10/17/2008 12:00AM

Shirreffs in awe of undefeated Zenyatta


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Zenyatta has won all eight of her starts, usually so effortlessly it hardly seems as if she's trying. Her trainer, John Shirreffs, is running out of words to describe the unbeaten filly. And on Friday, after Zenyatta worked six furlongs here at Hollywood Park in 1:11.66 to complete her preparation for next Friday's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita, Shirreffs could only shake his head in amazement and say, "Phew."

"She's just beautiful to watch," Shirreffs added. "It's amazing to watch her. You don't know where her stride ends."

It has become readily apparent that Zenyatta is a cut above the norm. Her gargantuan stride was on display again Friday, as she reeled in a workmate, and then two other horses who happened to break off just in front of her, while pricking her ears, a sign she could do more.

But what also stamps Zenyatta as special is her remarkable ability to quickly recover from her exercise. By the time she got back to the barn and walked a couple of laps around Shirreffs's shed row, she wasn't even breathing hard. You would not have known that, only minutes earlier, she had recorded a time that equaled the second-fastest of 11 works at the distance.

"She's always been that way," Shirreffs said. "The first time she ran, she got back to the test barn, and it was like she had just jogged."

"Yeah, she looks really stressed," exercise rider Steve Willard said, sarcastically.

Willard was aboard Zenyatta for the work, with Mike Smith, Zenyatta's jockey, aboard workmate Bronzino.

"I can't believe she caught the other two horses," Smith said, referring to the pair that broke off in front of Zenyatta shortly before the half-mile pole. "My horse couldn't give her any more company. She was just reaching."

Shirreffs said he prefers to work horses in company on a regular basis, believing that if horses work alone, the rare times when they work in company could be unsettling.

"And when you work out with a partner or a friend, the workout goes better," he said. "You get more out of it.

"I just wanted the horse to get through the work without much happening."

Shirreffs is no fan of California's move to synthetic tracks, even though he had done well on them. He often trains many of his horses on the smaller training track at Hollywood Park because it has natural dirt.

Zenyatta, 4, is one of the biggest horses on the grounds. While not as thick as, say, Curlin, she has a long, graceful body.

"She weighs a little over 1,200 pounds - about 1,210 or 1,225, somewhere in there," Shirreffs said.

She has become a barn favorite. Zenyatta will lick the face of her groom, Mario Espinoza, and she gets so much personal attention, "we have to make sure we don't give her too much," said Shirreffs's wife, Dottie, who is the racing manager for Jerry and Ann Moss, who own Zenyatta.

"You have to treat her like you would a child," she said.

The Mosses joined the Shirreffses for the workout. They are sitting on a potentially huge Breeders' Cup. In addition to having Zenyatta, the heavy favorite in the $2 million Ladies' Classic, they have a fighting chance on Saturday in the $5 million Classic with Tiago, the 2007 Santa Anita Derby winner.

"It's a thrill to be a part of this," Ann Moss said.