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STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN
TEAM ZENYATTA EYES RETURN OF THE CHAMPION
“Reunited and it feels so good.” The chorus of the 1979 hit by Peaches and Herb is an appropriate theme for Mike Smith these days, since the Hall of Fame jockey will soon get together again with the best horse he’s ever ridden, undefeated Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Zenyatta.
The 6-year-old mare owned by Jerry and Ann Moss and trained by John Shirreffs was retired after she made history by defeating males with a breathtaking last-to-first victory in the Classic at Oak Tree last Nov. 7.
But Team Zenyatta had a change of heart, and on Jan. 16, to the delight of her legion of fans, announced she would race again.
Smith is hoping the sequel is better than the original, which reaped 14 victories and gleaned more than $5.2 million. Zenyatta has been training steadily at her Hollywood Park headquarters, and is expected to make her return on March 13 at Santa Anita in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap.
After that, if all goes well, a race for the ages against Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra could unfold on April 3 at Oaklawn Park in the Apple Blossom Handicap.
“I’m looking forward to Zenyatta coming back,” Smith said. “Whenever it is, I’m not sure. She’s going to work a couple more times before she runs, so we’ll see where they go and what they decide to do with her. John will pick a spot soon, I’m sure. The Santa Margarita is certainly a possibility, and then on to Oaklawn, if it works out.”
Invitations and weights for the Santa Margarita are scheduled to be announced March 7.
Shirreffs confirmed that Zenyatta would start in the Santa Margarita if conditions are suitable. Beyond that looms Rachel Alexandra. “I hope so,” Moss said. “That’s what we’d love to do.”
LADIES’ CLASSIC WINNER LIFE IS SWEET SET FOR SANTA MARIA
Life Is Sweet is near-perfection at Santa Anita, winning four of five career starts. Her only loss came at the hands of her undefeated stablemate, Zenyatta, in the Grade I Lady’s Secret Handicap last Oct. 10.
Life Is Sweet rebounded from that setback to post an 8-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on Nov. 6. The 5-year-old Storm Cat mare owned and bred by Marty and Pam Wygod and trained by John Shirreffs makes her 2010 debut in Saturday’s Grade II, $250,000 Santa Maria Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
“She’s training very well and she’s done very well at Santa Anita,” Shirreffs said.
Life Is Sweet has a 6-3-1 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $1,770, 810. She worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park Monday in 1:01.60, breezing.
MOTT MAKES PRESENCE FELT AT SANTA ANITA
Bill Mott will add to his Frequent Flier mileage this week. The Hall of Fame trainer, on hand at Santa Anita Wednesday morning before heading back to Florida, has at least four horses scheduled to start here from Saturday through Monday.
One is Mushka, a 5-year-old Empire Maker mare who is ticketed for a rematch with Ladies’ Classic winner Life Is Sweet in Saturday’s Santa Maria Handicap. “It was a good effort,” Mott said of Mushka’s runner-up finish by 2 ½ lengths to Life Is Sweet. “My filly seems to be doing well.”
Other horses Mott intends to start are Unrivaled Belle in Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 La Caňada Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles; Raging Wit in Monday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs; and Treat Gently in Monday’s Grade II, $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf.
Probable for the La Caňada: Floating Heart, no rider; Freedom Star, Martin Garcia; Gripsholm Castle, Victor Espinoza; Gumption, Mike Smith; Haka, Rafael Bejarano; Miss Silver Brook, Garrett Gomez; Pretty Katherine, Joel Rosario; Stardom Bound, Julien Leparoux; and Striking Dancer, Alex Solis.
Probable for the Buena Vista: Cat by the Tale, Rosario, 118; Starlarks, Solis, 118; and Tuscan Evening, Bejarano, 122. Tuscan Evening worked six furlongs on Pro-Ride Tuesday in 1:13.40 for Jerry Hollendorfer.
FINISH LINES: Blind Luck worked five furlongs Tuesday on Pro-Ride in :59.20 for the rescheduled Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes on Saturday. Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, called the drill “perfect.” Hers was one of 264 recorded workouts on Pro-Ride Tuesday. Other prominent drills were registered by Kentucky Derby Future Book favorite Lookin At Lucky (three furlongs in :36.60); Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner California Flag (five furlongs in 1:00.60); and 2-year-old filly champion of 2008 Stardom Bound (five furlongs in 1:01.60) . . . Ever A Friend, prepping for the Grade I, $250,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 6, worked five furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Monday in 1:01.40, breezing, for Mike Mitchell. Ever A Friend won the 2008 Kilroe . . .Tiz Afire’s victory in Sunday’s first race gave trainer Marty Jones his seventh win at the meet from 19 starters, a winning average of better than 37 percent. “I’ve had a lot of luck over here,” said the 38-year-old Jones, whose base of operations is at Hollywood Park where he has 30 head. “I’ve been running a lot of seasoned horses, not many maidens or anything like that.” . . . Conveyance, Cardiff Giant and Domonation, the first three finishers in the San Rafael Stakes, are scheduled to meet Monday in the Grade III, $250,000 Southwest Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile at Oaklawn Park. Garrett Gomez rides undefeated Conveyance for Bob Baffert; Christian Santiago Reyes rides Cardiff Giant for Jorge Periban; and Corey Nakatani has the mount on Domonation for John Sadler. . . Agent Richie Silverstein reports that Danny Sorenson will be at Turf Paradise Saturday to ride Nikki’sgoldensteed in the $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup at six furlongs and Dave’s Revenge in the $50,000 Sun City Handicap at one mile on turf, both for trainer Bob Hess Jr. . . . Santa Anita named Wednesday’s fifth race for popular horse racing radio pioneer Bill Garr, who was on hand to celebrate his “39th” birthday . . . Friday 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 . . . There will be special racing on Monday, Presidents’ Day. The first 10,000 fans in attendance at Santa Anita will receive a free set of Santa Anita Pint Glasses with paid admission, while supplies last. First post time is 12:30 p.m. . . . Phase 2 of Santa Anita’s popular on-line handicapping game, WinVivor, began with 3,406 players but was down to 1,009 going into Wednesday. ShowVivor II begins Saturday . . . Bob Mieszerski of Today’s Racing Digest website will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest at the Today’s Racing Digest seminar on Saturday, 11 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.