11/28/2008 12:00AM

Madeo hopes to join the hit parade


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Hollywood Derby and the Matriarch offer healthy purses, intriguing fields, and reason enough to spend this Sunday afternoon at the track, which is why it is hard to believe that they'll both be upstaged by a simple little walk in the park.

Believe it, though, because Zenyatta will parade between races during the afternoon's festivities.

With the pressure off and her season in the books - unbeaten, untied, unbelievable - Zenyatta deserves a victory lap. Not since Personal Ensign's farewell at the end of her perfect career in 1988 has a female Thoroughbred so completely captivated the imagination. Any number of transcendent stars have strolled on display, for the pleasure of their fans - including Kelso, Seattle Slew, John Henry, even Curlin on Saturday at Churchill Downs - but normally such a ceremony would come at the end of the line. Zenyatta, bless her 17 hands, is taking her bow at halftime.

For that the game has Ann and Jerry Moss to thank. They will be at Hollywood Park on Sunday, of course, grinning like fools and grooving to the vibe of their racehorse named for an album by The Police. "Zenyatta Mondatta" was one of hundreds of musical gifts packaged by Moss through A&M Records, which he founded with Herb Alpert, and the reason he could eventually afford to buy a yearling like Zenyatta. Moss, who has a life beyond his horses, was asked if Zenyatta crossed his mind on a daily basis or, say, as often as Alpert.

"Absolutely," he replied. "I can't help it. Annie has been hanging all Zenyatta's saddle towels from the banisters at home."

And Alpert? Moss didn't miss a beat.

"No Herb Alpert, no Zenyatta."

At $60,000, her price tag wasn't particularly daunting. There was, however, more than a quarter-century of Thoroughbreds carrying the Moss colors before Zenyatta came along. Some gloriously fast - like Ruhlmann, Delicate Vine, Galunpe, Aberuschka - some a bit slower. Before Zenyatta took her Breeders' Cup race last month at Santa Anita, the Mosses had near misses with Fighting Fit in the 1984 Sprint and with Sardula in the 1993 Juvenile Fillies.

"They say good things come to those who wait," Moss said.

In bunches, too. As their relationship with trainer John Shirreffs blossomed, major victories began to mount up. Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby. Tarlow in the Santa Margarita. Tiago in the Santa Anita Derby. And this year, laboring in the shadow of Zenyatta, the emerging turf star Madeo, winner of the Del Mar Derby.

Even a casual appearance by Zenyatta is a hard act to follow, but Madeo will try on Sunday when he goes for the Hollywood Derby against a tough mix that includes Gio Ponti, Court Vision, Sailor's Cap, and Muny. Madeo backed up his Del Mar win most recently with a close second to Muny in the Oak Tree Derby.

"He's a homebred," Moss noted. "I don't want to say it's a surprise, but whenever you get a 3-year-old that matriculates as he has, it's very exciting. Every race has been an improvement."

Madeo is by the young stallion Mizzen Mast out of 15-year-old Passion Flower, a daughter of Deputy Minister who made 35 starts and won a small stakes while trained by Ron McAnally for the Mosses.

"She was a hard-trying mare, every step of the way," Moss said. "But for some reason she has been very difficult to get into foal. Next year, in fact, she'll be going to Giacomo, who has been great at stopping mares. He's had a 90 percent rate, and seems to do it rather perfunctorily. At Adena Springs, they call him Mr. Automatic."

Knowing that, it's a safe bet that there will be a Giacomo colt called Mr. Automatic someday soon. The Mosses take great pains with horse names, and with good reason, as far as they are concerned.

"It's always been our joy to give them a name that's memorable," Moss said. "Something that the trade and the public will appreciate. And I believe a horse will respond to that name, sort of helping them in some way to give them a focus. Of course, that's a theory that can never be proven either way."

Madeo is named for one of the Mosses' favorite restaurants, located in Beverly Hills, and the Branzino all'Isolana is to roll over and die for.

"I was there for lunch today, but because the race is on a Sunday I can't get anyone there to go," Moss said. " 'We were hopin' the race was onna Thursday,' they said. But he's not running on Thursdays anymore."

As for Zenyatta, the fact that she will be running more and more is worth some kind of national celebration. Moss and Shirreffs are looking to a springtime return for their champ, who is sitting on nine wins in nine starts.

The Mosses, who travel extensively, were front and center for all of those races in 2008 save one, the Vanity Handicap, run on July 5 at Hollywood Park, when she won by just a half-length over Tough Tiz's Sis. They were visiting friends at the time in the Provence region of France, in the 14th century town of Goult (pop. 1,200).

"The computer didn't work very well," Moss recalled. "All we had was spotty pictures and some sound. But then when we heard she'd won, it didn't matter how she won, or what she won by."

That's all she does anyway.