05/24/2009 3:30PM

Personal Ensign & Zenyatta


Now that Zenyatta is undefeated in 10 career starts, I don't think it's sacrilegious to start thinking of her in comparison to the greatest undefeated filly or mare of the 20th Century:

It's hard to compare perfection to perfection, but it's sort of fun. Obviously, Personal Ensign's accomplishments remain a bit more impressive overall -- 13 vs. 10, and the victory over males in the 1988 Whitney -- but Zenyatta's not done yet and might make four more starts this year. A start in New York would broaden her resume and give her victories in three time zones, whereas Personal Ensign never raced west of Louisville, and maybe just maybe a race like the Whitney could kill two birds with one stone, giving her a start against males.

I didn't list a category of "Triple Crown race-winning fillies beaten" but that's another place she could draw even, if she faces and beats Rachel Alexandra. Personal Ensign beat Winning Colors , the 1988 Derby winner, in both the Maskette and the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Interesting scenario: Let's say Zenyatta wins her next three starts and heads into October with a 13-for-13 career record. Do you go for victory # 14 winning the Distaff a second time, or try her against males in the Classic?

--Finally got a decent little ($65k) one-day carryover at Belmont today but I played tiny, making a lame little All-Star-Announcer type of play: A $144 caveman ticket, just in case.

My problem was that in the first two legs, there are standout favorites in whom I have little confidence but also no obvious alternatives. So I singled Averymerrymoment in the 5th and Collegiate in the 6th and went 3x2x4x3 the rest of the way:


If I get through the first two legs, I can then play against my pick-6 tricket in the pick-4, skipping the AAAA ticket and only playing the sub and backup tickets as insanity-insurance.

Averymerrymoment just got the job done, barely, at 6-5. On to Collegiate, 9-5 at the moment and heading south.

For personal parimutuel purposes, I'm glad the featured G2 Vagrancy wasn't part of the late pick-x sequences, because I wouldn't have used Carolyn's Cat ($13.00), a 3 1/4-length winner over Porte Bonheur, as favorites Game Face (3-2) and Any Limit (6-5) ran fourth and fifth in that order.

Aesthetically, though, I think NYRA is overdoing it by running a graded stakes race at 2:30 just to keep it out of the pick-6. At least when California tracks run featured races early on the card, you can argue it's giving an important race more exposure to a national audience. In New York, though, it's burying the best race of the day for venal and perhaps unnecessary reasons.

There's a misconception that every single leg of a multi-race sequence must have a full and contentious field to be appealing to bettors. The opposite may well be true: Players with modest bankrolls prefer a sequence with what they perceive as a free bingo square, turning a pick-4 into a pick-3. Nor do whales  go fishing elsewhere because of one heavy favorite.

Look at yesterday's pick-4's at Belmont and Hollywood: The late pick-4 at Belmont attracted $490,032, and paid $3207 for $2, despite the presence of and victory by Criticism at 4-5 in the Sheepshead Bay. At Hollywood, they bet $497,350 into the sequence and it paid $530 for $2 despite Zenyatta winning at 1-to-5.

Besides, there's a difference between a tiny field with an odds-on favorite, and a contentious five-horse field like today's Vagrancy, which was a perfectly good pick-4 or pick-6 race.

Collegiate just blew a five-length lead at the top of the stretch and ran second to Beam of Love. Oh well. On to the late pick-4, where at least I won't get blown out by Carolyn's Cat.

Dan Baedeker More than 1 year ago
Interesting that Zenyatta's - admittedly very easy - Milady victory was just a 101 Beyer. What is her highest Beyer?
Diceman More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve I love Belmont Racetrack! But not today! Their feature race is the Metropolitan, Grade 1. Their undercard,on one of racing's greatest days, consists of the following 5 unplayable races on a 11 race card: 2nd - State Maiden Sp Wt 3rd - State Maiden Claiming 4th - State Allowance 6th - Maiden Claiming 9th - State Allowance The remaing Card, except for the Metropolitan, is just as miserable and frankly bearably playable! I have compassion and pity for the NY racing fans who have to trudge to Belmont for live racing today! ...Belmont and Saratoga must be given the legal authority to build and operate beautiful Racinos. Without Racinos, including Table Games and Slots (for the mindless) NY racing is dead! We're just waiting for the Undertaker to bring the burial flowers!
Wayne80 More than 1 year ago
I singled Beam Of Love, lone entrant to win at distance. 7f off a layoff a very tough task. Felt like a genius for 30 minutes, then was brought back to earth losing the next two races.
ml/nj More than 1 year ago
Belmont is a big place. I really don't care what goes on behind the stands; and I wasn't there so I can only guess from my computer, which gets the track feed, what was going on. There seemed to be some "performances" going on on the track between races. I really tried not to pay attention. This was accompanied by some sort of "jungle music" which I would guess was being played over the track PA system. I'm sure this wasn't meant to disturb the off-track patrons only.
beerbelly More than 1 year ago
Misanthropes seeking peace & tranquilty at Belmont between races go to the 4th Floor of the Clubhouse; sit outside & enjoy the view.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
Steven: I have no problem with you raising the subject of Zenyatta's place in history. Although I have lived in the Detroit area the last 10 years, I grew up in southern California and respect racing in the West, although maybe a little less so since the synthetics were installed. Overall, I think your comparison is spot-on. While Zenyatta is almost certainly going to be in the Hall of Fame one day, she is not quite at Personal Ensign's level, yet. As you wrote, I do not think Zenyatta's 2 biggest career victories compare with Personal Ensign's wins in the 88' Whitney over Gulch(and King's Swan) and the 88' Breeders Cup Distaff over Derby champ Winning Colors(as well as 7-time gr.1 winner Goodbye Halo). Hopefully, Jerry Moss and John Sheriffs either take Zenyatta East for a gr.1 race on dirt preferrably against Rachel Alexandra, or run her against males in a race such as the Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, or Goodwood.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
...The music & the horses, I believe, were on tape & broadcast to the internet locations & then into homes. I saw it, & don't understand the objection. If you didn't do your handicapping on the previous evening/that morning, best of luck (last-minute cramming is a fool's errand). Thank you, Maylan Studart - Great job keeping Intiyaco (ARG) for 2nd, at 46-1!
Bernard Downes More than 1 year ago
Steve, I was just about to question your "greatest.....filly or mare" claim, before I spotted the "undefeated" word. I think someone once said that comparisons are odious, but its fun, so, how do you think Personal Ensign would have got on against Dahlia or Allez France? Sorry for the European bias but, as for Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra against Zarkava forget it, a mismatch. Regards - Bernard
Michael B. Farber More than 1 year ago
As great as Zenyatta hss been, there has been absolutely no excitement, no buzz surrounding her, a circumstance that I blame on the artificial surfaces on which she has raced in California (with one exception at Oaklawn). Those surfaces kill speed, and in route races on those surfaces, no one wants the lead, resulting in pedestrian fractions and a final time that, 15 years ago, would have been typical of a decent $20,000 claimer at Hollywood. If any California horses are ever going to be really recognized as great and create that indefinable excitement, they will need to get rid of the synthetic surfaces.
jim f More than 1 year ago
Personal Ensign beat Gulch and King's Swan in a three horse field in the 1988 Whitney.