08/07/2010 11:19PM

Dazzle missing in Zenyatta's 18th

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A mile and a sixteenth in 1:45.03 will not get much of a speed figure (94 Beyer).

Does it matter?

Zenyatta did what she had to do Saturday at Del Mar. She won her 18th straight over a synthetic surface that often brings them all together.

It was strange to see Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta in a photo finish with an anonymous allowance sprinter named Rinterval.

The margin was a neck, but the outcome was never truly in doubt. Not even when the main track got biased again.

The rail was golden Saturday. Maybe it had something to do with the extra watering that was done during training hours.

The bias is barely perceptible looking at the charts. But throughout the card, horses that raced closest to the rail either won outright or stuck around longer than they figured to.

That includes Rinterval, who set a dawdling pace (:50.61 and 1:15.11) racing closest to the rail. Even when Zenyatta rallied wide and collared her, Rinterval did not go away. It was not supposed to be this close. A Grade 1 is not supposed to be this slow.

How slow was Zenyatta's final time? A half-hour earlier in race 8, allowance horses went one mile in 1:37.41. The former claiming horse Low Gear Power won that race with an 89 Beyer.

Zenyatta may never race again on synthetic. She is better on dirt. Trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith believe it. So do owners Jerry and Ann Moss, whose support of California racing is a main reason Zenyatta has stayed home.

As for the Hirsch, it is an easy race to knock. Slow pace, slow time, weak rivals, narrow margin. A mile and a sixteenth in 1:45.03 will not get much of a figure.

Does it matter? Zenyatta won again. She did what she had to do.

Pam S. More than 1 year ago
Very well stated, JJ. I think it is just pointless to keep compaining about where Zenyatta runs, her competition, her speed figures and margins of victory and her connections. She has two races left, she will ship once and that's it. Why be so negative at this late stage of the game? Why not just enjoy, or at least obsess about some other horse for a while?
JJ More than 1 year ago
Zenyatta is a breath of fresh air, which this sport desparately needs. She has pop-culture appeal w/her cute idiosyncrasies, exciting racing style, and desire to win. One of the most beneficial aspects of Zenyatta's career is that she's stuck around for a while. When talented horses stay in the game it enables people to form emotional attachments to them, which heightens their interest in both the horse and the game in general. Admittedly, Zenyatta's sixth year hasn't featured the same level of competition as her fourth and even fifth year. But she doesn't decide who she will race and anybody can take a stab at those Grade I purses. If Zenyatta is just a Grade 3 poly-horse as some people have suggested, why didn't anybody meet her at Oaklawn (for a $500,000 purse) when she ran on a conventional dirt surface? Yes, there might be a slight drop off in her competitive ability as she is more than 6 years old and has been racing for almost three years. This is horse racing and there are so many ways to lose. Zenyatta has always met the call of duty whether running against Ginger Punch, Summer Bird, Hysterical Lady, or a no-name like Anabaa's Creation. Whilst I understand the frustration of people who wish she was racing in open company or out East, she doesn't get to decide these matters. Furthermore, it's unrealistic to pretend that today's horse racing is the same as yesterday's racing. Today's racing has a different dynamic, which reflects an unfortunate reality that Zenyatta - tlo her credit - has been able to overcome. Given that she has maybe two races left in her career, it might be more worthwhile to celebrate her achievements rather than fuss and complain about her shortcomings.
Eve More than 1 year ago
Zenyatta should race in California in the race named in her honor. Someone has to help California racing. New York has its stars, and all of them can meet in the Classic. It will make the Classic a real classic.
Michael More than 1 year ago
This Californian is not impressed. The truly great ones ran fast races, even when they didn't need to in order to win. For two years we have been hearing ... about how much better she was on dirt. In that time, she has run exactly one race on the dirt, and that one an Apple Blossom against basically allowance horses. As far as I am concerned, she is not a great racehorse unless she goes East and runs on dirt against the best competition possible, either at Saratoga, Belmont, or Churchill. This is looking less and less likely. ... As far as I am concerned, the Horse of the Year contest is between Blame and Lookin at Lucky at this point; not Zenyatta, not Zenyatta in a billion years, unless she comes East.
Sandra More than 1 year ago
Zenyatta is the definition of dazzle. She is a horse that can win at 6 1/2 in 1:15 and change, or close into a paceless 1 1/8 and win every time. Everyone knows she is better on dirt. ... If she had won in a blazing time, you all would be screaming that she is going to bounce or that they are "squeezing the lemon dry." Enjoy her while she's here because you'll never see another one like her!
MaryAnn More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed reading all the comments praising Zenyatta. To my eye, she always dazzles. I'm going to CD for the Breeders Cup in the hope that I will be fortunate enough to witness her greatness in person. Thank you to all of her connections for putting Z's welfare first. She is a happy horse in large measure because she is loved, treated as the unique being she is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with alot of you that Zenyatta needs to go up against stronger competition. I really am getting bored watching her run against the lowest rung of graded stakes horses. She needs to go back East and why not, there is nothing left to prove on the West Coast. I am a huge Zenyatta fan and I believe that she will not be beat in any race. She runs down whoever she needs to, whenever she needs to. She is a closer, she cant help what the times are on the front end and right now I dont think it matters, slow or fast, they both don't work. She simply closes too hard.
redman More than 1 year ago
Why did Zenyatta come back this year? The real race is at Saratoga in three weeks. If she chooses not to go there after her ... neck win-workout she has accomplished nothing ... The great ones she is being compared to travel around the world and prove it. They do not sit in their back yard and beat up on allowance horses. To me, this is embarrassing to her. Either step up and face the best, or stop comparing her to real stars like Secretariat or Cigar.
markinsac More than 1 year ago
The Clement Hirsch was just a workout for Z. Being there was quite another experience. My sister showed up and she'd never heard of "Zenyatta". After listening to other fans describe the "Great One" and watching the scene in the frenzied paddock to the race itself, my sister became another one of Z's greatest fans. That's what Zenyatta will do to you. Plus we all won money. I'm hoping her last prep race is the Zenyatta Stakes at Oak Tree (wherever it's held, Santa Anita is having surface issues again). But if it's the Beldame at Belmont, I just hope you New Yorkers come out to support her. She's an experience you'll never forget. Thank you John Shirreffs, Jerry and Ann Moss, and Mike Smith for sharing her with all of us. Just two races left, where ever she shows up, come out and enjoy!
nick More than 1 year ago
I still say they ought try her on turf, being out of Kris S. mare. With her late kick, she could be deadly. A Grade I turf win would truly make her one of the legends of the sport. It's the one thing Secretariat did (win two Grade Is on turf) that in my mind makes him the best that ever was.