04/10/2010 11:00PM

Dirt proves no obstacle for Zenyatta

Barbara D. Livingston
Zenyatta powers home to win Friday's Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park by 4 1/4 lengths.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Zenyatta proved she is just as good, if not better, on dirt Friday at Oaklawn, when she remained undefeated in 16 starts by winning the . That's bad news for those pointing to the Breeders' Cup this fall at Churchill Downs as Zenyatta's goal is a return trip to the championship series.

Zenyatta was making her second start of the year in the Apple Blossom, a race she also won in 2008 while making her only other start on dirt.

"This obviously was a great performance," said John Shirreffs, who trains Zenyatta for Jerry and Ann Moss. "She ran terrific."

Shirreffs said he felt Zenyatta really took to the Oaklawn track in Friday's race.

"I think that you maybe saw that reflected in her a little bit because of how she was into the race much faster than she is in synthetic races," he said.

Zenyatta is based in Southern California, where all three of the major tracks have synthetic surfaces and where she won last year's Breeders' Cup Classic on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita. Shirreffs said Zenyatta was to fly back to her Hollywood Park base on Sunday, with plans for her next start to be determined.

Shirreffs was pleased Friday night with how Zenyatta initially came out of the Apple Blossom, a race she won in hand by 4 1/4 lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 95. Zenyatta grazed until about 8:30 p.m., and, as has been standard for her all week, she was surrounded by admiring fans until she was taken back to her stall. Zenyatta, the champion older female of 2009, had more attention Saturday morning as she spent a good amount of time grazing on the backstretch at Oaklawn.

"When Jerry decided not to retire her, it was more about letting other fans enjoy her because she sort of is an experience," Shirreffs said. "Before the race, [during] the race, everything, Zenyatta has a sort of way of doing things that it really excites people. And because she raced so much in California, a lot of people didn't get a chance to see her, so we wanted to do something for her fans."

A crowd of 44,973 turned out to watch the Apple Blossom, with people lined up 10 deep around the indoor paddock when she was saddled for the race. Zenyatta then moved to the infield for riders-up and was cheered repeatedly by the crowd. They also erupted when she began her bid midway on the final turn of the Apple Blossom.

Zenyatta's accomplishment of 16 consecutive wins puts her in elite company. Cigar, Citation, and Mister Frisky also won that many times in a row, and like Zenyatta their streaks included multiple graded stakes victories. Zenyatta on Friday picked off her 10th career Grade 1 win in the Apple Blossom.

Shirreffs and the Mosses flew home to California on Friday night with good reason to look at more dirt races for Zenyatta.