The countdown to Zenyatta’s 2010 debut is on in earnest. The undefeated Breeders’ Cup Classic winner is set to accept high weight of 127 pounds for Saturday’s Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap, a race the racing world expects will lead to a showdown with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the $5 million Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

“Zenyatta will leave for Santa Anita tomorrow after training and school Thursday afternoon,” trainer John Shirreffs said Wednesday from his Hollywood Park headquarters. “She’s doing well and we’re looking forward to the race.” Zenyatta is scheduled to arrive at Santa around 11 a.m.

HRTV will present a special one-hour live show Saturday featuring the 2010 debuts of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, who will seek her 15th straight victory in the Santa Margarita at 1 1/8 miles.

Entitled “The Champions Return,” the HRTV show will be hosted by Scott Hazelton and Gary Stevens, who will be live at the Fair Grounds for Rachel Alexandra’s race, the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies’ Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. It will go as the 10th race at approximately 3:15 p.m. The Santa Margarita will be Santa Anita’s seventh race with a probable post time of 3:40 p.m.

Zenyatta worked six furlongs Friday at her Hollywood Park headquarters in 1:11.80, breezing. She will be making her first start since her dramatic last-to-first victory against males in the mile and a quarter Classic, in which she carried 123 pounds. Her highest impost was 129 pounds, which she carried to victory by 2 1/2 lengths in the Grade I Vanity Handicap at Hollywood on June 27 last year.

Second starting high weight in the Santa Margarita under 115 pounds is La Canada Stakes winner Striking Dancer.

Zenyatta, a charismatic 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry, has earned $5,474,580 for owners Jerry and Ann Moss.

Although Zenyatta finished second to Rachel Alexandra for Horse of the Year honors, she lost no stature with trainer A.C. Avila, who entered Made for Magic in the Santa Margarita. “It’s true she’s not Horse of the Year,” Avila said. “To me, she’s Horse of the Decade.” As for anyone upsetting Zenyatta Saturday, Avila offered little hope. “It’s impossible to beat the monster,” he said.

The field for the Santa Margarita: Dance to My Tune, Martin Garcia, 111; Pretty Katherine, Joel Rosario, 111; Made for Magic, Omar Berrio, 111; Pretty Unusual, Chantal Sutherland, 113; Striking Dancer, Alex Solis, 115; Powerofvoodoo, Tyler Kaplan, 108; Gripsholm Castle, Victor Espinoza, 112; Zenyatta, Mike Smith, 127; and Floating Heart, Joe Talamo, 111.


Paul Atkinson thinks the best is yet to come for California-bred Caracortado. Like Don Quixote, the veteran jockey has been battling windmills with Rocinantes throughout his career. But in Caracortado, Atkinson has found a dragon slayer. The jockey and the not-so-nondescript horse have stunned the racing world to date, winning all five starts, from a $40,000 maiden claiming race going a half-mile at Fairplex Park to the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

On Saturday, the duo hopes to move a step closer to the Kentucky Derby on May 1 when they run in the Grade II, $150,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Early on, Caracortado (it means scar face in Spanish) and Atkinson flew beneath racing’s radar, but after winning the Lewis on Feb. 13, trainer Mike Machowsky proclaimed those days were over. Caracortado had arrived.

“He surprised me when I worked him three-quarters here (in 1:12 2/5 on Jan. 31), but from then on, he’s pretty much run as I expected,” the 40-year-old Atkinson said of Caracortado, a gelding bred by Machowsky, who also owns a share of the horse.

“It doesn’t seem like distance will be a problem for him, either,” Atkinson said. “Like in the Lewis, he just waited, and sitting on him, it was kind of like, ‘Can we go now? How about now? Are we ready yet?’ When I let him go, he just turns it on and gives you everything he’s got.”

Asked if he underestimated Caracortado by starting him in a $40,000 maiden claiming race at four furlongs, Machowsky said: “I thought he’d be a good price (laughter), it was Fairplex, and I knew he was fast. And he’s fast, but he also can run all day.”

Since Caracortado won the Lewis, Machowsky has been fielding questions from a suddenly piqued national media about the horse he calls “M.C.” around the barn. “It stands for mentally challenged,” the trainer said. “He was a pain in the ass when I first got him, but now he’s a pro. Lately, a bunch of guys are calling all the time asking about the horse. I’ve done quite a few interviews, which is great. Hopefully, it will keep going.”

Caracortado paid $21.60 when he won at Fairplex. Atkinson said he ran like a 1-5 shot, and has ever since. Not only that, he’s been a gem of consistency. He’s won every race but one by the identical margin of a length and three-quarters. The lone exception came on Dec. 6, when he won by a length and a half.

Since he began his career 25 years ago, Atkinson has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby, although he has experienced the fervor and the flavor first hand. “I just remember that I rode Memo in a stakes race at Churchill Downs on Derby day one year,” he said, “and it was a mad house.”

The field for the San Felipe, which goes as the ninth race on a 10-race program: Stephen’s Got Hope, Tyler Baze, 115; Interactif, Rafael Bejarano, 117; Erbeia, Alex Solis, 115; American Lion, Julien Leparoux, 117; Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo, 117; Dave in Dixie, Joel Rosario, 115; and Caracortado, Atkinson, 119.


Gary Stevens has known Calvin Borel well over two decades, and can’t think of a more deserving winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The 43-year-old Borel will be at Santa Anita Sunday to receive the prestigious honor following the sixth race. Borel’s fiancée, Lisa, and his agent, Jerry Hissam, also will be on hand.

“I’ve known Calvin for 25 years,” said Stevens, the 1996 Woolf winner. “He’s a super guy and well-respected. I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anybody. He’s liked by everyone and very deserving of the award. He’s probably done more for the sport in recent years through his association with Rachel Alexandra, and winning the Kentucky Derby with Mine That Bird and Street Sense.”

Borel is the 61st Woolf winner selected by a vote of his peers. The native of St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, is the regular rider of the superstar filly and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

“His peers have been well aware of Calvin’s abilities for years, as well as his personality,” Stevens continued. “He’s been on the national stage for the last couple of years. He’s a super guy and very deserving.”


The Dal Jones Memorial Texas Hold’ Em No-Limit Poker Tournament will be held Sunday, March 28, at the top of the stretch at Santa Anita. The event will benefit trainer Dal Jones Jr., who died of an apparent heart attack on Feb. 16 at the age of 38 and left behind a wife and two young children.

There will be food, drinks, music and a silent and live auction at 5:15 p.m. sharp, or 15 minutes after the last race. The tournament starts at 6:15 p.m. There will be prizes for the top three finishers, as well as constant raffles for all in attendance. There is a $200 buy-in, which is not tax deductible.

Interested parties can sign up via credit card ort mail in a donation or buy-in to see the prize list. First prize is a Rolex Submariner. For more information, visit or contact Victor Smith at

FINISH LINES: Bob Baffert passed Saturday’s San Felipe Stakes with male 2-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky, who left Tuesday for Arkansas, where he will make his 3-year-old debut in the Grade II, $300,000 Rebel Stakes on traditional dirt at the Fair Grounds. Garrett Gomez rides. “He’s going to run well,” Baffert said of Lookin At Lucky, who will race with blinkers and on traditional dirt for the first time. “He’s doing great and he’s a good horse. I’m worried more about my other horses trying to get to the (Kentucky) Derby.” . . . The Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will broadcast live from Tampa Bay Downs Saturday with exclusive coverage of the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby and Grade III Florida Oaks. Coverage also will include Santa Anita’s Santa Margarita Handicap and the New Orleans Ladies Handicap, featuring Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, respectively. HRRN’s coverage runs from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The broadcast will be streamed live on HRRN’s website, . . . Agent Craig O’Bryan said David Flores will be at the Fair Grounds Saturday to ride Zenyatta stablemate Zardana for John Shirreffs against Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes . . . Generous Stakes winner Who’s Up, a candidate for the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3 or the Grade II, $500,000 Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 27, worked six furlongs at Washington state’s Pegasus facility in 1:17 Wednesday under the supervision of trainer Mike Puhich, agent Tony Matos reports . . . . . . Agent Vic Lipton reports that jockey Alex Bisono will begin working horses Friday morning at Santa Anita prior to riding the remainder of the meet. The 25-year-old Hempstead, N.Y. native won the Grade I Ancient Title Stakes at Oak Tree for Craig Dollase in 2004 and three stakes at the 2006 Santa Anita meet on Foxysox for Carla Gaines . . . Geovanni Franco will begin riding shortly at Santa Anita. The 19-year-old apprentice jockey has 33 wins to date and has been riding at Hastings Park and in his native Mexico. He tacks 108 pounds and will be represented by agent Jim Pegram . . . Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip worked four furlongs at Hollywood Park Wednesday in :48.40 for Ron Ellis . . . Trainer A.C. Avila is expected to miss five days due to back surgery, while trainer Bob Bean says he’ll be out two days for surgery on his right knee . . . Jon Shonk, writer and handicapper for Today’s Racing Digest, will be Jerry Antonucci’s guest Saturday at The Today’s Racing Digest seminar, 11 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens . . . ShowVivor II had 29 contestants alive going into Wednesday, while WinVivor II, which began Saturday, was down to seven.