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ZENYATTA ARRIVES BY VAN AT SANTA ANITA, SET FOR SATURDAY’S GR. I SANTA MARGARITA
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 11, 2010)—Undefeated champion mare Zenyatta arrived at Santa Anita by van from her Hollywood Park base at 11:30 a.m. Thursday as she makes final preparations for her 2010 debut in Saturday’s Gr. I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap.
Zenyatta was scheduled to school between races three and four in Santa Anita’s paddock, under the watchful eye of trainer John Shirreffs.
Unbeaten in 14 starts and regarded by many as possibly the best horse in the world today, Zenyatta has been idle since winning the Gr. I, $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7, her first start versus males.
In a breathtaking performance, Zenyatta broke tardily and trailed a star-studded field of 12 horses by as many as 13 lengths in the early stages of the 1 ¼ miles Classic. Around the far turn, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith had her in gear and she went on to a dramatic one-length victory that is being compared with Seabiscuit’s 1940 Santa Anita Handicap win and the legendary Johnny Longden’s victorious ride aboard George Royal in the 1966 San Juan Capistrano Handicap, which was the final race in Longden’s career.
Saturday’s Santa Margarita attracted a field of nine fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles and the 6-year-old Zenyatta is the overwhelming morning line favorite at odds of 1-9. Assigned highweight of 127 pounds, Zenyatta will be spotting her rivals from 12 to 19 pounds.
In her final work this past Friday at Hollywood Park, the daughter of Street Cry breezed six furlongs with Smith aboard in 1:11.80.
“She worked unbelievable the other day,” said Smith. “I know it sounds funny, but I really think she’s getting better. She seems more and more focused and she couldn’t be doing any better.”
Although victorious in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Zenyatta settled for runner-up honors in the 2009 Horse of the Year balloting to superstar filly Rachel Alexandra, who also makes her 2010 debut on Saturday, in the inaugural running of the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies at 1 1/16 miles at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans.
The New Orleans Ladies Stakes will be available via simulcast, with post time set for 3:15 p.m., PST. Zenyatta will run approximately 22 minutes later, as post time for the Santa Margarita (race seven) is scheduled for 3:37 p.m.
Looking beyond this Saturday’s races, the racing world is hoping that Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will be able to meet as planned in what would be an epic showdown in the Gr. I, $5 million Apple Blossom Handicap on April 9 at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Santa Anita will present a 10-race program on Saturday, with first post time set at 12:30 p.m.