Tom Hall

Zenyatta Sends Message With Big Hirsch Drill

She wraps up her preparation for the grade I test at Del Mar Aug. 9.

(from Del Mar track notes)

The undefeated champion Zenyatta sent a clear message to any of her prospective foes in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I) on Aug. 9 with a scintillating five-furlong breeze in 1 minute flat on Del Mar's main track Aug 2.

The drill got a one-word response from trainer John Shirreffs: "Perfect."

Working in company, the 5-year-old mare went the five panels in split times of 24 seconds for the quarter-mile, :35 4/5 for three furlongs and :47 4/5 for the half. The dark bay daughter of Street Cry, with regular exercise rider Steve Willard up, worked in tandem with stablemate Green Cat, a gelded 4-year-old winner. She started a couple of lengths behind Green Cat and finished approximately four lengths ahead. Green Cat was timed in 1:01 1/5 handily.

Following the drill, Shirreffs was rhapsodic as he talked of how Zenyatta continues to amaze him with her huge stride. “She has the biggest stride I’ve ever seen,” he said, “and then when she puts her head down she stretches out even more. She’s just a racing machine.”

Regular rider Mike Smith will be aboard for the Hirsch.

In other Hirsch Stakes news, brash Barry Abrams was nearly as emphatic following Lethal Heat’s sharp five furlongs in :57 4/5. “It was a very good work. She’s ready for Zenyatta.” Joe Talamo was up for the work and has the call for the Hirsch.

The fastest work at the distance was put in by Zenyatta stablemate Life Is Sweet, who hung up a :57 3/5 time under David Flores. Not happy about the swift drill was owner-breeder Martin Wygod, who said he was looking for about 1:01 or 1:02 for his filly. “She’s best when she turns in 12s going five furlongs,” he said.

Though distressed by the speedy work, Wygod didn’t discount running in the Hirsch. “It’s not out of the question, but it’s certainly not the way I wanted her to be going into the race.”

Other possible Hirsch starters who worked Aug. 2 included Champagne Eyes, six furlongs in 1:14 2/5 for trainer Doug O’Neill, and Anabaa's Creation, five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 for Julio Canani.

O’Neill has committed Champagne Eyes to the Hirsch while Canani says he’ll check on the field before running. Jack Preston of Prestonwood Farm, the owner of Anabaa’s Creation, indicated the filly probably would run, though he conceded, “That’s a big hill to climb.”