Part of the price you must pay when you own a brilliant mare that’s unbeaten in 10 career races is that she has to carry a lot of weight as she continues to mow down the opposition. Such is the case for Zenyatta, who will race in Saturday’s $300,000 Grade 1 Vanity Handicap with top weight of 129 pounds as she tries to become the first repeat winner of the stake since Azeri in 2003. Azeri carried 127 pounds that year. Zenyatta carried 126 pounds when she made her 2009 debut a winning one in Hollypark’s $150,000 Grade 2 Milady Handicap on May 23. Other repeat winners in the Vanity include Annie-Lu-San in 1957-58, Convenience in 1972-73 and It’s In The Air in 1979-80.
Gamely carried a stake-record 131 pounds in 1968 while winning, and Silver Spoon won in 1960 while carrying 130 pounds. The complete list of weights, which were announced Sunday: Zenyatta, 129; Life Is Sweet, 122; Dawn After Dawn, 116; Briecat, 114; Modification, 114; You Lift Me Up, 114; Allicansayis Wow, 113; Forest Melody, 113, and Hot n’ Dusty, 111.
Of course, Life Is Sweet, Zenyatta’s stablemate, is expected to bypass the Vanity and run instead in the $700,000 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup against the males on July 11. Trainer John Shirreffs said he believes Life Is Sweet, owned by Martin Wygod, is more suited to race against the boys at this stage of the year because she’s had more races in 2009. She won a pair of major stakes for distaffers at Santa Anita this past winter.
Zenyatta’s exercise rider, Steve Willard, believes the mare who’s earned $2,234,580 for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, is ready to roll Saturday. “She came out of that last race better than ever,” he said.
Mike Smith, who’s been aboard for eight of Zenyatta’s 10 lifetime victories, will be back aboard in the Vanity.