04/10/2010 10:32AM

Zenyatta continues to Blossom

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The Apple Blossom wasn't exactly the "Clash of the Titans" with the Gorgon vs. the Kraken, but the crowd of 44,973 at Oaklawn Park on Friday couldn't be faulted if they confused the undefeated ZENYATTA with the mythical winged horse Pegasus. 

Sent off at 1-20 in the field of five, Zenyatta and her co-pilot, Mike Smith, found their customary spot at the back of the pack while BE FAIR, as expected, took up the running through a moderate first quarter in 24.07.  Be Fair faced some token pressure from TAPTAM down the backstretch as Zenyatta relaxed comfortably by her lonesome in last.  The big mare began her patented move on the far turn and the race was never really in doubt.  She wins the way she always wins, widest, fastest, and best. 

Before we wax even more poetic about Zenyatta's obvious merits, it must be mentioned that this wasn't a stellar supporting cast.  JUST JENDA''s performance was wooden, while WAR ECHO's was reminiscent of under-rehearsed dinner theater.  It was obvious who the star of this show was supposed to be and Zenyatta rightly stole the spotlight. 

Zenyatta's fractions won't exactly dazzle the eye, either.  Her final time of 1:50.71, under a hand ride in the easiest fashion after a smooth trip, was four seconds over the track record and her final eighth and three-eighths of a mile were clocked in 13.12 and 37.42 respectively (according to FormulatorWeb). 

Still, she delighted the fans, as she always does, and left us wanting encore after encore. The great mare Personal Ensign passed away on Thursday at the age of 26.  She, like Zenyatta, was undefeated throughout a brilliant career.  Perhaps the baton has been handed from one racing legend to another.  Zenyatta, in the Apple Blossom, didn't fumble the pass. 

No one should blame Zenyatta's connections if they take home their golden egg, give her some downtime, and prepare for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on their home turf.  They've kept their end of the bargain thus far.  But, in an era where our sports heroes, and role models, show disappointing human failings, almost on a daily basis, it is heartening to know that there is an equine superhero out there.  With apologies to Spider-Man and Stan Lee, with great power comes great responsibility.  Would we like to see a traveling Zenyatta roadshow, where the amazon shows off her wares against the best competition the country has to offer?  We sure would.  With Zenyatta, one could feast their eyes all day long and still have an appetite for more. 

***

The racing train never seems to slow down sufficiently for one to get off the ride, take a deep breath, reflect on the amazing things one has seen, and eventually move on.  Case in point, today's action.  The Blue Grass anchors a huge card at Keeneland while the Arkansas Derby features a few interesting three-year-olds. 

Here are a few horses I'll be watching later this afternoon:

Shakertown:  AFFIRMATIF
Commonwealth:  CONGRESSIONAL PAGE
Arkansas Derby:  NOBLE'S PROMISE
Comely:  TOUCHING BEAUTY

Affirmatif must deal with a long layoff for trainer Todd Pletcher and this big fella always seemed to underachieve last season.  I wonder if this is a case of an immature horse given time to grow into his body.  Despite some disappointing efforts in 2009, Affirmatif earned Beyer Speed Figures of 90 or higher in five of seven starts, and can contend here with a bit of improvement.  The Keeneland Clocker Report is a potentially valuable resource.  For Affirmatif's last workout, they note that he "was going well on own in splits of :23.3 - :47."  Here's the website:

http://ww2.keeneland.com/racing/Lists/Clocker/allitemsalt.aspx

Congressional Page ran some decent races in Florida this winter and may work out a good outside stalking trip in the Commonwealth.  The major question here is the surface.  He has no synthetic experience and there's no telling if he'll like it or not.  If he does, he's got a good chance.  The Keeneland Clocker noted that he "was moving well at finish under rider control" for the March 29 workout.

Surface could be Congressional Page's Waterloo.  In the case of Noble's Promise, it could be distance.  This will be the first start at nine furlongs for this gutsy speed-bred son of Cuvee.  One could certainly make the argument that both Noble's Promise and DUBLIN made premature midrace moves in the Grade 2 Rebel on March 13.  If Robby Albarado times it a bit better this time around, perhaps Noble's Promise will see out this trip.

Touching Beauty sat off a five-ply speed duel in the opening part of her entry-level allowance win on March 14, but then made a wide move into the teeth of the pace.  She made the front and then gamely fought back a rail-skimming challenge in the stretch.  She has a bit more experience than likely race favorite SHE'LL BE DOGGONE, and may be a slightly better price.

More importantly, who do you like this weekend?  I want to know.


Michael More than 1 year ago
Hey Dan, You and Steve Christ voted for Rachel for horse of the year. How do you feel about that. Please let us know. Remember she will go down as the biggest over hyped horse of all time. She never beat anybody.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
LauraS, 61* I worked on that movie turning the LA colosseum(not to sure on that spelling but as someone else said stronach it) into fenway, yankee stadium etc. Maris didn't deserve that asterisk that was a shame on my game. You are right Zenyatta needs no asterisk either she is truly RUTHIAN.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
MattyG, If I was the troll that you wanted to rip I wish the censor would have posted your comments. I don't need to be protected or defended I can do that for myself.
scianc22 More than 1 year ago
Maybe its me and I live in my own little fantasy world where people dont need to put down others to make themselves or their points stand out. But why is it that some of you need to bash another horses accomplishments so you can make yourselves feel better about your opinions? I just dont get it.
Turnbackthealarm More than 1 year ago
Chicago Gerry, "Who do you like?" is the answer to the question.
vicstu More than 1 year ago
And before the Z lovers attack me as Z bashing... A cavaet: The strong pace argument is simply concerning BSFs. Z does whatever it takes to win. The mare could care less about Beyer or speed figs. All she knows is she is coming late and nailing you at the wire. Time after time... It would just be nice to see her do that to some stronger speed types so her BSFs (which many here at DRF use, for better or worse, to indicate fast and greatness) would be reflective of her sheer dominance, dirt or synthetics. That's all. That is why at this juncture QR might be as big of a feather in Z's cap and RA. Assuming she can catch this both.
vicstu More than 1 year ago
My last paragraph had a typo. It should read (according to the Beyer numbers): "Z may not need a strong pace coming back (at her) to win; however, it appears Z needs a strong PACE to run a fast race (a 100 BSF or higher)."
vicstu More than 1 year ago
Oaklawn Park Friday Custom For Carlos- Count Fleet Stakes BSF- 106 Zenyatta- Apple Blossom Stakes BSG- 95 Oaklawn Park Saturday Line of David Arkansas Derby BSF- 98 Out of the 3 big graded stakes races at Oaklawn Park this past weekend, according to Andy Beyer and co., Z's race was the slowest. Even slower than the 3 year old males. The previous Sat., Duke of Mischief won a graded stakes race at the same 9 furlong distance with a 107 BSF. The above is exhibit 1 on why Z needs to stop racing slow mares that have no shot of beating her. Understood, however, that the AB was tailor made for Z and RA. But, if the RA knockers are right and RA will forever duck Z, Z's connections need to announce they are running against older males and let the chips fall where they may (and RA is invited too). This is not a knock against Z, but, QR's last out was a 120 plus BSF in the Donn. Before that he had all 100 pluses, including a 109 setting the track recored in NY. Z's connections will be doing right by her to point her in the male direction, and off of synthetics. This may assure that RA does not show, but I would not bet money on that. Also, at this point Z needs to work on her legacy and running some 100 plus Beyer numbers. She needs a solid pace to do that, and like tinky said, only RA can even get her warm. No knock against Z, she is unbelievable. Just want to see her get her due against the best older males. And she should, if she beats them. I wouldn't even worry about those that bash Z. Her record speaks for itself. However, she may not need a strong pace coming back to win, BUT, it appears Z needs a strong race to run a fast race (a 100 or higher BSF). Forget the synthetics, you can break track records there and get a 98 BSF. Z needs to run fast on dirt, and I know she can. Let's hope the connections stay on this Foster plan so she can run fast again.
Caseyjeaux More than 1 year ago
Yogi said to apologize for the quality of the pictures. It isn't easy to get good quality of 40 mph horses with 45,000 people limiting your mobility. She just hopes you might get some of the enjoyment that we did seeing her strut her stuff. http://picasaweb.google.com/102324704321955705619/Zenyatta?feat=directlink
blackstone More than 1 year ago
HG 181 The bet: $100 exacta--#4 to #1 Posting early too as I'm going to get really busy at work shortly, to carry through tomorrow night. Quick comments The field has made a total of twelve starts in 2010, six of which were by one horse, so lots of layoffs and lack of experience to muddle through. The 1-Evacuation Route looks in form (3rd start off a layoff) and loves the distance. Affirmatiff-could be a turf monster this year for Pletcher-I picked him Saturday in the Stake, can't go against him now. Tactical speed, I think, so I'll look for him to grab the lead at the top of the stretch, and then hold off the #1. Good luck to all.