03/14/2010 12:00AM

Team Zenyatta basks in glow of big day

Benoit & Associates
Zenyatta keeps her perfect record intact in the Santa Margarita on Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Compared to the euphoria displayed by more than 20,000 racing fans after Zenyatta's win in the $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on Saturday, the scene at trainer John Shirreffs's barn at Hollywood Park on Sunday morning was much more placid.

The smiles on Shirreffs's face, and on the faces of his staff, were still evident, though.

"This is the enjoyment phase," Shirreffs said.

It was not just Zenyatta's win in the Santa Margarita that had the team celebrating. Zardana, trained by Shirreffs, upset 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds on Saturday, spoiling Rachel's first start of the year.

Zenyatta, who is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, had a quiet day at a quiet barn on Sunday, walking the shed row for about an hour. She will resume racetrack training in several days.

The victory extended Zenyatta's unbeaten streak to 15 and put her on course for the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9. Zardana will run in that race, too, Shirreffs said. Rachel Alexandra, however, will not run in the Apple Blossom, owner Jess Jackson said Sunday. With Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta in the race, the purse would have been $5 million. Without both, the purse reverts to $500,000.

Jerry Moss said in a statement Sunday: "We're disappointed that we're not going to be able to face each other in the Apple Blossom. Hopefully, we can meet down the line. We respect both Steve [Asmussen] and Mr. Jackson as horsemen and they're going to do what's right for their horse. That's all anybody could ask for.

"We'll go on to the Apple Blossom as planned."

There were a few well-wishers at the Shirreffs barn at Hollywood Park, including fellow trainer Kathy Walsh, but there was none of the crazed scene at Santa Anita on Saturday when crowds lined the path from the walking ring to the racetrack, snapping photos and shouting the 6-year-old mare's name, or the sustained applause directed at the mare when jockey Mike Smith brought her back to the winner's circle after her come-from-behind win.

Smith guided Zenyatta through traffic in the final quarter-mile to win the by 1 1/4 lengths over 51-1 Dance to My Tune. Smith moved Zenyatta to the inside of Pretty Unusual before the eighth pole, closed further ground along the rail, and then moved Zenyatta to the outside of Dance to My Tune before taking the lead in the final sixteenth.

Smith said after the race that he was only steering Zenyatta through the stretch. He never used his whip. Shirreffs said that the way that Zenyatta weaved through traffic reminded him of her victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic last November when she closed between horses and then rallied wide to become the first female to win that showcase race. The Santa Margarita was Zenyatta's first start since the BC Classic.

"At the Breeders' Cup, she did a little lateral move," Shirreffs said. "Now, she's got a side step and a snake move.

"We talked before the race and we agreed the race should be treated like a workout. We didn't want to worry about the pace. We said, she can have a target to follow and make a run."

The strategy worked perfectly, extending a perfect mare's record in her first start of 2010.