08/07/2010 10:10PM

Del Mar: The Zenyatta legend grows

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Here are the facts: Zenyatta won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday to extend her winning streak to 18, improve her career earnings to $6,254,580, win her fourth Grade 1 of the year, and win the Hirsch for the third consecutive year.

She only won by a neck over Rinterval, a filly who was graded stakes-placed at Arlington Park last month, and even seemed to loaf in the final sixteenth, according to jockey Mike Smith. Even when he rode her in deep stretch, Smith never resorted to the whip.

The Hirsch was not Zenyatta's most dazzling win of her remarkable career, and it did not need to be.

The crowd of more than 32,000 that made Del Mar seem packed on Saturday showed up with one objective, they wanted to see the winning streak continue. And delighted they were at the result. It's a toss-up of when Zenyatta got a bigger cheer, when she hit the wire, or when she came back and Smith rode her 100 yards up the track, to show her off one last time to the grandstand crowd.

This may have been Zenyatta's final start in California. The long-term goal is the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November, after which she will be retired. This time, it appears owners Jerry and Ann Moss really mean it, even though they said the same thing last fall and then brought her back to race this year. After all, Zenyatta is 6 this year.

The Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 2 is a possible prep race. If that is the path chosen, then the home state crowd gave Zenyatta a wonderful send-off at Del Mar on Saturday.