The connections of undefeated Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Zenyatta would be willing to meet 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in a race for the ages at Oaklawn Park on April 3, if all goes well. Tentative plans call for Zenyatta to make her comeback race at Santa Anita on March 13 in the Grade I $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap. If all went smoothly after that, she could face Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom Handicap. Zenyatta capped her 2009 campaign with a dramatic last-to-first win the Classic at Oak Tree last Nov. 7.

Oaklawn President Charles J. Cella announced Thursday that the track will increase the purse of the Apple Blossom to $5 million, provided both champion females start in the Grade I race, which would be extended from its traditional distance of 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles. Should either horse fail to start, the Apple Blossom will revert to its original status, with a purse of $500,000.

“We’re all very excited about the opportunity,” said Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, racing manager for Zenyatta owners Jerry and Ann Moss and wife of trainer John Shirreffs .

“It would be fabulous for the fans and the racing industry. It’s a race we’ve won before, so she likes that track. We’ll do our best to make the race, but obviously, it all depends on Zenyatta and how she’s doing.”

Jess Jackson, majority owner of Rachel Alexandra, said in a statement: “As you have heard me say many times before, a number of factors must be considered when deciding where to race a horse—the number one factor being the condition of the horse. Rachel will tell us when she is ready to start her 2010 campaign and we humans must agree she is in top form.

“My family and I would love to see her run at Oaklawn Park. If she is in top form and it fits in our schedule, we will be there. Rachel, as you know, likes the track having won there last year.”

Zenyatta’s only race on traditional dirt among her 14 victories was a 4 ½-length triumph in the 2008 Apple Blossom Handicap. Rachel Alexandra currently is in training at the Fair Grounds, but has not run since defeating older males in the Woodward Stakes last Sept. 5.


Based on her smashing seven-length victory in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 20, Blind Luck will be a prohibitive favorite when she makes her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes.

A question in the mind of some is, can she transfer that form from one synthetic—Cushion Track—to another—Pro-Ride, even though she showed a fondness for Pro-Ride when she finished a troubled third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last Nov. 6?

“I think every trainer is always concerned about having a little bit of time between races and then coming back on a different surface,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Thursday morning as he sent his charges through their morning drills. “There’s a little anxiety there, but our filly’s been training really well over this track, so we’re not expecting her to regress. We’re expecting her to run a very good race.”

The field for the Las Virgenes, which goes as the fourth race on a 10-race program: Summer Games, Michael Baze, 116; Blind Luck, Rafael Bejarano, 122; La Nez, Mike Smith, 118; Switch, Tyler Baze, 116; Evening Jewel, Victor Espinoza, 118; and Crisp, Joel Rosario, 118.


Saturday could be the start of something big for John Sadler. Santa Anita’s leading trainer last season, Sadler has four of his 3-year-olds ready to go, Switch and Crisp against favored Blind Luck in the Grade I $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and Dave in Dixie and Domonation in the Grade II $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings.

“Each horse is different,” Sadler said when asked how young horses develop from age two to three. “Dave in Dixie, for instance, is making his first start since the Norfolk (Stakes last Oct. 4, finishing sixth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths). It’s the start of the campaign for him, so we’re excited.”

A $310,000 son of Dixie Union owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Dave in Dixie was an impressive maiden winner at Del Mar last August.

Domonation will be making his second start as a 3-year-old for Sadler. After a narrow maiden win at Hollywood Park last Nov. 29, the gray son of Maria’s Mon was second to Tiz Chrome in the restricted Stuka Stakes on Dec. 19, and third to unbeaten Conveyance in the Jan. 16 San Rafael.

The fillies appear to have a more daunting task than the colts, since they meet Eclipse Award finalist Blind Luck in the Las Virgenes. The daughter of Pollard’s Vision won the Hollywood Starlet last Dec. 20 for her second Grade I victory since trainer Jerry Hollendorfer brought her West from Calder Race Course in Florida, purchasing her privately after she won a $40,000 maiden claiming race by 13 1/4 lengths. “Switch has trained really well,” Sadler said. “She was third in the Santa Ynez at seven furlongs and this is only her third start.” Crisp won the Grade III Santa Ysabel on Jan. 10 in her third start.

Sadler said the one-syllable names for his fillies are “purely a coincidence,” and were not meant to make life easier for track announcer Trevor Denman. ”More owners are kind of going that way,” Sadler said.-

The field for the Lewis: Macias, Victor Espinoza, 117; Dave in Dixie, Joel Rosario, 115; Tiz Chrome, Garrett Gomez, 117; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson, 117; Tango Tango, Rafael Bejarano, 115; American Lion, Julien Leparoux, 117; and Domonation, Joe Talamo, 115.


Victor Espinoza has ridden Misremembered in all but one of his nine career races, the last eight in a row, including victories in the Grade II Swaps Stakes and the Grade II Indiana Derby. Coming off a solid second after breaking from the rail in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs, Espinoza likes his chances in Saturday’s Grade II $150,000 Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

“Seven-eighths is a little bit short for him,” said Espinoza, currently in a four-way battle for leading rider honors at Santa Anita. “A mile and an eighth should be perfect. He’s ready to go. When he finished 10th in the Pacific Classic (Sept. 6), he had a little time off before that race and it was against older horses, so he didn’t have much in his favor.

“After that race he came back and won (the Indiana Derby), and he’s been running good since.”

The field for the Strub: Eagle Poise, Julien Leparoux, 117; Rendezvous, Rafael Bejarano, 121; Square Eddie, Joe Talamo, 117; Viscount, Garrett Gomez, 117; Gallant Son, Alex Solis, 117; Diferentkindagreat, Jose Valdivia Jr., 117; Heavenly Wind, Brice Blanc, 117; Smart Bid, Mike Smith, 119; Misremembered, Victor Espinoza, 121; and Massone, Joel Rosario, 117.


Pick Six, a 6-year-old Dynaformer horse owned by breeder Ernest Oare, who races as E M O Stables, makes his debut on synthetic in Sunday’s Grade II $150,000 San Antonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on Pro-Ride. His last 22 races have been on turf, the first three on dirt.

Trainer Dan Hendricks has had the horse for less than a month, owing to a change in plans.

“Originally, he was sent out here for another trainer to buy, but the deal fell apart, so the owner sent him to me,” Hendricks said. “It was a nice surprise, because he’s been working super and he’s got a great background, being bred by the Phipps Stable.”

The field for the San Antonio, which goes as the seventh of eight races: Quasicobra, Michael Baze, 113; Marsh Side, Joel Rosario, 119; Mast Track, Mike Smith, 118; Philatelist, Rafael Bejarano, 113; Pick Six, Victor Espinoza, 114; Slew’s Tiznow, Jose Valdivia Jr., 114; Dakota Phone, Martin Garcia, 115; Richard’s Kid, Garrett Gomez, 120; Giganticus, Chantal Sutherland, 114; Nownownow, Joe Talamo, 116; and Furthest Land, Julien Leparoux, 119.

Giganticus blew out three furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in a bullet :34.80 for trainer Simon Callaghan.

FINISH LINES: Tomorrow marks another ‘Free Friday’ at Santa Anita. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . . On Super Bowl Sunday, there will be an early first post time of 11 a.m., with gates opening at 9:30 a.m. THOROUGHBREDS members will be admitted to the Grandstand for only $1 . . . Unbeaten Triple Crown hopeful Conveyance worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday in 1:13.20 under Martin Garcia. “He went nice,” trainer Bob Baffert said of the son of Indian Charlie, who wired the field in winning the one-mile San Rafael Stakes Jan. 16. “We’re looking at the Sham (Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 27). It would be a good setup for either the UAE Derby (March 27) or the Kentucky Derby (May 1).” . . . Track superintendent Richard Tedesco said the local weather forecast calls for just under two inches of rain starting Friday morning and continuing into Saturday morning . . . Joel Rosario did not ride Thursday, making up a suspension day for riding in two designated races in the Sunshine Millions last Saturday . . . Saturday’s Magna 5 has been cancelled due to threatening weather at Laurel Race Course . . . Trainer Mike Machowksy went to Plan B when The Jockey Club rejected the first name he submitted for Caracortado, the unbeaten gelding who goes for his fifth straight win in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes. ‘When the horse came to the track from the farm he had a big cut down the middle of his head, with blue stitches and all,” Machowsky said. “I tried to name him Scarface, but The Jockey Club said no, so I put it in Spanish, which is caracortado.” . . . Compari, 3-1 morning line selection before being scratched from Saturday’s Sunshine Millions Classic, is recovering from an upper respiratory ailment. “We had him on antibiotics for a few days,” said trainer Marty Jones. “He seems to be good. I think you’ll see him later in the meet, if everything keeps going the way it’s going.” . . . Simon Pearce, a 23-year-old apprentice rider from Newmarket, England, will ride at Santa Anita through February. He has 29 wins in England, tacks 112 pounds and carries a seven-pound weight allowance . . . Master mimic and race caller Frank Mirahmadi and HRTV’s Millie Ball will be Jack Disney’s guests at what promises to be an entertaining Fans’ Forum Sunday starting at 10 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.