Perfect Zenyatta to take on boys in Classic
ARCADIA, Calif. - Zenyatta was made the early 5-2 favorite yesterday in a field of 13 for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, where she’ll put her 13-0 record on the line against the boys for the first time.
Zenyatta will break from the No. 4 post in Saturday’s 1 1/4-mile race at Santa Anita.
She also had been pre-entered in Friday’s $2 million Ladies’ Classic, which she won last year.
But owners Jerry and Ann Moss, along with trainer John Shirreffs, had a bigger goal in mind for the 5-year-old mare.
“There’s an opportunity to make history in the Classic, that’s why we chose the Classic,’’ Shirreffs said, referring to the fact that no female horse has won in the race’s 25-year history.
Zenyatta will be just the fourth female to run in the Classic. Jolypha had the best result, finishing third in 1992. Azeri was fourth in 2004 and Triptych was sixth in 1986.
“I believe she deserves this chance,’’ said Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rides Zenyatta.
With a victory, Zenyatta would better Personal Ensign’s career mark of 13-0 set from 1986-88. That filly retired as the first undefeated champion in American racing in more than 80 years.
“I hope it gets more people interested,’’ Jerry Moss said. “I hope it gets more people watching.’’
Missing from America’s richest race is Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, the 3-year-old filly who won all eight of her races this year, including three victories over male competition.
Her owner, Jess Jackson, shut her down for the year because he doesn’t like Santa Anita’s synthetic surface, where his two-time Horse of the Year Curlin faded to fourth in last year’s Classic.
Zenyatta has won 11 races on synthetic surfaces, including three on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride. Her lone win on traditional dirt came at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
She will take on a loaded field that includes Ireland-bred Rip Van Winkle, the 7-2 early second choice, and Summer Bird, the 9-2 third choice who swept the Belmont, Travers, and
Mine That Bird, winless in four races since his stunning upset in the Kentucky Derby, was listed at 12-1, along with six other horses.
Trainer Chip Woolley Jr. shrugged off Mine That Bird’s long-shot status, saying, “He won the Derby at 50-1.’’
The 14 races to be run Friday and Saturday for the second consecutive year at Santa Anita are worth $25.5 million. A total of 149 horses were entered, including 30 from Europe.