Sunday, May 24, 2009

Zenyatta is a Perfect 10 After Milady Score

By Jack Shinar

Though it was her first start in seven months, undefeated Zenyatta's 10th consecutive win proved to be no more difficult than any of her earlier victories. In disposing of her top-notch stablemate, Life Is Sweet, the seemingly invincible 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry rolled to an easy 1 3/4-length win in the $150,000 Milady Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park May 23.

Zenyatta was in tight briefly on the final turn after beginning her customary charge from behind, but jockey Mike Smith simply angled to the outside of the others and guided her four wide down the homestretch. Like a locomotive she chugged past her rivals, sweeping by the leading Allicansayis Wow just past the eighth pole and inching away from Life Is Sweet and Garrett Gomez under a hand ride from Smith.

Like Zenyatta, the grade I winner Life Is Sweet is also from trainer John Shirreffs' barn. Both employ similar running styles and appeared to be a good match on paper at the 1 1/16-mile distance.

Trailing into the final turn, both Life Is Sweet and Zenyatta picked it up as the six-horse field rounded the sweeping bend. After a brief encounter between the two, Zenyatta went wide to avoid traffic, as Life Is Sweet angled in. Life Is Sweet angled to the outside of pacesetter Gambler's Justice mid-stretch and found room along the inside after clearing her. Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet were still close at that point, but it was no match from there as Zenyatta drew away on her own. The winning time was a smart 1:42.30 on Hollywood's Cushion Track.

"Garrett and I were playing some serious jockey games out there," Smith said. "It was all clean and fair. She's so handy that when I eased up on the pedal she backed up for me, came around and it was over."

Smith said he's looking forward to possibly meeting Rachel Alexandra, the BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I)-winning filly who is the talk of the sporting press right now.

"As far as Rachel Alexandra, she's such a great filly and I don't want to ruin what she did," he said when asked about a match-up. "But Zenyatta is Zenyatta. When the match comes up down the road, it's going to be exciting for racing. I'm numb. I'm looking for some emotion now but I'm just numb. She's just amazing. Physically, I think she's better than she was last year."

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has won all five of her starts at Hollywood, where she is stabled, and is a perfect seven-for-seven at the 1 1/16-mile distance. In winning the Milady for a second straight year, the strapping dark bay increased her career earnings to $2,233,580 with the $90,000 winning purse.

Life Is Sweet, who had not been out since winning Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) for her first grade I victory March 14 at Santa Anita, saw her three-race winning streak end. Life Is Sweet, who carried 122 pounds to 126 for Zenyatta, finished three-quarters of a length in front of AllIcansayis Wow, an Irish import who made a brave American stakes debut with Joe Talamo aboard.

"Down the backstretch she wasn't really taking me anywhere today," Gomez said of the runner-up. "She picked it up down the lane and finished okay. I think she liked that track (at Santa Anita) better. It's a little bit different here than Santa Anita. It's a little bit more like solid dirt here. She's more like a grass filly and this track is a little closer to dirt. Overall, it was a very respectable performance. What can you say about Zenyatta."

Gambler's Justice sped to the front and led the field through fractions of :23.79, :47.14 and 1:11.32 as Champagne Eyes followed closely in second. That gave the back markers enough to shoot for as the field straightened for home and Allicansayis Wow took the lead. Allicansayis Wow fought back when headed by Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet, but had to settle for third. Gambler's Justice, Champagne Eyes and Taste's Sis followed.

Zenyatta was the nation's champion older female last year after four grade I and three grade II triumphs, including the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) to conclude the season. Her 2009 debut was delayed after a planned start in the Louisville Distaff (gr. II) May 1 at Churchill Downs had to be scrapped due to a sloppy track.

"We knew she had to start somewhere and that first race back you want to make it as easy as possible, but that wasn’t possible," Shirreffs said. "We had to deal with Life Is Sweet and believe me, she is a great running filly.

"It rained over there in Kentucky so we did not do a lot with her; the last three days in Kentucky she was just walking. When she got home she was fresh. When you see her make her signature move, you see it so often. She has a devastating move -- she covers so much ground and gets rolling. She has that ability to lengthen her stride. I couldn’t have imagined it working out any better for Zenyatta to come back against a tough horse like Life Is Sweet. This puts her right back where she was at the end of last year.”

Zenyatta paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. Life Is Sweet returned $2.20 and $2.10. The $2 exacta was worth $3.20. Allicansayis Wow was $2.80 to show.

Copyright © 2009 Blood-Horse Publications. All rights reserved internationally.

Dawn After Dawn, Bel Air Sizzle and Hot n' Dusty scratched.

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