09/29/2011 1:23PM

Mosses back in the Lady's Secret with another 'Z'


Of all the stars falling from the skies on Saturday – they include Uncle Mo, Shackleford, Cape Blanco, Coil, Stacelita, Stay Thirsty, Big Drama, Game On Dude, and Ask the Moon – none will attract more deserving attention than the pair of 4-year-old fillies who have been trading blows over the past year on their way to what everyone hopes will be some sort of ultimate late-season showdown,

At the peak of the mega-programs at Belmont Park and Santa Anita, discerning fans will have about 90 minutes to digest the performance of Havre de Grace in the Beldame back East before Blind Luck takes the field in the Lady’s Secret out West. Those fingers heard fervently crossing belong to the promoters of the Breeders’ Cup, who are counting on the two fillies to win big and then go on to Kentucky to resume their rivalry.

Blind Luck already has been committed to the Ladies’ Classic – to be run at 7:30 on a Friday evening in November – while the Havre de Grace camp is doing a Chris Christie and waiting to decide between the Ladies’ Classic, formerly the Distaff, and the Classic Classic. Would another name change hurt?

For a brief, highly premature moment, the Lady’s Secret was called the Zenyatta Stakes, in honor of the mare who won the race in 2008 and 2009. Thinking Zenyatta would be retired after winning the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, officials of the Oak Tree Racing Association jumped at the chance to attach her name to a Grade 1 event. But then, oops, owners Ann and Jerry Moss decided to race their champion one more season.

The name was eventually switched back to the Lady’s Secret for the 2010 running, and of course Zenyatta won it again. Now the coast is clear, since Big Mama is blissfully in foal in Kentucky and in no danger of making Saturday’s race. As it turns out, they could have called it anything under the sun, but they stuck with the Lady’s Secret. Good move.

The Mosses, always game, will try to win their fourth straight Lady’s Secret with Zazu, a gray daughter of Tapit who has been mixing it up with the best 3-year-old fillies in the land. This should be no surprise, since Zazu is one of the best 3-year-old fillies in the land as her races to Turbulent Descent, Plum Pretty and St. John’s River testify. Zazu’s close second in the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar in her last start against the older generation only served to underline her quality.

“We were very proud of her that day, especially since she had to check at one point,” said Jerry Moss, who was at a family gathering in the Northwest when the Del Mar race was run. “We’ve won our share of close ones like that, so I can’t complain. But that was a real step up for her, finishing in front of some very good mares.”

Ultra Blend beat her a neck in the Hirsch, and that mare is back in the Lady’s Secret, along with the Ruffian and Personal Ensign winner, Ask the Moon. All eyes, though, will be on Blind Luck as she makes her customary mad dash through the final three-eighths of a mile. Moss is among her fans.

“We’ve seen enough of her to know what a terrific filly she is,” he said. “She’s earned her popularity, and her reputation. But we know they always have to go out and keep proving it on the track.”

It’s almost embarrassing that in the wake of the careers of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra – both voted Horse of the Year – that the sport would be blessed in the next breath by the likes of Havre de Grace and Blind Luck. Moss does not question such giddy twists of fate, even going so far as dipping into a familiar corner of the alphabet to name Zazu at a time when Zenyatta was at the top of her game.

“I guess that was putting a little pressure on her,” Moss conceded. “I’m not sure anyone will ever have another one like Zenyatta. But names starting with ‘Z’ have been good to us” – their Oak Leaf winner Zoonaqua comes to mind – “so you never know where a good one will take you.”

Moss insists there was no serious decompression required from the heady three-plus seasons Zenyatta reigned. Other than the disappointment of seeing her lose her only race in her last race, the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic, Moss wondered how much more they could have asked. Besides, there’s a whole new world of anticipation afoot now that Zenyatta has a Bernardini bun in the oven back at Lane‘s End Farm.

“We get pictures sent to us all the time, and it looks like she’s doing great, eating her way across her paddock and enjoying the company of her companion mare, Tasty Temptation,” Moss said. “Annie can set up Skype or Tango, or whatever they’re called, and get live pictures so she can talk to Zenyatta any time she wants.

“That kind of thing has escaped me,” Moss added. “But no matter what the advances in technology, in terms of keeping informed and in touch, you’ve still got to wait those many months for a foal to come into this world. That’s the difference, the beauty, of the game.”

Moss said Zenyatta’s due date was early March 2012, although he warned that maiden mares were sometimes a little unpredictable.

“Doesn’t matter, though,” he vowed. “Come early March we’ll be back there, camped out, and waiting.”