09/27/2008 12:00AM

Hystericalady takes aim at Zenyatta


ARCADIA, Calif. - In a match race, speed is usually the biggest asset. And while there are five horses entered on Saturday in the Grade 1, $250,000 Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, this essentially is a two-horse race: Hystericalady vs. Zenyatta.

Hystericalady has won 11 of 21 starts, including her last three. Zenyatta has won all seven of her races. This will be the first meeting between the two - both leading contenders for an Eclipse Award - and though it is the fifth race on an 11-race card, it might be the most anticipated match of the day.

The winner gets an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic Oct. 24 through the Win and You're In program.

Hystericalady has a significant edge from a pace standpoint in the 1 1/16-mile race, which will be run on the new synthetic Pro-Ride surface. But how can anyone fault Zenyatta? The physically imposing filly casts a large shadow, literally and figuratively. No matter the race shape, no matter the surface - dirt or synthetics - she has found a way to prevail, even on days when she was not at her best, like the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 5. When she's at her best, though, she's sensational.

"All her races have been impressive, but I think her best race was the Apple Blossom," her jockey, Mike Smith, said of the April 5 race at Oaklawn Park. "I went from thinking I had given her too much to do, to thinking I was going to hit the front too soon, in a matter of strides."

Since then, Zenyatta has added three more wins, two on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, one on Polytrack at Del Mar.

"Her last race was very impressive," Smith said, referring to Del Mar's Clement Hirsch on Aug. 2. "They were all looking for her. I wanted to let her have her trip. So we just sat back there until I asked her to run."

Hystericalady lost last year's Lady's Secret by a nose, then was second by a neck in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She, too, is remarkably consistent, with 11 wins in 21 starts. But synthetic surfaces have been her kryptonite - she is winless in four starts, including an uncharacteristically lackluster effort on Santa Anita's old Cushion Track surface in February.

"Maybe the Pro-Ride will be a little different for her," Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Hystericalady, said Thursday morning. "She didn't care for the surface earlier this year. I understand the track is quite a bit different now."

Wake Up Maggie, the winner of the Adoration Handicap at Del Mar in her last start, would be the likely third choice in the Lady's Secret, but she may not run. Hubert Guy, whose Bloodstock Management Services is the majority owner of Wake Up Maggie, said Wake Up Maggie may be scratched in order to run in the Grade 1, $500,000 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 5.

"I don't think we can beat those two," Guy said, referring to Hystericalady and Zenyatta.

Super Freaky, the Adoration runner-up, and Santa Teresita, who finished second to Zenyatta earlier this year in the Milady, round out the field.