On a weekend full of big races, with millions of dollars and Breeders' Cup races at stake, Zenyatta was the superstar.
Without even trying hard, the big mare accelerated past the field turning for home in Saturday's $300,000 Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita and won by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths. She entered the record books with 13 wins in 13 starts, equaling the record secured by Personal Ensign with her dramatic victory in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Lethal Heat was second Saturday, rallying but not a threat to Zenyatta. Cocoa Beach was a neck farther back in third. The 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track went in 1:42.89 but jockey Mike Smith said that was no indication of Zenyatta's ability.
"She only seemed to run about four jumps and then she shut it down," Smith said. "The big dance is coming up next and that's all she needed to do today."
The question is: Which "big dance?" Owners Jerry and Ann Moss must decide whether to send Zenyatta out in search of a repeat of her 2008 Ladies Classic score or to take on males in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Since Rachel Alexandra, who is done for the year, appears to have Horse of the Year honors wrapped up, that's not the issue. Instead, the Mosses are concerned about the best way to cap their heroine's career and plan to pre-enter both races to see how things shape up.
"The horse is going to make the decision," Jerry Moss said. "We want her to do well and be safe and be happy. But we also want to see how much she's got in her tank."
Smith said Zenyatta "can run with anyone, anytime, anywhere. She has an amazing turn of foot, one that I've never seen before. I just have so much confidence in her. Today she had 10 gears and she only had to use four of them. She really loves this track."
"There won't be a decision for a few weeks," trainer John Shirreffs said Sunday. "She looked good this morning."
In other races with potential implications for the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita:
$5 million Classic
If Saturday's $350,000 Goodwood Stakes is any indication, we could be in for another year of European success in the Breeders' Cup races over Santa Anita's synthetic surface. Gitano Hernando, a 3-year-old Hernando colt who had enjoyed only the most modest success in England this year, fought to the lead in the stretch run of the Goodwood and valiantly held off the favorite, Colonel John, to win by a neck. Pacific Classic winner Richard's Kid was third and the reigning Kentucky Derby hero, Mine That Bird, spun his wheels while making his trademark late run, finishining sixth. "He wants to win," said rider Kieren Fallon. "He's tough as nails. I was hoping he wouldn't have a hard race. I didn't think he could beat the likes of Colonel John." Aron Wellman, representing owner Team Valor, said Gitano Hernando will be made eligible for the Breeders' Cup Classic. "Our goal is the Classic," he said. The Goodwood was a "Win and You're In" race, so the colt is guaranteed a spot in the starting gate. Mine That Bird, making his first start since failing in the West Virginia Derby, also failed for the second time on the Santa Anita all-weather surface. But trainer Chip Woolley said the distance and layoff were the issues. "If we could have went another eighth of a mile it would have been a different story," Woolley said. "The horse shows up every time and runs the best he can run. The 10 weeks probably wasn't doing us any favors. It's a long time off." He said he plans to go on to the Classic.
Fiddlers Afleet pressed the pace in Sunday's $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park, surged past the speed entering the stretch and went on to win by 1/2 length over a late-running Massone. Red Lead set the pace and held third. Fiddlers Afleet, a New York-bred Northern Afleet colt, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51 for jockey Channing Hill.
$2 million Ladies Classic
Proviso, en route to an apparent easy win in Sunday's $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland, suddenly took a right turn, forcing Mushka to take up. The two finished in that order but the stewards reversed that finish because of the stretch issues. Teamgeist rallied from last to finish third with Dawn After Dawn holding on for fourth. Mushka, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Empire Maker, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:49.01 with Kent Desormeaux up. Rajiv Maragh rode Proviso. "My horse ran huge today and she was definitely the best," said Maragh. "I made the lead with her and then she stopped focusing, so I tapped her and when I did she just bolted out. But still that other horse was never going to pass me." Desormeaux, to no one's surprise, saw it differently. "With the momentum change that was being made by her gawking on the lead, I know I would have definitely caught her," he opined. Winning trainer Bill Mott said he expects to send Mushka to the Breeders' Cup.
Payton d'Oro got to the lead turning for home in Sunday's $200,000 Remington Park Oaks in Oklahoma and coasted home first, 1 length to the good of Multipass. Peach Brew was third and the favorite, Hightap, finished fourth. Payton d'Oro, a Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.7.
$3 million Emirates Airline Turf
Take the Points took big prize in Saturday's $300,000 Jamaica Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont, rallying from a pace-stalking trip to win by a head over Straight Story. The odds-on favorite, Courageous Cat, pressed the pace and held on for third with a late run. Take the Points, a Kentucky-bred Even the Score colt, ran the 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:48.51. Edgar Prado got the leg up from Todd Pletcher. "I think this horse is really finding himself now and learning how to run and learning how to finish off a race," Pletcher said. He said Take the Points will head to California but said he will consult with the owners before deciding between a Breeders' Cup start or the Hollywood Derby on Thanksgiving weekend.
Proceed Bee looked like he was taking a diagonal course across the Hawthorne stretch, heading for the intersection of the finish line and the grandstand. But, on a day when the soft turf sapped the strength of the fastest, that was good enough and Proceed Bee struggled home the upset winner, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of -- and well outside of -- Sir Al. Quite a Handful was third while the favorite, No Inflation, threw in the soggy towel early and faded to finish next-last of 10. Proceed Bee, a Kentucky-bred Bernstein gelding, finished 9 furlongs in 1:57 -- nearly 14 seconds off the course record. "This horse is talented but sometimes he wants to go and sometimes he doesn't," said winning rider Chris Emigh. "Today he put it all together."
Presious Passion jumped out to his customary early lead in Sunday's $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial at Santa Anita and held gamely, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Medici Code. Spring House was third. Presious Passion, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred Royal Anthem gelding, got the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 1:59.13 after appropriately speedy fractions. "Everything went good today," said winning jockey Elvis Trujillo. "This horse stayed very relaxed … I wasn't worried about the distance because this horse gives 100 percent. He tries hard at a mile and an eighth or a mile and a quarter."
$2 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
Magical Fantasy came from well off the pace to capture Saturday's $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita by 1/2 length over Visit. Black Mamba was third. Magical Fantasy, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Diesis filly, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 1:59.59 under Alex Solis. It was her third straight Grade I victory and trainer Patrick Gallagher said the next step, all things being equal, is obvious. "It was a good horse race and it was nice to come out on the winning end," he said. "That's the No. 1 hope -- stay here and train up to the Breeders' Cup."
Quiet Harbor rallied from far back to upset Saturday's $125,000 Violet Stakes at Meadowlands by 3/4 length over Always for Love. The favorite, All Is Vanity, ran evenly for third. Quiet Harbor, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Silver Deputy filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.68 for jockey Eddie Castro and trainer Shug McGaughey. She now has four wins in a row. "She's just getting better and better," said McGaughey assistant Buzz Tenney. "She sure knows where the wire is, although tonight she won by daylight … I imagine this will be her last start this year and we'll bring her back at Gulfstream this winter."
$2 million TVG Turf Mile
Court Vision rallied from off the pace to edge pace-setting longshot Karelian by a nose in Saturday's $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Mr. Sidney finished third and the favorite, Justenuffhumor, finished sixth. Court Vision, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Gulch colt, ran the 1 mile on "soft" turf in 1:38.68 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. Michael Iavarone, managing partner of owner IEAH Stables, said it's likely Court Vision will utilize the "Win and You're In" automatic berth earned in the Shadwell for the Breeders' Cup Mile. "This is probably going to be his game, so we might as well play it," he said. Sunday, Dutrow said Court Vision will be considered for both the Mile and the Classic. "Our horse just won on the grass. I would be more inclined to run on the grass course," Dutrow said, adding the 1 1/2-mile Turf is not a consideration.
Diamondrella lagged behind most of the field early in Saturday's $400,000 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, came four-wide around the turn to challenge and then was just up to win by 3/4 length over Tizaqueena. The favorite, Forever Together, was closing fast in the final strides but finished third, another 3/4 length in arrears. Diamdrella, a 5-year-old, British-bred Rock of Gibraltar mare, finished in 1:38.66 on "soft" turf under Rajiv Maragh. Angel Penna Jr. trains.
Cowboy Cal earned an automatic spot in the Breeders' Cup Mile with a front-running, 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita. With Garrett Gomez rationing the speed, Cowboy Cal ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.12. Global Hunter made a late run for second, 1/2 length better than Whatsthescript. Cowboy Cal is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway colt. Mike McCarthy, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher, said Cowboy Cal answers the question every time. He keeps on showing up and he's definitely worthy of a Grade I at some point -- hopefully, a month from now."
Orientate Express came from off the pace to take Sunday's $150,000 Remington Green Stakes at Remington Park by a neck over the odds-on favorite, Steve's Double. Get Rich Quick was third. Orientate Express, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Orientate gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.5 with Glen Murphy up.
$2 million Sentient Jet Sprint
Gayego saved ground into the turn in Sunday's $300,000 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita, came out to make his move and got the job done in the stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Crown of Thorns. Delta Storm was third. Gayego, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Gilded Time colt, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.28 with Garrent Gomez in the irons. Gayego races in the Godolphin blue. "They told me to just take my time with him and get him up under me and he'd come home, no problem," Gomez said. "I just didn't know how much of a turn of foot he'd have. But he answered that question."
Fatal Bullet, last year's Canadian "Horse of the Year," shipped south to win Friday's $250,000 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, rallying to the lead at the top of the stretch and holding off Capt. Candyman Can by 1/2 length at the wire. Ez Dreamer finished third. Fatal Bullet, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Red Bullet gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09 under Eurico Da Silva. "We needed that one to confirm to us that we belong with these horses," said owner Danny Dion. "We'll be back for the Breeders' Cup." Fatal Bullet finished second last year to Midnite Lute.
Pashito the Che rallied to the front at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Gallant Bob Handicap for 3-year-olds, then held off Custom for Carlos to win by a nose. Carbonite was third. Pashito the Che, a Florida-bred Flatter colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.42. Eibar Coa rode for trainer Scott Lake.
$1 million Sentient Jet Filly & Mare Sprint
Informed Decision, the odds-on favorite, lived up her billing in Saturday's $250,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes a Keeneland, rallying from well back to win by 3/4 length. Carlsbad, ahead at the top of the stretch, held second and Porte Bonjeur finished third. Informed Decision, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Monarchos filly, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.03. "She always does the same thing," said winning rider Julien Leparoux. "Even at Churchill, when she won the Humana Distaff, we didn't think we were going to win at the eighth pole and she won. Today was the same. She has a kick that's amazing. That's the best thing for her."
$1 million Turf Sprint
Silver Timber closed smartly on the outside to win Saturday's $125,000 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland by 1 1/4 lengths over Mr. Nightlinger. Goldzar was third. Silver Timber, a 6-year-old, New York-bred Prime Timber gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on "soft" turf in 1:04.67 with Julien Leparoux up for trainer Chad Brown. It was Silver Timber's first try on turf other than firm but Leparoux said it didn't matter. "Actually, he didn't really like it," he rider said. "I think on the firm ground he will be much better. He was kinda sliding a little bit around the turn. He could overcome it and win the race."
$1 million Dirt Mile
Girolamo chased the pace early in Sunday's $150,000 Jerome Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, got past the leaders midway down the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Burley's Gold. Kensei was third. Girolamo, a Kentucky-bred son of A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Get Lucky, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:33.81 with Alan Garcia up for the Godolphin barn. Girolamo now has four wins from six starts but Sunday's field was by far his toughest test. Before the race, Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said the colt could go on to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile or to the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Thanksgiving weekend. "I haven't spoken to Saeed yet," Mettee said. "There are a lot of ways to go."
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile
Noble's Promise stuck close to the pace in Saturday's $500,000 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, put his head in front turning for home and went on to post a 1/2-length upset win. Aikenite was second with a late bid and Roman Invasion finished third. The favorite, Backtalk, showed little and finished eighth. Noble's Promise, a Kentucky-bred Cuvee colt, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.12 under Willie Martinez. "Willie sat on him perfect," said winning trainer Kenny McPeak. "We were a little worried about the race unfolding and him going too fast early. I just told him, 'Just be patient. If you take him back and he gets beat, I'll take the heat.' He rode him to a 'T.' The horse is fast." Asked if Noble's Promise will go on to the Breeders' Cup, McPeak said, "Yeah, absolutely. You've gotta give him a chance."
Homeboykris, making his first start for trainer Richard Dutrow, turned on the afterburners in the stretch run to win Saturday's $400,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths. Discreetly mine was second and the 1-2 finishers from the Hopeful, Dublin and Aspire, finished fifth and third, respectively. Homeboykris, a Maryland-bred Roman Ruler gelding, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.12 and appeared to be ready to do more for jockey Edgar Prado. "He loves the track," Prado said. "The question was whether he would handle the competition, and he did." Homeboykris is eligible for the Breeders' Cup, but Dutrow said he might prefer to skip the trip and point the budding star to the $200,000 Remsen at Aqueduct on Thanksgiving weekend. "But if the owners want to put up the money and go to the Breeders' Cup, I'd be okay with that," he quickly added." Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he had no immediate explanation for the poor performance of odds-on favorite, Dublin.
Bear Tough Guy needed all the toughness he could manage to beat Korvette Kid in a stirring stretch duel in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grey Stakes at Woodbine. At the wire, the Florida-bred Roar of the Tiger colt was a neck in front, with Mobthewarrior third. The favorite, Ghost Fleet, got going late on the inside and finished fourth. Bear Tough Guy, with Eurico Da Silva up for trainer Reade Baker, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.34. "It was just his second race and it was his first time on the Polytrack," Baker said, marveling at Bear Tough Guy's gritty victory. Asked about the Breeders' Cup, he said: "I'll have to talk to the boss (owner Danny Dion) and then we'll see. But I think we're going."
Citrus Kid came out for running room at the top of the lane in Saturday's $75,000 Dover Stakes at Delaware Park and scooted off to win by 5 lengths over extreme longshot Toccet's Charm. Quick Ride was third and the favorite, El Rocco, faded from the lead to finish fourth. Citrus Kid, a Kentucky-bred Lemon Drop Kid colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.35 under Abel Castellano Jr. and trainer Gary Contessa.
Lucky Chuck got away from the field in the stretch run of Sunday's $70,000 Indiana Futurity for state-breds at Hoosier Park and won off by 6 1/2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Lone Star Cowboy. Our Devil's Halo finished third. Lucky Chuck, by Evansville Slew, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.4 under Ben Creed.
$1 million Juvenile Turf
Interactif broke sharply, took back near the rear of the field in Sunday's $125,000 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland, then took the overland route around the leaders nearing the stretch and drew off smartly, winning by 1 length over Codoy. Family Foundation was third. Interactif, a Kentucky-bred Broken Vow colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:45.24 as Kent Desormeaux handled the reins. Desormeaux said Interactif broke "like a Quarter Horse but, "after that moment in time, he came back to me and got in a nice canter and tried to inch to the leaders." The colt now is a likely favorite for the Breeders' Cup.
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies
Negligee rallied between horses entering the stretch in Friday's $500,000 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland and went on to post a 1/2-length upset victory over favorite She Be Wild. Amen Hallelujah was a non-threatening third. Rajiv Maragh rode the winner over 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.78. Negligee, a Kentucky-bred Northern Afleet filly, scratched out of the Miss Grillo last weekend at Belmont when the race came off the turf and trainer John Terranova III opted for the all-weather, big-money event at Keeneland for her first two-turn event. She now has two wins from three starts and Terranova said Negligee was able to relax "and was pretty much settled behind horses so it made her finish better."
Devil May Care struck the lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $400,000 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park, then held on to win by a head over the favorite, Awesome Maria. Nonna Mia cut the early pace and held third, well ahead of four pretenders. Devil May Care, a Kentucky-bred Malibu Moon filly, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.07 with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. The race was only her second, following a maiden win Aug. 29 at Saratoga. "We've thought a lot of this filly all along," Pletcher said. "She showed up and ran a huge race for her second time out. She never gets tired. It was a big effort." Asked about the Breeders' Cup, he said, "That's something we've talked about. The question is how she will transfer her form to a synthetic surface. She certainly ran well enough … She was very professional for a second-time starter."
Biofuel apparently took on jet fuel before Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine. Last until the final turn, the Kentucky-bred Stormin Fever filly came widest of all to quickly get to the front and then drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Bay to Bay. Witch's Coven was third and the favorite, Cascading, settled for fifth. Biofuel, off at odds of 23-1, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather surface in 1:44.47 under Eurico Da Silva. She came into the race off a fourth-place finish behind Fanny Freud in the Aug. 15 Ontario Debutante and a poor outing on the grass. "She's a nice, sound, healthy filly," said winning trainer Reade Baker. "The grass race was a toss. The sprint was a toss."
Running Bride drew off in the stretch to win Saturday's $70,000 Miss Indiana Stakes for state-breds at Hoosier Park by 7 1/2 lengths. Edgewise was best of the rest. Running Bride, a daughter of Cherokee Run, got the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:12.8 under Rodney Prescott.
Shotgun Gulch wore down Stormin' Maggy in the final strides to win Saturday's $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial at Remington Park by a head. Right to Rule was third. Shotgun Gulch, an Oklahoma-bred Thunder Gulch filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.09 with Chris Landeros up.