The Louisville Distaff (gr. II) is a fine race in its own right, but with the surprise addition of undefeated champion Zenyatta, the $350,000 event has now become the main attraction on the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) undercard May 1 at Churchill Downs.
When last seen, Jerry and Ann Moss’ Zenyatta was capping off an Eclipse Award-winning 4-year-old season when scoring the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) Oct. 24 at Santa Anita, her seventh victory in as many tries in 2008. Overall, the daughter of Street Cry—Vertigineux, by Kris S. is perfect from nine lifetime starts with earnings of more than $2.1 million. She will face seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile dirt contest, including another undefeated challenger, One Caroline.
Trainer John Shirreffs gave the California-based Zenyatta plenty of time to freshen after her grueling 2008 campaign, but decided she had been on the sidelines long enough. Now 5, Zenyatta has been working beautifully for Shirreffs at Hollywood Park, turning in bullet moves on both March 26 and April 11.
Zenyatta, who was bred in Kentucky by Maverick Production, will be making just her second start on natural dirt. She handled the surface just fine in the Apple Blossom (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park last April, destroying a field that included Ginger Punch by 4 1/2 lengths. Regular rider Mike Smith will get the mount in the Distaff and they will break from post 2. Zenyatta will carry top weight of 124 pounds.
While all eyes will be on Zenyatta, G. Watts Humphrey’s One Caroline has been nothing short of spectacular in her own right, posting a perfect record from five starts. The 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song, who unlike the late-running Zenyatta, used her dominating speed to go wire-to-wire in the 1 1/8-mile Rampart (gr. II) March 29 at Gulfstream Park, romping by 6 1/2 lengths under Edgar Prado. One start prior, she won the Feb. 20 Sabin (gr. III) over the same course in similar front-running fashion.
Rusty Arnold trains One Caroline, who has the advantage of a pair of victories over the Churchill dirt, those coming during her juvenile campaign. Prado will have the mount once again.
Others to watch for are Miss Isella, winner of the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) in November at Churchill; grade I winner Unbridled Belle; and Swift Temper, who finished only a length back of One Caroline in the Sabin.
The Distaff will go to post as the second of four graded stakes on the Churchill program. Post time is set for 2:10 p.m. EDT.