There figures to be a distinctive Southern California flavor to Breeders’ Cup XXVI on Nov. 6-7, and not just because the event will be held at Santa Anita for a record second consecutive year.
A trio of talented horses based in the Southland, led by the undefeated Zenyatta and also including the speedster Zensational and the come-from-behinder Magical Fantasy, figure to have a huge say in this Breeders’ Cup.
It’s beginning to look like Zenyatta’s owners and trainer value an unbeaten record over any Horse of the Year laurels, so it now appears the 5-year-old Street Cry mare will conclude her career with starts in the Lady’s Secret Stakes during the Oak Tree meet on Oct. 10 and the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic on Nov. 6.
A win in the Lady’s Secret would match Personal Ensign’s 13-0 career record, and a follow-up score in the Ladies Classic would enable Zenyatta to retire with a 14-0 mark. How she would go down in history, seeing as though she would never beaten the boys like Personal Ensign and Lady’s Secret, is for historians to decide.
Jerry Moss, who owns Zenyatta along with his wife Ann, is still hopeful their reigning 2008 Eclipse Award winner for top older female can win Horse of the Year even if she doesn’t race against the boys.
“This year, in the (Vanity), she ran with 129 pounds and beat older people,” Moss said.
“Last year, we beat Ginger Punch at Oaklawn, we faced her in the Breeders’ Cup. Now this is a formidable filly, there’s no doubt about it, and we beat her twice. And yet (Ginger Punch) got two votes for the older filly of the year. So I can’t say what writers will do. They’ll make their own choices based on their own feelings in their own time. I’m not going to tell anybody how to vote, I couldn’t do that.
“Last year, Curlin supposedly got special consideration because he came back as a champion to continue running for another year and allow the public a chance to see him, and I applaud that decision. And that’s what we’re doing this year — we’re coming back from a championship, so I think we would get some reasonable consideration for doing that when it came to Horse of the Year honors.
“We happen to live in California so that’s what we build around, and we do plan a lot around where the Breeders’ Cup is. If the Breeders’ Cup were in New York or Churchill Downs, we’d be all over the country. But that’s not the case.”
Of course, Zensational has been sensational so far. He just sped gate to wire to win the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 8 and is being pointed toward the Pat O’Brien Stakes at the seaside oval on Sept. 6. The Ancient Title at Santa Anita on Oct. 11 could follow, or perhaps trainer Bob Baffert, fresh off induction into racing’s Hall of Fame, might elect to run just once more before the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Remember, Baffert is the guy who, mainly because of health issues, ran Midnight Lute just once before last year’s Breeders’ Cup, where the talented son of Real Quiet, said by Baffert to be the best horse he ever trained, became the first back-to-back winner of the Sprint.
Magical Fantasy, winner of Sunday’s Grade 1 John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar, earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf by winning the $350,000 race and trainer Patrick Gallagher said the 4-year-old filly will be pointed toward the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita on Oct. 10 and the Breeders’ Cup if she remains healthy.