08/08/2010 12:19AM

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.