10/09/2009 8:49PM

Z-Day

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At the beginning of the season, when Jerry Moss said that it was his goal to let Zenyatta do something different this year, the imagination soared. Suddenly, there were visions of Big Mama traveling far and wide, taking on the boys, tap dancing at Radio City Music Hall.

Moss made his comments in good faith and high hopes, while at the same time knowing from his years in the business that the easiest way to make a horse laugh is tell him where he's running next. As it turned out, the only thing different Zenyatta has done in 2009 compared to 2008 is run in fewer races. She has won them all, of course. But that is nothing new. Here is her lifetime record in black and white:

Download Zenyatta

Events wrought by man and nature conspired to restrict Zenyatta's current campaign. Moss outlined a few of them.

"We took her to Churchill Downs at the beginning of her year," said Moss, referring to the Louisville Distaff on Kentucky Oaks day. "That didn't work because of the weather. We certainly didn't want to run her on a sealed track in her first start in nearly seven months. Everybody can understand that."

Those who don't are excused.

Z2

"The fact that we didn't have Hollywood Park this summer to train kind of affected our mobility," Moss went on. Hollywood, Zenyatta's home ground, was closed after its meet for renovation. "When you go out on the road you want to have a perfectly sound, fit horse. And she would not train on the surface at Del Mar as she usually does.

"We nominated her to the Beldame, hoping maybe the other horse would show up," Moss added, referring to Rachel Alexandra. "But that didn't pan out. And I could well believe why they wouldn't want to run her the rest of the year after her courageous race at Saratoga."

Rachel Alexandra called it a year after defeating older males in the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5. There was wailing from the bleachers that Zenyatta ducked Rachel, but the impervious fact remains that Rachel Alexandra only ran in one race for which Zenyatta would have been eligible--the Woodward.

"And we only knew about her going in that race about a week or so before, after her people had been talking about four of five races," Moss noted. It was actually 12 days, but still that's not much notice for a proper cross-country attack. Rachel Alexandra was stabled at Saratoga at the time.

"I'm not complaining," Moss said. "They did a great job of managing that horse, and whatever she's accomplished she deserves. But we couldn't compete with her in the Mother Goose, for instance, or when she ran against 3-year-old colts."

Zenyatta's record should sustain no blow on Saturday when she defends her title in the Lady's Secret at Santa Anita Park. But make no mistake--to win she will need to be the Zenyatta of last year's Lady's Secret, when she dusted Hystericalady. The field is full of fillies and mares in good form, especially on synthetic surfaces. Anyone who would consider this less than a full-blooded test has a misunderstanding of the nature of Thoroughbred competition.

The ultimate irony is that Moss is no fan of the all-synthetic circuit in California, despite the fact that the best horse he's ever owned has mastered the surfaces without serious complaint.

"It's not right and it's not fair," Moss said of the surface monopoly. "It has separated us from the rest of the country. If we don't do something about it, we'll become Tripple A ball out here. The purses might still be good, but you'll never develop a horse that gets the national acclaim. California owners and trainers deserve better. They want to dream big."

There also remains the lingering regret that the rest of the North American racing world has not been able to reach out and touch Zenyatta. There will be a begrudging cutaway on ESPN2 Saturday afternoon to show the Lady's Secret, but that's way too little too late. Zenyatta has become the mostest horse viewed by the leastest people in generations.

That could change if Zenyatta runs in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 7, at a mile and a quarter, a test Zenyatta has never faced. Moss was asked if his mare could handle that kind of distance against the best possible field. 

"Absolutely," he replied. "She doesn't run that hard for most of a race, and she has that incredible stride that makes up a ton of ground once she does run. I don't think a mile and a quarter would be much of a challenge to her, and I'm very sorry we haven't had a chance to try it."

Yet.