Zenyatta favorite in Classic
Zenyatta will break from the No. 4 post in Saturday’s 1Ľ-mile race at Santa Anita.
She had also been pre-
entered in Friday’s $2 million Ladies’ Classic, which she won last year.
But owners Jerry and Ann Moss, along with trainer John Shirreffs, had a bigger goal in mind for the 5-year-old mare, who has won all four of her starts this year.
“There’s an opportunity to make history in the Classic, that’s why we chose the Classic,” Shirreffs said, referring to the fact that no female horse has ever won in the race’s 25-year history.
Zenyatta will be just the fourth female to run in the Classic.
With a victory, Zenyatta would better Personal Ensign’s career mark of 13-0 set from 1986-88. That filly retired as the first undefeated champion in American racing in more than 80 years.
Missing from America’s richest race is Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, the
3-year-old filly who won all eight of her races this year, including three victories over male competition.
Her owner, Jess Jackson, shut her down for the year because he doesn’t like Santa Anita’s synthetic surface.
Zenyatta, who has won 11 races on synthetic surfaces, will take on a loaded field that includes 12 Grade 1 winners, including Ireland-bred Rip Van Winkle, the 7-2 early second choice, and Summer Bird, the 9-2 third choice who swept the Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup but will test himself on synthetics for the first time.
“He’s handled this from day one when we first brought him out over the racetrack,” said Tim Ice, who trains Summer Bird. “He’s feeling out-of-this-world. He’s coming into this race as good as he’s come into any race.”
Rip Van Winkle will try to give Europe a second straight win in the Classic, where Raven’s Pass triumphed last year and European horse Henrythenavigator finished second.
Mine That Bird, winless in four races since his stunning upset in the Kentucky Derby, was listed at 12-1, along with six other horses.
Trainer Chip Woolley Jr. shrugged off his colt’s long shot status, saying, “He won the Derby at 50-1.”
Trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Pacific Classic winner Richard’s Kid, saluted the Mosses for giving Zenyatta a shot at the boys.
“That’s pretty gutsy,” he said. “That’s what our sport needs. We need a big boost right now and she’s going to be our boost. Rachel (Alexandra) carried us to a certain point and this mare is going to the rest of the way.”
The 14 races to be run Friday and Saturday for the second consecutive year at Santa Anita are worth $25.5 million. A total of 149 horses were entered, including 30 from Europe.
Without Zenyatta, the Ladies’ Classic attracted a field of eight, led by early 9-5 favorite Music Note.
Baffert will try to repeat in the $2 million Juvenile, where his colt Lookin at Lucky was installed as the 8-5 early favorite. He won a year ago with Midshipman.
The Hall of Fame trainer also has the morning line favorite in the $2 million Sprint with Zensational, who drew the No. 1 post and is listed at 7-5. Baffert is going for his third consecutive win in the six-furlong race.
Ireland-bred Goldikova is back to defend her title in the Mile on the turf as the early 8-5 favorite. Two other Ireland-breds are favorites in their races. Mastercraftsman is the 6-5 choice in the Dirt Mile, while Conduit is listed at 7-5 in the Turf.
Ventura is the defending champion and 8-5 early favorite in the Filly & Mare Sprint for ailing Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who has been away from his stable most of the year because of an undisclosed illness.