Unbeaten champion Zenyatta will break from the far outside in the $300,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park June 27 as she goes after her 11th consecutive triumph. The strapping 5-year-old mare will carry 129 pounds and will spot her seven rivals from 13 to 18 pounds.
Zenyatta won last year's Vanity -- one of five victories she's claimed over Hollywood's Cushion Track surface -- although her half-length verdict over Tough Tiz's Sis was the closest she's come to being defeated. The daughter of Street Cry carried 124 pounds that day.
Winner of the Eclipse Award last year as the nation's best older female and top contender for Horse of the Year honors this season, Zenyatta will attempt to become the fifth repeat winner of the 1 1/8-mile Vanity. The most recent was Azeri in 2002-03. The others are Annie-Lu-San (1957-58), Convenience (1972-73) and It’s In The Air (1979-80).
Zenyatta will be carrying the most weight for any Vanity entrant since Azeri pulled 127 in 2003. Gamely won under an impost of 131 in 1968 and Silver Spoon carried 130 in winning the 1960 running.
To be ridden once again by Mike Smith, she will be heavily favored over a field that includes a pair of grade II winners, Dawn After Dawn and Briecat. There will be no show wagering in the Vanity. The race is the fourth on the program with a probable post of 2:30 p.m. PDT.
Trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta geared up for the Vanity with her first start of the year in the May 23 Milady Handicap (gr. II), rallying in her usual fashion from last on the final turn to win by 1 3/4 lengths over her stablemate, Life Is Sweet. She showed no signs of rust from her seven-month vacation leading up to the 1 1/16-mile Milady and has turned in three maintenance works since then. Zenyatta conditions at Hollywood, the track where she broke her maiden Nov. 22, 2007.
Zenyatta won seven times in her 2008 campaign, concluding with a championship-clinching victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I). She won four grade I races and three grade II events and amassed nearly $2.1 million in earnings while finishing second to Curlin in Horse of the Year balloting.
Shirreffs also trains the multiple grade I winner Life Is Sweet, the Milady runner-up who was nominated to the Vanity but is instead likely to run against the boys in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) next month. Without her, Dawn After Dawn, who carries 116 pounds, is the chief threat to Zenyatta.
A winner of six races and $568,494 for Ike and Dawn Thrash, Dawn After Dawn won the La Canada (gr. II) at Santa Anita in February 2008. She has made her last five starts on turf, winning twice. One start prior to her La Canada win, she finished fourth — beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Zenyatta — in the El Encino (gr. II). She was last of eight when Zenyatta notched her seventh victory in the Clement L. Hirsch (gr. II) at Del Mar last summer.
Allicansayis Wow recovered after clipping heels and almost going down to win an allowance race at Hollywood in April. She finished a solid third third most recently behind Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet in the Milady, beaten by 2 1/2 lengths. Owned by Mrs. Paul Shanahan and trained by Patrick Biancone, she led into the homestretch of the Milady but could not contain the first two in the final furlong. The import from Ireland got a 13-pound break in the weights that day and now gets 15.
David and Holly Wilson's Briecat scored a front-running 13-1 upset at Hollywood in the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) last December, but is yet to finish in the money in three starts so far this year. The 4-year-old chestnut filly has won five of 13 starts.
Modification, owned by J. Paul Reddam and Mark Schlesigner, has won three of 14 while finishing seventh most recently in the Gamely (gr. IT) on turf. Prior to that she finished in a dead heat for third in the Humana Distaff (gr. I) on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs on Derby day. She was fourth — beaten one length by Life Is Sweet — in the La Canada in February.
You Lift Me Up has won five of 22 starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and partner George Todaro. Four of her victories have come on turf, including the final race at Bay Meadows, the Last Dance Stakes.
The speedy Forest Melody, a winner of three of 23 starts for trainer Paula Capestro and R. Man Racing Stable, has run on turf 18 times. Winner of an allowance race on Cushion Track in November, the 5-year-old finished sixth most recently in the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita March 14.
Hot n' Dusty, owned by Madeline Auerbach and Little Red Feather Racing, has won three of 16 starts and will be making her stakes debut.
$300,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I, Race 4, 2:30 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 MIles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Dawn After Dawn (FL), G K Gomez, 116, J W Sadler
2. You Lift Me Up (CA), R Bejarano, 114, J Hollendorfer
3. Forest Melody (KY), A Delgadillo, 113, P S Capestro
4. Hot n' Dusty (CA), A O Solis, 111, B Abrams
5. Modification (KY), J Rosario, 114, D F O'Neill
6. Briecat (FL), M Garcia, 114, V Cerin
7. Allicansayis Wow (KY), J Talamo, 113, P L Biancone
8. Zenyatta (KY), M E Smith, 129, J A Shirreffs