Ridden by Mike Smith, Zenyatta rallied to take the lead from Santa Teresita in mid-stretch of the 1 1/16-mile test for fillies and mares and drew off from there to win by 2 1/2 lengths under a hand ride.
John Shirreffs trains the victorious Zenyatta, a 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry who won the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) in smashing style by 4 1/2 lengths in her last start for owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss.
The only anxious moment for the multiple graded winner came shortly after the start. Zenyatta, breaking from the middle of the scratched down field of five, was off a step slowly and then was squeezed by Romance is Diane on her inside and Double Trouble, causing her to bump with both and fall back.
“She’s special," Shirreffs said of his powerful filly. "She was lucky because she got really squeezed coming out of the gate, and Mike was saying he just closed his eyes and hoped she didn’t clip heels. She picked up her feet and got over it alright. She’s breaking better and is a little lighter on her feet. “
The favorite settled in at the rear of the field as the grade I winner Romance is Diane, ridden by Michael Baze, sped away to the front. She carved so-so fractions of :24.74, :48.19, and 1:11.70 to lead by as many as two lengths over Double Trouble and Santa Teresita. Pressing on the outside for Joe Talamo, Santa Teresita charged three wide on the outside to challenge Romance is Diane leaving the final turn. Santa Teresita got the lead briefly from between horses and battled back on the inside against Zenyatta, who also launched her bid on the turn, but could not match strides in deep stretch.
The winning time was 1:41.17, about a half-second off the Cushion Track mark at Hollywood.
"Amazing. All I can say is just amazing," Smith said. "I'm telling you ... I'm beside myself, I don't even know what to say. There's no word in my vocabulary to describe her. She was squeezed at the start and I just didn't want her to fall. I knew if she stayed up she was going to be tough to beat. On the turn I just wanted to get her running because she's so big. She just galloped, man."
Santa Teresita finished 5 3/4 lengths in front of Kris' Sis, ridden by Julio Garcia. Romance is Diane and Double Trouble followed.
Maverick Productions Limited bred Zenyatta, who is out of Vertigineux (by Kris S.), in Kentucky. She was a $60,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland in September 2005. The Milady victory, worth $110,580, boosted Zenyatta's earnings to $554,580. She has won her five starts by a combined 15 1/4 lengths.
Shirreffs said Zenyatta would be pointed to the $300,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles July 5.
Zenyatta carried top weight of 122 pounds and paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.10. Santa Teresita, second in Hollywood's Hawthorne Handicap (gr. III) for trainer David Hofmans in her last prior start, returned $5.20 and $4. Kris's Sis, the longest shot in the field, was $5.20 to show.
“I thought the race was tremendous," Hofmans said. "It was a graded stakes-winning effort. I feel I have a really good filly; (Zenyatta) is a freak. We had a head start and we couldn’t beat her, but we’re real proud of the way our filly ran. She got closer to her than most have, so we feel real good.”
Foxysox, Model, and La Tee scratched.