05/19/2009 11:00PM

High-profile stablemates clash

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Justin N. Lane
Zenyatta (above) will face Life Is Sweet in Saturday's Grade 2 Milady.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It's on.

The first showdown between Zenyatta, the undefeated champion older female of 2008, and her stablemate Life Is Sweet, the impressive winner of three major stakes for older females at Santa Anita earlier this year, is set for Saturday's $150,000 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Both were entered on Wednesday and trainer John Shirreffs confirmed they are intended starters.

"Zenyatta needs to start," he said. "She needs to get going. Life Is Sweet is doing so well that we need to run her."

Interestingly, the two brilliant females have not scared away the competition, at least not from the entries. The Grade 2 Milady, run over 1 1/16 miles, has drawn a field of nine. Zenyatta drew the outside post.

The matchup, a dream for racing fans, was not Shirreffs's intention this spring.

Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, was shipped to Churchill Downs for the Louisville Distaff Stakes on May 1, but did not start when rain led to a wet track. It would have been her first start since a win in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita last fall, the ninth victory of her career.

In past years, Shirreffs could have started Zenyatta in the Hawthorne Handicap here in early May, but the race was canceled well before the current season because of a purse cut.

"It's a circumstance that no one anticipated happening," Shirreffs said of the showdown.

Shirreffs said the trip to Kentucky has not affected Zenyatta since she returned on May 5.

"She's working extremely well and her coat looks good," he said. "It had no effect on her at all."

The Milady will be Life Is Sweet's first start since a win in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita March 14, the most prestigious win of her career. She races for breeders Pam and Marty Wygod and has won 5 of 10 starts.

Champagne Eyes gets weight break

The Milady will be the biggest race in the brief career of Champagne Eyes, who will play a pivotal role in the outcome. She is expected to set the pace, but will be closely tracked by Life Is Sweet and Zenyatta, who race as stalkers.

A winner of 2 of 6 starts, Champagne Eyes, owned by Pablo Suarez, has already delivered one surprise win this year, beating the Shirreffs-trained Theodora in the Santa Lucia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 11. The Santa Lucia was Champagne Eyes's first start in 15 months. She has had sufficient time to recover from her comeback race, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

"We're going to take advantage of the weight," O'Neill said.

Champagne Eyes will carry 114 pounds, while Zenyatta carries top weight of 126 pounds.

Champagne Eyes led throughout the Santa Lucia, pulling away to win the race over 1 1/16 miles by 2 1/2 lengths.

"I think that's where she's going," O'Neill said of her role as a pacesetter. "If she's not on the lead, she won't be far out of it."

Grace Anatomy takes a drop

Grace Anatomy is the same age as Life Is Sweet, but their careers have taken divergent paths in the last 18 months.

Grace Anatomy was third in the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland in 2007 at a time when Life Is Sweet had won only a maiden race. Since then, Life Is Sweet has won three stakes, while Grace Anatomy is winless.

Friday, Grace Anatomy starts in an optional claimer over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park, a far cry below the level that O'Neill and co-owner Paul Reddam had hoped she would reach by now.

Reddam has not been afraid to aggressively campaign his horses, but has taken a cautious approach with Grace Anatomy's spring campaign. He co-owns the filly with Suarez and Paul Lo Duca.

"Paul [Reddam] has been adamant to put her in a spot to get her going in the right way," O'Neill said.

Grace Anatomy was third in an allowance race here on April 23, finishing 2 3/4 lengths behind Milady Handicap entrant Allicansayis Wow, who overcame a severe stumble in the stretch to win by a neck.

"She needed a start in the worst way," O'Neill said of Grace Anatomy.

It was the first time that Grace Anatomy had finished in the top three in seven starts, since the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita in January 2008.

Friday, Grace Anatomy must beat Lullabytime, who was caught by Allicansayis Wow. Trained by Mike Machowsky, Lullabytime started for a $40,000 claiming race on April 23, but is not eligible to be claimed on Friday.

Hyperbaric seeks to rebound

Hyperbaric's four-race winning streak ended with a thud in Dubai in March with a 14th-place finish in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free. So much for making a fast impression on the world stage.

"He didn't like the lights," trainer Julio Canani said.

Canani has Monday's $250,000 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park as a comeback consolation. Hyperbaric has already proven to adore the course, having won the Grade 1 Citation Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf here last November, the last race of a four-win sequence.

Owned by Prestonwood Farm, Hyperbaric is proven at a mile. He was third in the 2008 Shoemaker and won the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile last September.

Canani has no fears about how Hyperbaric will return from the Dubai race. He watched Hyperbaric work a half-mile in 49.20 seconds under Victor Espinoza on the Hollywood Park main track on Wednesday. Canani timed Hyperbaric in 47 seconds.

"He's been working good," Canani said.

Hyperbaric is likely to have six rivals in the Shoemaker. Wednesday, Thorn Song, the winner of the Grade 1 Shadwell Mile at Keeneland last year, was supplemented for $5,000, according to Hollywood Park racing officials. Thorn Song, who was fifth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on May 2, is trained by Dale Romans for Zayat Stable.

The other probable starters are Dixie Chatter, Tiz West, U S Ranger, Ventura, and Whatsthescript.