07/06/2008 11:00PM

Shirreffs takes wait-and-see approach


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - It may be a few weeks into the upcoming Del Mar meeting before trainer John Shirreffs decides whether to start the undefeated Zenyatta at that track.

Zenyatta is the undisputed leading older female in California. Saturday, in the $300,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, she extended her unbeaten streak to six with a hard-fought win in the Grade 1 race over 1 1/8 miles.

Shirreffs is considering the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on Del Mar's synthetic Polytrack surface on Aug. 2 for Zenyatta, but wants to observe a period of training and racing there before making a commitment.

Shirreffs is concerned the track will be similar to 2007, when it was quick during morning workouts but noticeably slower during afternoon racing.

While track officials insist a watering program will keep the course more uniform this year, Shirreffs remains guarded. The Del Mar meeting begins July 16. Shirreffs will begin sending his stable, including Zenyatta, to Del Mar later this week.

"I'd like to run at Del Mar," he said. "The fans there are so supportive."

What is not in dispute is the brilliance of Zenyatta. She won her fourth consecutive stakes in the Vanity, chasing down Silver Z, who had an early 10-length lead. Ridden by Mike Smith, Zenyatta finished a half-length in front of Tough Tiz's Sis, the narrowest margin of victory in Zenyatta's career.

The way Silver Z ran off concerned Shirreffs.

"That was not what anyone expected," Shirreffs said. "Zenyatta had to go after her because everyone was waiting to see what she had to do. She had to make a long, sustained run. We didn't want her to move too soon.

"I was a little nervous because she was a little wound up in the post parade and it was such a hot day. I think she was tested a little at the end."

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta, 4, has earned $734,500 for owner Jerry and Ann Moss. The race was not taxing on Zenyatta, Shirreffs said.

"By the time she got to the receiving barn, she could have done it again," he said. "She recovers very quickly."

Stakes winners heading to Del Mar

There were five stakes Saturday, and the winners of the other four races are bound for Del Mar.

Street Boss, winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap, will make his next start in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap over six furlongs on July 27. The Breeders' Cup Sprint at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting is a long-term goal.

Pure Clan, winner of the $750,000 American Oaks for Kentucky-based trainer Bob Holthus, is a candidate for the $400,000 Del Mar Oaks over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 16.

Pure Clan overcame trouble in the stretch to finish three-quarters of a length ahead of French invader Satan's Circus in the Oaks. Co-owner Lewis Lakin credited jockey Julien Leparoux for a patient, ground-saving trip that stretched Pure Clan's unbeaten streak on turf to four races.

"You can't ask more of a horse or jockey," he said.

Diamond Diva, who won the $750,000 CashCall Mile on turf for fillies and mares, is likely to start in the $400,000 John Mabee Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 3, trainer Jim Cassidy said. Diamond Diva, fourth early, finished a nose in front of Ventura, who led in deep stretch but was caught in the final stride.

Azul Leon remained unbeaten after two starts with a four-length win in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship over six furlongs. He rallied from last in a field of eight to win comfortably.

Trainer Doug O'Neill said that Azul Leon is likely to have one start at Del Mar, in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 10, skip the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 3, and start in the Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in late September. The long-term goal is the BC Juvenile on Oct. 25.

Shirreffs seeks Swaps Stakes repeat

Shirreffs won the 2007 Swaps Stakes with Tiago, and will have Madeo in the race Saturday. While Tiago was a short-priced favorite, Madeo will be a longshot in a strong field in the Grade 2 Swaps over 1 1/8 miles on the main track for 3-year-olds.

The list of probable starters is led by Colonel John, winner of the Santa Anita Derby in April, and Behindatthebar, who won the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April.

Other candidate includes Dixie Chatter, winner of the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes last fall; Two Step Salsa, winner of the Affirmed Handicap last month; Trevor's Clever, who beat Madeo in the Alydar Stakes in May; Nownownow, winner of the BC Juvenile Turf last fall; and Tres Borrachos, who was second in the Affirmed.

Madeo won a maiden race and an allowance race in the spring before finishing a neck behind Trevor's Clever as the 1-5 favorite in the Alydar over 1 1/8 miles. Unlike his previous wins when he came from off the pace, Madeo stalked the leaders in the Alydar, which Shirreffs said cost him a chance to win.

"He ran too close to the pace," he said. "He'll have to run the race he did before. He's just kind of maturing and getting used to racing."

Pick-six carryover boosts handle

Saturday's preliminary handle was $24,473,930, a figure boosted by a massive three-day pick-six carryover of $1,197,009 from Wednesday through Friday.

The all-sources handle figure is considered preliminary because track officials had yet to compile all handle figures from account-wagering providers. The $24.4 million is the sixth-highest in track history aside from programs that featured the Breeders' Cup or Triple Crown simulcasts.

The pick six returned $12,827 to 257 ticketholders. The winners of the pick-six races were Hannahs Classy Boy ($10), Diamond Diva ($6.60), Tizsweetdreams ($6), Pure Clan ($7), Street Boss ($3.40), and Hopehopehope ($21.80).

* Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., 33, won the 1,000th race of his career Sunday aboard Hiatus ($14.40) in a maiden race over 1 1/16 miles. Valdivia won his first race at Belmont Park in 1994.

Valdivia won the 2001 Breeders' Cup Mile aboard Val Royal.