07/07/2009 11:00PM

Shirreffs loaded with ladies

Benoit & Associates
Life Is Sweet will take on the boys in Saturday's Grade 1, $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - One is an undefeated champion. One is a Grade 1 winner preparing to take on males. Another is a multiple stakes winner with further promise.

Taken individually, Zenyatta, Life Is Sweet, or Zardana would be the star of just about any stable in the nation. Together, they give trainer John Shirreffs a formidable team for the second half of 2009.

"I'm very fortunate," he said.

And sometimes, Shirreffs is a little perplexed about how to keep them apart. Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet finished first and second in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 23 but have since been broken up. Zenyatta won the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap in late June for her 11th consecutive win, while Life Is Sweet stayed in the barn waiting for Saturday's $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup against males at Hollywood Park.

At least Zardana did not get in the way. She is best in turf miles, and has been entered for Saturday's $250,000 Royal Heroine Stakes.

While Zenyatta is being prepared for a start at Del Mar in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes on Aug. 9, this weekend is Life Is Sweet's opportunity to further enhance her reputation as the best older female in the nation not named Zenyatta.

Life Is Sweet will be trying to become the first female to win the Gold Cup since Princessnesian in 1968. Even though Life Is Sweet starts in a Gold Cup that lacks a nationally prominent older horse, this gamble is not an ideal situation for Shirreffs. He would have preferred to keep her against her own sex.

"She's not here because of the field," Shirreffs said. "She's here because of Zenyatta. It gives you more options."

In the Milady, Zenyatta beat Life Is Sweet by 1 3/4 lengths, brushing past her in the stretch.

Owned by Pam and Marty Wygod, Life Is Sweet has won three stakes this year, including the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita in March. The Gold Cup will be her first attempt at 1 1/4 miles, although her closing style and two wins over 1 1/8 miles earlier this year suggest the distance will not be a problem.

"I think she can win," Shirreffs said. "If we didn't think she had a chance, we wouldn't be in it."

The Gold Cup drew 13. Life Is Sweet starts from post 10 and is listed as the 9-2 second choice on the morning line. Parading, winner of the Ben Ali Stakes in April and the Dixie Stakes in May, is a 4-1 lukewarm favorite on the morning line.

Zardana won an allowance race over a mile on turf on May 31, her first win since a 43-1 upset in the Osunitas Handicap on turf at Del Mar last summer. Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Zardana is best when allowed to run on or near the lead.

"She can come from off of it a little bit," Shirreffs said. "You don't want the guy's feet in the dashboard. I think the key is to get her to settle where she's comfortable."

In the Grade 2 Royal Heroine, Zardana will attempt to win her first graded stakes. She drew the rail in a field of eight that includes Tuscan Evening and Gotta Have Her, the first two finishers of the Redondo Beach Stakes on June 6; and Patricia's Gem, who is making her stakes debut after winning three consecutive starts this year.

Awesome Gem to miss Gold Cup

The Gold Cup field will not include Awesome Gem, the millionaire 6-year-old gelding who won an allowance race on turf on June 27.

Trainer Craig Dollase said that Awesome Gem is batting a bruised right front foot.

"It's bad timing," Dollase said. "We'll get through this and we'll look for something at Del Mar."

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Awesome Gem is best known for finishing third in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.

The Gold Cup is the eighth race on an 11-race program that includes a guaranteed pick-six pool of $300,000. If all 13 horses start in the Gold Cup, it will be the largest field since Quack won a 14-horse running in 1972.

Metz to serve as agent for Kaenel

Jeff Metz said Wednesday that he has disbanded his eight-horse stable to become the agent for jockey Kyle Kaenel.

Kaenel, 21, who is currently riding at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, is relocating to California next week and will begin riding at Hollywood Park next Thursday. He has won three stakes this year, one at Golden Gate Fields and two at Turf Paradise.

Metz, 42, said he was looking for a career change.

"I was down to eight horses," he said. "A couple were sold and a couple went to other trainers. I just didn't have the firepower. Costs are going up and owners' interest is going down."

Through Sunday, Metz had won with 14 of 146 starters this year.

Vienna failed to report gelding

Trainer Darrell Vienna has been fined $750 by track stewards for failing to report that Adam Suances was racing as a gelding for the first time when the 3-year-old won a maiden claimer at Hollywood Park on June 18, Hollywood Park track stewards announced in a ruling.

Trainers are required to declare when a colt or horse is racing as a gelding for the first time. In the last year, the California Horse Racing Board has aggressively fined trainers who failed to denote such information.

Volzke to receive Pincay Award

Merlin Volzke, who retired from race riding in 1979 to become a racing official, will be honored with the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award for lifetime service to racing on Saturday's Gold Cup program.

Volzke, 83, retired as a Los Alamitos steward in 2005.

During his riding days, Volzke was the leading jockey at Longacres in 1948 and won the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1958, presented by fellow riders for success on the track and personal character.

Volzke won such races as the 1970 Hollywood Derby on Hanalei Bay and the 1954 Santa Anita Maturity (now Strub Stakes) aboard Apple Valley.

The Pincay Award was launched in 2004, honoring individuals with long-term dedication and distinction in the sport.