Zenyatta will probably race next in the Vanity

Despite owner Jerry Moss’ apparent eagerness to raise the bar for his unbeaten mare Zenyatta, it appears trainer John Shirreffs will choose the safe route and keep racing the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry against other distaffers for the time being.

After Zenyatta returned from a seven-month absence to win the $150,000 Grade II Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park on Saturday, Moss told reporters in the winner’s circle that he was more willing to race against males this year, that last year they tried to protect Zenyatta in an effort to earn the Eclipse Award for top older female that she ended up winning.

But Moss lets Shirreffs make the decisions, and why not? There are few trainers around the Southland with better win percentages than the former marine, who is not fond of racing females against males. Shirreffs does not believe it’s a good idea to race Zenyatta against males at a mile and one quarter in only her second race back. Can’t blame him there.

But some point this season, if the Zenyatta camp wants its brilliant mare to be mentioned with the best distaffers of all time, they are going to have to raise the bar and try the boys. Personal Ensign did it, winning the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga in 1988, and finished her career 13-0. Lady’s Secret did it too, defeating the boys four times in 1986 at age 4 en route to Horse of the Year laurels and is regarded as one of the best of all time.

For Zenyatta, it won’t be the Hollywood Gold Cup. It won’t be the Pacific Classic at Del Mar because Shirreffs does not like the Polytrack surface. It looks like the only two options would be the Goodwood Handicap during the Oak Tree meet or the Breeders’ Cup Classic a month later. Problem is, Moss also owns Tiago, one of the best older handicap stars on the West Coast, and he figures to be a candidate for those two races as well.

They could ship east and try the Whitney at Saratoga during the summer or the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park about a month before the Breeders’ Cup. The latter option probably is not a viable one because Shirreffs does not want Zenyatta traveling that close to the Breeders’ Cup.

So it’s entirely possible that Zenyatta’s 2009 campaign, one that would include the Vanity, the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar, the Lady’s Secret at Oak Tree and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic to round out her career, will not feature a race against the boys. My guess? If she does race against the males, it will be the Whitney, which is far enough out from the Breeders’ Cup to suit Shirreffs.

So what do you think? If Zenyatta never races against the boys, will it harm her legacy even if she finishes her career undefeated?

18 thoughts on “Zenyatta will probably race next in the Vanity

  1. Please, Art, do not try to defend this action by Sheireffs. What was the point of bringing Zenyatta back to racing if she wasn’t going to challenge herself with the best races possible? She’s already proven everything possible against females, beating a very good group of mares in the BC Classic last year and then trouncing the best mare in the country, Life is Sweet, over the weekend. As for even waiting to take on the boys later in the year, there’s no reason. She is in top form right now and it doesn’t take a genius to see it. If they put her in the Gold Cup she will be no less than an 8-5 favorite at post time. She just ran a 101 beyer (on synthetic) with Mike Smith barely shaking the reins, and if she’s put in there with the boys at the Gold Cup she will win and fire a career-high Beyer to win, if need be. That’s my opinion, but the main point here is that there was no reason for Zenyatta to come back to racing if she’s not going to take on the boys. I guess, they may want to go 13 or 14-0 and break the record, but who really cares if she goes off at 1-9 in the next three or four races and beats females? She’s one of the best frickin’ female horses EVER and nobody near gave a hoot when she came back last Saturday. Race her against the boys because that’s what the public wants to see and the only way to make them really care.

  2. Gordon,
    Shirreffs says the reason he doesn’t want to run Zenyatta in the Hollywood Gold Cup is because he doesn’t want her running a distance (1 1/4 miles) that she’s never gone and doing it against males in only her second start back after a seven-month layoff. Hey, I can’t blame him. The Zenyatta camp obviously wants to race her against the males when they think she’s at peak efficiency. I would run her in the Gold Cup because I don’t think there’s a whole lot to beat in the race and she loves Hollywood Park, having won five of her 10 races there. I can live with the fact she’s not going to run in the Gold Cup. What I can’t live with is if they don’t at some point this year tackle the boys, whether it be the Pacific Classic (no chance), the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga (more of a chance), the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park (only slightly more of a chance than the Pacific Classic) or the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I don’t think so). If they want to take home Horse of the Year, they are going to have to take on the boys at some point and leave the state. A perfect 14-0 record is nice, but it doesn’t lead to lofty accolades if she doesn’t meet the boys like Personal Ensign (1988) and Lady’s Secret (1986).

  3. Agree on everything expect the worry about her 2nd start after layoff against the boys. In my opinion, she is at her peak right now. Check out her workout times leading up to last saturday and then how she performed during the actual race. I would not be surprised if on Sunday she looked and acted like she hadn’t even run a race the day before. Hell, even Saturday night once she cooled down. As for the distance, well, let’s see what kind of horse she really is. I just hope you guys in the horse racing media push Shirreffs (sorry for misspelling earlier) to go for the Gold Cup. It seems like Zenyatta’s owners are ready for the challenge.

  4. Well Gordon,
    I hope we get that match against the boys at some point this year because I really think she’s done all she can against other fillies and mares, but I doubt it’s going to be the Gold Cup. John Shirreffs doesn’t get pushed into anything. He’s very patient and doesn’t take a lot of risks. So far, I think he’s handled Zenyatta brilliantly, but I do think they need to step outside the lines here at some point and race against the boys. We’ll see how much they want Horse of the Year or if it doesn’t mean that much to them.

  5. Just considered the Gold Cup again and realized Rail Trip will probably run that race. Wow, I’d love to see Zenyatta try to reel in Rail Trip (or even Ball Four, for that matter). Both those horses ran 103-105 Beyers, I believe, in that last race, which would have been a bit better than Zenyatta last weekend. Of course, Zenyatta barely broke a sweat. Hmmmm, would be interesting. Much more interesting than the friggin’ Vanity. However unlikely it may be, what if Zenyatta were to lose that race?

  6. Gordon,
    You’re right … on paper, the Vanity doesn’t look very inspiring at the moment. I seriously doubt Life Is Sweet is going to test Zenyatta again, particularly after the jock said after the Milady that she didn’t seem to like Hollywood Park’s synthetic — which I’m told plays more like dirt — as much as Santa Anita’s, which plays more like turf. I would expect owner Marty Wygod to try Life Is Sweet on turf next, perhaps in the $150,000 Grade II Beverly Hills on June 28 — the day after the Vanity? The way Zenyatta put her away without much urging in the Milady would suggest Life Is Sweet’s connections don’t want to tangle with the Eclipse Award winner again anytime soon. As for the Gold Cup? I wish Zenyatta would go because I think she’d be ultra tough to beat, but John Shirreffs doesn’t want her running a distance (1 1/4 miles) she’s never run before in only her second race back. Add the fact it would be against males and Shirreffs is doubly against the idea. Without Tiago and without Well Armed in the Gold Cup, as things stand right now, I kinda like Rail Trip.

  7. Zenyatta has raced the 1 1/16 distance before and she won at 1:40 and some change, she can run faster than that if she needs to in order to win she is going to make mints meat at the Lady’s Secret G1 race, preparing for her supposive final race in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, jockey mike smith knows how big in size of a horse she is and how long her strides are, so he can judge the races at the six furlong poles, and make his moves as he needs to

  8. Secretariat’s death could have been prevented and ohters also by cryotherapy. Ice cold water could have saved him. If his feet had been immersed in ice water right away he would have been OK. People were using ice water before Secretariat was born. I have a book on Thoroughbreds by D.T. Swidler that recommends cryotherapy and was written in the 1960s. Unfortunately there are one or more veterinarians who have claimed that ridiculous things like styrofoam could work better and that cryotherapy could soften the hooves(not true unless soaked for more than 3 days straight). Laminitis is not a disease. It is a symptom just like a cough and can have numerous causes. The word means swollen laminae. Cryotherapy reduces the swelling and returns the laminae to normal size restoring circulation and eliminating excess pressure on the hoof wall. If the laminae have already been damaged then stem cells can help them to regenerate and heal. Researchers have intentionally caused laminitis using sugar(fructan) or black walnut extract. These researchers cause suffering to horses and at the end of their studies kill them. THere are already numerous studies proving that cryotherapy works and so do stem cells. Funding more non productive redundant laminitis research will only cause the suffering and death of more horses. No true horse lover can be in favor of it.

  9. First of all, REALLY Kealy, as someone who has been in the iursntdy for a LONG time, our Queen could have eased through this year, worked a bit with Mike on getting up a bit sooner, THEN gone out on top with a win in the BC Classic. Did any of you see the study that showed Z was faster her last year of racing than the year she won the Classic? And yes, I totally understand the soundness issue; do you think Z was not gone over with a scan ever to make sure she was ok? AKA a fine toothed comb? Prob. not, but I would bet she was. Think about this: there are many, many mares that are older than Z running to this day, esp. on the grass in Europe. I would have loved to see Z on the turf. Let her go out on a win in her race, the BC Classic. Esp. with this group of runners that she would possibly face; she would blow them away! I cannot think there is one of you that would not be tickled to death to read the news on the Blood horse or someplace like that, that Z was un-retiring. They have done this to alot of mares who do not settle and they have gone on to be even more successful. I will tell you as a farm owner in Lexington myself, you are NOT going to get to see Zenyatta. You are not. Zenyatta may be doing something different, but by her actions on the track, the dancing before the race, this shows she loved it! She KNEW she was good and could get it done. Did anyone read about her reaction when she did not get to go to the winners circle when Blame nipped her at the end? One more stride was all she needed to win that race. Let her avenge her loss in the Classic and then let HER decide what she wants to do. A racehorse will tell you by its actions (no, sorry to tell you all, they do not TALK to us) but her actions spoke louder than any words! If she does slip another foal again, I have my thoughts on why that may be happening, but look at it as Mother Nature stating its not time for her yet to be a mother. Someday, just not now.And to the lucky winners of the bronze, I will certainly be upset if I see one of those on ebay! That will be a prize to keep for life! Enjoy and congrats to the winners. Bring the Queen Back! At least have her tour the different tracks (race or not) so that all of us can get a chance to say that we saw Zenyatta in person when we get old and grey! I personally would have loved to see Z let loose on the Belmont track, it is long enough for her to open up and get into that high gear she just starts getting into before its time to stop! Belmont is a mile and a half, Zenyatta would make short work of that!Note how many times in her races that she was just opening up and then by that time she had to slow it up since she had already gotten to the finish. So have an open mind, I’d love to see her grace beautiful Arlington Park even if its just for a walkover visit. PS: has anyone ever wondered why they have not re-bred Z’s dam back to Street Cry? Our mare slipped a Street Cry foal and we were really upset about that

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