06/27/2009 11:00PM

Clement Hirsch next for Zenyatta


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Zenyatta will be pointed for the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9, trainer John Shirreffs said on Sunday. After that, it is difficult to predict when the undefeated champion older female of 2008 will start.

The options range from stakes in California and New York, a start against the brilliant 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra on a conventional dirt track, probably in New York, or a stay-at-home campaign on synthetic tracks that includes a start in the Breeders' Cup Classic against males at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

Sunday, a day after Zenyatta extended her unbeaten streak to 11 with a comprehensive victory in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, Shirreffs was reluctant to predict the calendar of races for Zenyatta beyond early August.

One blueprint has emerged that would keep the 5-year-old mare in California, and feature repeat appearances in two stakes she won last year - the Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar and the Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita - before a potential start in the BC Classic. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has never faced males.

"Those would be the races unless Mr. Moss felt like we needed to go to New York," Shirreffs said. "We haven't really discussed the last couple of races."

The Clement Hirsch is appealing to Shirreffs since the race is run as a stakes this year, and not as a handicap, as in past years.

The wild-card element on the calendar is the potential matchup that racing fans crave - a clash between the 5-year-old Zenyatta and the brilliant 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra. One logical spot for such a race - the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita - is apparently out of the question. Jess Jackson, who owns Rachel Alexandra, said last week that he does not want to start her on a synthetic track such as the one in place at Santa Anita.

As a result, the two horses would have to start on a conventional dirt track, and no plans have been made for such a rendezvous.

Such a matchup is on owner Jerry Moss's mind.

After the Vanity, Moss said he wants Zenyatta to have a different campaign in the second half of 2009 than she did in 2008.

"We can't do what we did last year," he said. "We have to find a bit of a variety. She ships very well and we wouldn't mind shipping."

A start in the BC Classic would likely be the final race of Zenyatta's career before she is bred in 2010.

"If you're going to run against the boys, you might as well do it in the big one," Shirreffs said. "The Breeders' Cup is at Santa Anita."

If Moss wants to take on Rachel Alexandra, one potential option is the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap at 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park on Sept. 12, which could draw Rachel Alexandra.

Shirreffs is not keen on New York's policy of housing horses in a race-day holding barn. He would rather run Zenyatta out of her own stall.

The Hirsch may not be the most glamorous race on the calendar, but it does have appeal as a stakes and not a handicap. In the Vanity, Zenyatta carried a career-high impost of 129 pounds. In the Hirsch, Zenyatta and the other older fillies and mares will carry 123 pounds, while 3-year-olds would carry 119 pounds. There is no weight penalty against superstar mares with 11 wins, a championship, and a growing legion of local fans.

While racing fans want to see Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra in the same gate, Shirreffs said that may not be as easy as it sounds. "I think what you have are two great fillies racing at the same time, but they are on different paths," Shirreffs said. "One is a 3-year-old, and there is a 5-year-old. It depends on what happens in the next few months."

In the Vanity, Zenyatta made her customary rally in early stretch, reached the front in the final furlong, and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Briecat. "When I asked her, she lengthened her stride and it was pretty much over then," jockey Mike Smith said.

"It was incredible," Moss said. "I'll go home and watch it about 20 times. She keeps doing it and remembers what her job is in such a dramatic way."