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Zenyatta puts on a star performance

The 4-year-old easily wins the Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita to stay unbeaten.

September 28, 2008|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

When thoroughbred racing fans break out into spontaneous applause in the middle of a race, it's a sign of respect, recognition and star quality.

That's the kind of excitement the unbeaten filly Zenyatta produced Saturday in another breathtaking performance at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meet on an unprecedented day of six Grade I stakes.

The 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, was turned loose at the top of the stretch, and with each powerful stride, she moved past her three challengers with relative ease for a 3 1/2 -length victory over Hystericalady in the $250,000 Lady Secret Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

Zenyatta, sent off as the 3-5 favorite, improved to eight for eight in her career, and left her owner, Jerry Moss, appreciating the talent on display.

"This is one in a million," he said. "You always dream and hope you have a filly as good as this."

Added Smith: "I just can't describe her. She leaves me speechless. She just seems to be sent from heaven. She does things horses aren't supposed to do."

Zenyatta stands slightly more than 17 hands tall, which is gigantic for a filly, and in full stride, she looks as if she's running in slow motion.

"It's absolutely incredible," Moss said. "There are a lot of moving parts with a big filly like that, and you have to make sure they are all going in the same direction at the same time."

Moss credits trainer John Shirreffs for Zenyatta's success. "He trained her for a year and a half before she ran," Moss said. "When she was ready, she was really ready. It's all John."

Zenyatta is next expected to run in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita, though some have asked Moss if Zenyatta would be willing to take on males Curlin or Big Brown in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"I don't think there's any chance," he said. "We don't want to get her into that mix."

But if Zenyatta keeps winning, she's going to thrust herself into consideration for Horse of the Year.

She has won on dirt, Cushion Track, Polyturf and now Santa Anita's new Pro-Ride. And it came on a day with scorching heat.

"She's undefeated -- that's how good she is," said Jerry Hollendorfer, the trainer of Hystericalady.


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