10/06/2009 11:00PM

Cocoa Beach put in tough spot once again


Cocoa Beach has been a victim of her own versatility. She can run on turf, synthetic, or dirt, so whenever a conflict has arisen this year with another older filly or mare owned by Godolphin Racing, she often has had to go to a less-desirable spot to accommodate a stablemate who is more of a specialist.


As a result, Cocoa Beach has not had nearly as productive a 2009 campaign as she did last year, when she won the Beldame on dirt, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic in her lone try on a synthetic surface, and then won the Matriarch on turf. She is just 1 for 3 this year, her lone victory coming in the restricted De La Rose on the turf at Saratoga.

There's still time for Cocoa Beach to make some noise this year, though. She is part of a powerful contingent of Godolphin runners - including Gayego, Midshipman, Music Note, and Pyro - that was sent to Santa Anita on Tuesday for upcoming races at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, most notably the Breeders' Cup on Nov. 6-7. Cocoa Beach was entered on Wednesday in Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Lady's Secret Stakes, a prep for the Nov. 6 Ladies' Classic. The winner of the Lady's Secret receives an automatic berth in the Ladies' Classic through the Win and You're In program.

The Lady's Secret will not be an easy spot. Cocoa Beach will have to take on the unbeaten Zenyatta, who is shooting for her 13th victory.

"Cocoa Beach has been compromised by her management," Rick Mettee, Godolphin's top assistant in North America, said Wednesday morning from New York. "We were trying to accommodate Seventh Street and Music Note. Cocoa Beach handles so many things."

Last time out, Cocoa Beach ran in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga on the Travers undercard, and finished fourth over a soft course.

"Soft turf and no pace," Mettee said. "That's not really what's she's about."

Last week's Beldame would have been a suitable spot for Cocoa Beach, being as she won the race last year. But Godolphin ran Music Note there, and opted to re-route Cocoa Beach to the Lady's Secret.

"She trained well out there last year on the Pro-Ride leading up to the Breeders' Cup, and between the Breeders' Cup and the Matriarch, when she was on the Cushion Track at Hollywood, she trained even better," Mettee said. "We thought it was best to get her out there and train on the synthetic, even if it meant facing Zenyatta."

One benefit of this year's campaign is that Cocoa Beach is relatively fresh. She had six races before the Breeders' Cup last year, beginning in January in the United Arab Emirates. Her form, though, is difficult to decipher. Cocoa Beach was the obvious main threat to Zenyatta in last year's Ladies' Classic. This year, she has lost to seemingly inferior competition on a sloppy track and on soft turf. Was it the conditions, or is she not what she once was?

"We're hoping to get a good race into her, and that she'll come on from this race and go into the Breeders' Cup even better," Mettee said.

Music Note, by contrast, already has come on strongly this fall. She was a powerful winner of her last two starts, the Ballerina at Saratoga, and the Beldame last Saturday. She, too, is headed to the Ladies' Classic, in which she finished third last year.

"She comes into the Breeders' Cup a lot fresher than last year," Mettee said. "She was starting to get a bit of a winter coat on her last year, and she didn't seem to do as well coming into the Breeders' Cup as Cocoa Beach did. She still ran a creditable third. This year, she's trained really well from the summer on. She should still be fresh for the Breeders' Cup."

Henry Spiller is overseeing the Godolphin runners at Santa Anita, but Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin's head trainer - who is based in Newmarket, England, this time of year - will be at Santa Anita this weekend, Mettee said.