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.

Slew More than 1 year ago
I believe Switch will be a promising leader. St Trinian's egg-beater leg action simply throws off my appraisal. I like Unrivaled Belle. Hoping Blind Luck carries her promise through to 4. Looking forward to the up and coming 3 year olds...especially AZ Warrior. We should also have a lot of turf fillies coming back into the picture, and I'm anxious to see how the Rock Hard Ten fillies have progressed.
AnneM More than 1 year ago
I think that Blind Luck had a much more ambitious campaign in 2010 than Zenyatta did. Too bad Zenyattas connections limited her to mostly CA races against usually the same fillys/mares. That alone keeps her from being considered one of the all time greats. I think that Rachel Alexandra had a much better 2009 than Zenyatta in 2009 or 2010. And I live in Oregon ...
john mack More than 1 year ago
And the best part about it all is,none of these horses will stay in the cozy confines of southern California and race exclusively against first level allowance and claiming horses like Zenyatta did.These older fillies and mares will actually race and earn their paychecks!
Donny More than 1 year ago
John Mack - You realize Zenyatta already beat two of the horses on the list right? And the others either left the state to avoid her or had no intention of going to face her in Arkansas or California.
Djohnson More than 1 year ago
John Mack...you sound like a tired old East Coaster......I am sick of the "kept her in California playing it safe" argument ...even Garret Gomez recognizes history in the making. You people will be singing that tired old song long after Zenyatta becomes a legend.
jeff brown More than 1 year ago
It is a half life Mike. Zenyatta was the finest horse ever to race. Little hard to take the next wave seriously for the next 100 years or so. Only one who could have beaten anyone that has ever raced on any day she felt motivated enough. Some kind of transcendant being masquerading as a horse, here to remind us that the era of the divine feminine is upon us and the rule of the paternalistic male is coming to an end. Blame bored her, so she didn't bother to beat him. It was so darn obvious.
Flora More than 1 year ago
I agree - one of the bright spots will be the chance to see fillies like Blind Luck and Switch come into their maturity. I am a serious Blind Luck fan, no one tries harder than that gritty girl.Unrivaled Belle is a seriously good horse and I can't wait to see her back on the scene. It's a testament to Zenyatta's talent that a horse like Blind Luck, as good as she is, gets beaten as often as she does, due to her deep closing style, so that so much depends on the pace up front. Most horses with this running style can't put together a five race streak, let alone nineteen. Blind Luck lets us wait until the last possible moment too, so there will be plenty of excitement in 2011!
CLK More than 1 year ago
jeff brown and blackseabass said it all. Zenyatta is the horse of a lifetime. Not since Secretariat has racing seen one like her. Maybe one of the most telling statements was that made by Garrett Gomez (Blame's jockey) on the way to the Churchill Downs' winner's circle after the Breeders' Cup Classic -- Gomez said, "She's the best I have ever seen." Give me a great jockey's assessment over a turf writer's any day.
teetop More than 1 year ago
Good to see someone else gets it about older fillies and mares being a tough division. I knew Assmussen and Jackson did, wasn't sure about the turf writers.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi Mike, Happy New Year. Hopefully we will have these quality fillies and mares get to race often together on the track. Let's see, Unrivaled Belle seems to be a Midwesterner, whereas Swith likes the left coast and Devil May Care is east but those two will go where the money is. Evening Jewel travels west to east nicely. And toss in the Blind Luck/Havre de Grace travelling road show and the is what? Six top F & M's. A who else might step up? It's a big country, but there have to be some good shows down the road. Can't wait. Thanks.
JB More than 1 year ago
It's nice to read an article from an Easterner that doesn't disparage Zenyatta, the 2010 HOTY.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
Mike, this year should be a good one for F&M's thats true,but racing isn't going to replace ZENYATTA anytime soon. I wouldn't go out of my way to see any of those regular F&M's and neither will most others . If they run when I'm there thats great,but they are all very forgetable when compared to Zenyatta. Zenyatta was racing the last few years. Too bad Eclipse voters preferred wine over MEAT.