01/04/2011 1:19PM

Zenyatta Leaves Behind A Strong Older Female Division


For the last three years, Zenyatta thoroughly dominated the older female division. She is, of course, retired now.

Usually, when a standout figure like Zenyatta departs the racing scene, the division she or he leaves behind feels empty by comparison. That is not the case this time. Instead of being left with as division punctuated by mediocrity, the 2011 older female divison boasts at this point in time a potential depth of quality unsurpassed by any other division.

Leading the group of returning older females is Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Unrivaled Belle. Unrivaled Belle was sharp from start to finish in 2010, winning the Rampart and La Troienne (upsetting Rachel Alexandra), and then finishing second in three straight Grade 1 events (the Ogden Phipps, Ruffian, and Beldame) before her strong Breeders' Cup score. In almost any other season, Unrivaled Belle's 2010 campaign would have been good enough for a divisional championship. But thanks to Zenyatta, 2010 (and 2009, and 2008, for that matter) wasn't just any other year for older females.

Another older female scheduled to return in 2011 is St Trinians. St Trinians was shelved the second half of 2010, but she was impressive enough during the first half of the season to have been favored over 13 males in the Santa Anita Handicap, and she gave Zenyatta everything she wanted in the Vanity Handicap.

But what is especially intriguing about this year's older female division is the exceptionally strong class of graduating 3-year-old fillies it receives. Blind Luck, second to Unrivaled Belle in the Ladies' Classic and the likely 3-year-old filly champion of 2010, is back. So, too, are Blind Luck's two "shadows" from last year, Havre de Grace and Evening Jewel. Evening Jewel missed by a nose to Blind Luck last year in the Las Virgenes and Kentucky Oaks. Havre de Grace had a terrific four race rivalry with Blind Luck the second half of 2010, missing by a nose and a neck to her in the Delaware Oaks and Alabama, beating her by a neck in the Cotillion, and finally finishing a length behind her when third in the Ladies' Classic.

Joining that trio are, among others, Devil May Care and Switch. Devil May Care was last summer no worse than co-leader of her division with Blind Luck on the strength of her wins in the Mother Goose and CCA Oaks, while Switch, who gave Zenyatta a terrific battle in last fall's Lady's Secret, just won the La Brea Stakes as though she means serious business from here on out.

For the older female division, it looks like there will be life after Zenyatta. And a pretty good one at that.