Undefeated champion Zenyatta is expected to seek her 18th victory against no losses after being entered in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar Aug. 7. But trainer John Shirreffs isn't sure yet.
Shirreffs, who has guided the strapping mare's perfect run to this point, appears set to send his charge against five rivals in her next step en route to defending her title in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 6.
But while he entered Zenyatta Aug. 4, Shirreffs has not committed to the 1 1/16-mile Hirsch, saying earlier that he wanted to see how the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry handled Del Mar's Polytrack in gallops leading up to the race. Mike Smith would ride as usual.
Shirreffs had Zenyatta vanned from his Hollywood Park barn early in the morning Aug. 4, one day earlier than originally announced. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning older female went to the track for a gallop at about 9:15 a.m.
She took one gallop around the one-mile oval with regular exercise rider Steve Willard. She did it on her terms, pausing after coming onto the track near the six-furlong pole for nearly 10 minutes before turning to jog. All the while, her ears were up and she was busy looking over the landscape.
The only female to win the Breeders' Cup Classic covered the backstretch as Willard guided her along. "She got over it really good," the upbeat Willard said as she was returned to Shirreffs' barn to get her bath and cool out.
Shirreffs remained mum on whether Zenyatta will try to win her third straight Hirsch. However, he did say, "Countdown begins," after watching his superstar travel around the track. Shirreffs has been concerned about the track's maintenance.
Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta won the Hirsch by a length in 2008 and then took a thrilling victory by a head last year over little-known Anabaa's Creation in the closest call ever to her unblemished record. Zenyatta closed more than four lengths on the leader in the final furlong.
The Hirsch starts are Zenyatta's only races over the track.
Aug. 7 is "Zenyatta Day" at Del Mar, featuring a special pint-glass set giveaway with likenesses of the mare and Smith. The Hirsch will be the ninth of 10 races with a post time of approximately 6:15 p.m. PDT. It carries a winner's share of $180,000.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s website, www.NTRA.com, will offer free live video streaming of the race beginning at 6 p.m. PDT. The show is hosted by ESPN/ABC racing analyst Randy Moss. The race will also be shown on TVG and selected Fox Sports regional affiliates.
Zenyatta drew post 5 in the six-horse field and is weighted favorably with 123 pounds under the conditions of the race. In winning the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) in her last start June 13, in which she surpassed the consecutive win mark of 16 held by Cigar and Citation and others, she carried 129 pounds at Hollywood. As usual, she charged late for a half-length victory.
In 2009 Zenyatta capped off a five-for-five championship season with a powerful one-length tally in the Classic, beating 11 of the best male horses in the world with her crowd-stirring late run.
An 11-time grade I winner, she is closing in on the female earnings record for horses that have raced in North America of $6,334,296 established by the great Ouija Board, who retired in 2006. Zenyatta has banked $6,074,580.
Her five rivals have only modest accomplishments, winning a combined 21 of 135 starts. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Dance to My Tune has faced Zenyatta before, running second to her by 1 1/4 lengths in Santa Anita's Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) at 51-1 odds. She carried 15 pounds less than Zenyatta that day, but gets just a four-pound break in the Hirsch. David Flores takes the mount on Olympia Star's 6-year-old Stravinsky mare.
L-Bo Racing's Made for Magic won the Milady Handicap (gr. II) by a half-length at Hollywood May 16, a race Zenyatta won the prior two years, but the A.C. Avila-trained mare was unimpressive in two starts since. Her belated run in a fourth-place effort in the seven-furlong A Gleam Handicap (gr. II) July 17 could set her up nicely for this added distance, however. And the 5-year-old daughter of Cape Canaveral won her only prior start at Del Mar.
Rinterval, trained by Eric Reed for Jerry Jamgotchian, ships in from Keeneland for a crack. The 5-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Desert Prince just missed by a head to top mare Informed Decision in a front-running effort in the seven-furlong Chicago Handicap (gr. III) at Arlington Park July 4. Rinterval has won just three of 22 races lifetime but has earned $522,742. Rafael Bejarano is aboard.
Dr. Ronan Lambe's Princess Taylor also comes off a runner-up showing, missing by a length to Turning Top in the Beverly Hills Handicap (gr. IIIT) in a game try over Hollywood's turf course June 26. That was just the second U.S. start for the British-bred daughter of Singspiel who failed to win in eight races on synthetic tracks in England.
Spring Style has done most of her running on turf for trainer Ben Cecil but broke her maiden on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface in October 2008. She comes off a seventh in the Osunitas Stakes on Del Mar's grass course July 24.
$300,000 Clemnt L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 6:15 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/16 MIles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Princess Taylor (GB), V Espinoza, 119, P Gallagher
2. Made for Magic (KY), O A Berrio. 121, A C Avila
3. Spring Style (IRE), P A Valenzuela, 119, B D Cecil
4. Dance to My Tune (ON), D R Flores, 119, J Hollendorfer
5. Zenyatta (KY), M E Smith, 123, J A Shirreffs
6. Rinterval (IRE), R Bejarano, 119, E R Reed