole thing. We never make it down to Belmont or Aqueduct because flights from Montreal are ridiculously expensive, but it’s been the best experience of my life. I love it.”
Zilla Racing founder Mike Piazza got emotional when he was finally able to share the winner’s circle with Brock, one of the stable’s earliest supporters. “My tears started coming out of my eyes when I hugged her because I know how much it meant to her,” he said.
The win was the first for Benevolence in four starts. The Here Comes Ben gelding didn’t make the races until this spring.
“We bought this horse from the Fasig-Tipton sale in Maryland last Tod Marks Benevolence surges to the finish in Thursday’s third race year as a 2-year-old (for $90,000),” Piazza said. “We thought he had a very good shot to debut here last year, but he had a couple little minor issues that came up and as soon as the babies come up with the issues, we believe in giving them the time, so we sent him to the farm, gave him some time to get over those little bumps and bruises.”
Benevolence has been knocking on the door in his previous three races. He finished third by 1 1/2 lengths in his debut March 19 at Aqueduct, then finished third by 8 1/2 lengths April 9 at Aqueduct on a muddy, sealed track. He finished second by a half-length June 4 at Belmont Park in his most recent start.
“We were patient with him and we got him here,” Piazza said. “We lost a tough race at Belmont Park, but it was kind of a blessing in disguise because it saved this condition that we could run in today. He was sharp, Eric rode him great and obviously Kiaran McLaughlin is on fire.”
Benevolence’s victory was the seventh of the meet for McLaughlin from 10 starters. Piazza believes his relationship with the veteran trainer has helped Zilla grow considerably over the last few years. The group owns 21 horses with about 140 partners.
“As we grew, we kind of spread things around,” he said. “Similar to when you go to a mall, you have to have that anchor store if you really want to attract clients to that location. We had some wonderful young trainers, but we felt like we were missing that really big star power, that’s why we seeked out to get a guy of Kiaran McLaughlin’s caliber. It’s just been a great relationship so far.” – Brandon Valvo