The remarkable Zenyatta stands alone. Thrilling another crowd with her spine-tingling late charge, the undefeated mare nabbed a determined St Trinians by a half-length for her 17th consecutive victory in the June 13 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park.
This was the 6-year-old champion's unprecented third straight win in the Vanity, and by far her most exciting.
The victory moves Zenyatta past Citation, Cigar, and Mister Frisky for the most consecutive wins in modern times in races not restricted to state breds.
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Jockey Mike Smith had to ask her for something extra as she charged toward the wire. She trailed St Trinians by 2 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole and her rival wasn't giving in. But Zenyatta surged under right-handed encouragement from Smith as they approached the wire to collect her record victory.
"It's just incredible. It was a great, great race," Smith said. "It was a gallant effort on St Trinian's part, she really ran huge. When we headed home I hit a real big gear and she hit another one right back at me and I said, 'Whoa, she's serious and she's going to make me run.' I was working her until the last hundred yards and the I knew I'd out-grind her (St Trinians)."
The 1-2 favorite Zenyatta, who carried 129 pounds, nine more than St Trinians, went over $6 million in career earnings while completing the 1 1/8-mile test in 1:49.01. She had five rivals to beat in the Vanity.
In spite of the taxing effort, Zenyatta had a little left for her appreciative fans after it was over. She danced and posed in front of the grandstand for about five minutes on her way to the winner's circle.
John Shirreffs trains the winner for Jerry and Ann Moss.
"What I was just watching was the distance between Zenyatta and St Trinians and it seemed to stay the same, so I thought, 'Well, the margin is staying the same and Zenyatta hasn't made her kick, so she could cut into it,' " Shirreffs said.
Asked if he was concerned, Shirreffs responded, "Well, it's a horse race and they have to fight it out down there at the wire. Her last couple of works were a little on the slow side so we were a little concerned about that."
Zenyatta's stablemate, Zardana, finished third.
St Trinians advanced on the far turn with Zardana while racing wide for jockey Martin Garcia. As the pacesetters Miss Silver Brook and Cherryblossommiss gave way, she took the lead from Zardana, who was in front briefly, in upper stretch.
Zenyatta, who was forced six paths wide as she tracked St Trinians around the bend, was far out in the middle of the track as Smith urged her onward. She was in full gear by mid-stretch and, propelled by Smith, ultimately got the win over the very game St Trinians, who was also under strong urging from Garcia.
The winner ran the final eighth of a mile in about :11 2/5 seconds to collar St Trinians about 10 strides from the wire.
"We're carrying a lot of weight and I just wanted to get that weight moving forward so I tried to tip out as we came off the turn and use that momentum to kind of slingshot me, even though I was a little wide," Smith explained.
"I knew he (Garcia) was probably going to take me out; it was great race-riding on his part."
Garcia said, "I couldn't have asked (St Trinians) for any more. The other mare is just too much horse."
Zardana, who remained in contention past the eighth pole, finished six lengths behind in third. Will O Way ran on late for fourth, follwed by Miss Silver Brook and Cherryblossommiss.
Miss Silver Brook, who took the lead shortly after the start from Will O Way, turned in a realistic pace as she and Cherryblossommiss pulled away from Zardana on the backstretch. Fractions were :24.05, :47.54, and 1:11.91 for the first six furlongs.
Zenyatta won for the seventh time at Hollywood Park while boosting her career earnings to $6,074,580.
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 won the Vanity last year under 129 pounds by 2 1/2 lengths, starting her current streak of grade I victories that now stands at seven. The daughter of Street Cry--Vertigineux, by Kris S., won the 2008 Vanity by a half-length.
She has 11 grade I triumphs overall, including an unprecedented victory over males in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
St Trinians, winner of the Santa Maria Handicap (gr. II) in February for trainer Mike Mitchell, was making her first start since a sixth-place finish as the favorite in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 6.
Mitchell said he had St Trinians "just the way I wanted her.
"I wanted to be a little farther in front of her turning for home because I know the kick Zenyatta's got. My mare has a big kick, too. She just got outrun. I'm happy, I just wanted it to be a good race. We're all big fans of Zenyatta in my family."
Purchased for $60,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2005, Zenyatta was bred in Kentucky by Maverick Production.
Zenyatta paid $3 and $2.10. St Trinians returned $2.20 and completed the $5.60 exacta.