For Zenyatta, the wait is over—but not the weight. The undefeated mare will carry top weight of 127 pounds March 13 when she makes her 2010 debut in the $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I), spotting eight who entered from 12 to 19 pounds in the nine-furlong race.
The 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry, who has not started since making history by becoming the first female to defeat males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) last Nov. 7 for her 14th straight victory, carries her second-highest impost ever. She carried 129 pounds to a 2 1/2-length triumph in Hollywood Park’s grade I Vanity Handicap last June 27. Runner-up Briecat toted 114.
“I sure hope it won’t make a difference,” said regular rider Mike Smith, who has ridden Zenyatta to 13 straight victories. “But it is a lot of weight to spot horses, especially in her first race back. On the bright side, she’s a big mare. She handles weight really well. It is a lot of weight to spot, but what are you going to do? We got what we got.”
Zenyatta also drew post position 8 in a nine-horse field, but that was readily dismissed by Smith. “With her (come from behind) style, outside, inside isn’t a concern, because she’s usually way back. The post position should be fine. She’s training well, and if she gets an opportunity to run her race, I think she’s really ready for a big performance.
“She’s certainly training a little more forwardly than she was last year, let’s put it that way. What that means, I’m not sure yet until we see what happens Saturday, but like I said, given a fair opportunity, I think she’s going to run really, really big.”
Zenyatta arrived at Santa Anita March 11 from her Hollywood Park headquarters without incident.
“She shipped over very quietly and she schooled very kind,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “She’s a little heavier now, maybe 20 to 25 pounds heavier, than she was for the Breeders’ Cup here. You’d expect that, because she hasn’t run since then. We’re very excited to see her run again.”
On the morning of March 12, Zenyatta was on the track around 7:30 a.m. She galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Steve Willard and was scheduled to school again prior to the third race at Santa Anita.
Ben Cecil, trainer of La Canada Stakes runner-up Gripsholm Castle
, would be pleased with a close finish by his filly. “She probably got a little tired at the end of that race,” Cecil said. “Hopefully, she’ll improve a little bit; she’ll have to.
“The weights are pretty fair. The spread has given us all an outside chance. Zenyatta’s not getting away with it easy, but having said that, she’s pretty good. She’s 1-9 in the morning line, and she deserves to be.”
The racing world hopes a Zenyatta victory in the Santa Margarita will lead to the “Race for the Ages” against Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the $5 million Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park April 9.