05/26/2008 11:00PM

Tiago and Zenyatta dual stable stars


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Before they became multiple graded stakes winners, Tiago and Zenyatta were sparring partners.

In early 2007, when Tiago was on his way to winning the Santa Anita Derby and long before Zenyatta made her first start, the pair worked in company at Hollywood Park.

“There wasn’t much separating them,” trainer John Shirreffs said.

That was about all that Shirreffs was willing to divulge about the year-old workout. Was the filly just a wee bit quicker than her male counterpart?

“I won’t say which one was in front,” Shirreffs said, laughing.

They don’t work together anymore. They just win major races on the same day.

At Oaklawn Park on April 5, Tiago won the fourth stakes of his career in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. Later that day, Zenyatta won her first Grade 1 in the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap.

Tiago and Zenyatta are scheduled to race on Saturday at Hollywood Park. Tiago will run in the $250,000 Californian Stakes over 1 1/8 miles, a major prep for the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 28. Zenyatta, unbeaten in four starts, will attempt to win her third consecutive stakes in the $175,000 Milady Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.

Neither will face many opponents. Tiago might have only three rivals – Heatseeker, the Santa Anita Handicap winner who was beaten a head in the Oaklawn Handicap; Surf Cat, the winner of the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap; and the Albertus Maximus, who will be a longshot.

Shirreffs said that Tiago is in peak form.

“He looks good and he didn’t lose much weight” after the Oaklawn, Shirreffs said.

Zenyatta is the 122-pound topweight in the Milady, and will face Double Trouble, Kris’ Sis, Romance Is Diane, and Santa Teresita. Trainer Bob Baffert said on Monday that Tough Tiz’s Sis would start only if Zenyatta does not.

Zenyatta’s record makes her a heavy favorite, and her recent works have done nothing to make her seem vulnerable. She has been given the designation of “breezing” in her last three workouts, a rarity in Southern California where most horses are giving the comment of working “handily.”

“There’s the perception that she’s doing it so easily,” Shirreffs said. “She has that very nice stride.”

Daytona building quite a record

Daytona is proving to be untouchable on Southern California turf. In Monday’s Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, Daytona won his sixth graded stakes since mid-October, defeating Ever a Friend.

The long-term goal for Daytona is the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Daytona has started three times on turf at Santa Anita and happens to be undefeated on the surface – winning the Oak Tree Derby in October, the San Gabriel Handicap in December, and the Arcadia Handicap in April.

How he gets to that race remains to be seen. Trainer Dan Hendricks was noncommittal about Daytona’s plans for the rest of the summer, but races such as the $400,000 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 24 or the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 7 are possibilities.

“This horse can run back in three weeks or he can run back in seven weeks,” Hendricks said. “We can give him a little break whenever we want and just have a lot of fun with him.”

In the Shoemaker, Daytona stalked pacesetter Ever a Friend before taking over in midstretch. Sent off a slight favorite, Daytona ($5.40) won by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:33.44.

Among his six graded stakes wins are the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby over 1 1/4 miles on turf last November, three races at 1 1/8 miles on turf, and two turf miles.

“The horse just goes out there and does his thing,” said Tom Lenner, who is part of the partnership that owns the 4-year-old gelding. “He showed he can rate a little bit.”

Ever a Friend will be given a break in coming months, trainer Mike Mitchell said. After the Shoemaker, Mitchell was frustrated that Ever a Friend had the lead.

“I’d like to have laid off Daytona’s flanks,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s tough for him to win on the lead. I think it took him out of his game.”

Mitchell has the BC Mile as a long-range goal for Ever a Friend.

Precious Kitten, Diamond Diva may meet again

Precious Kitten and Diamond Diva, the first two finishers of Monday’s Grade 1 Gamely Stakes, are on course for a rematch in the $750,000 CashCall Mile on July 5.

Trainer Bobby Frankel said on Tuesday that Precious Kitten would be pointed for that race. She already has won a major one-mile turf stakes at Hollywood Park in the last year, the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes last November.

The Gamely was Precious Kitten’s first stakes win of the year, and first since the Matriarch. She stalked Diamond Diva before taking the lead in early stretch and cruising to a comfortable 2 1/4-length win.

“She ran the like the champion that she is,” Frankel said. “She’s an easy ride.”

Diamond Diva lost for the first time in the United States. She won the American Beauty and Grade 3 Wilshire handicaps this spring.

* Trainer John Sadler was fined $500 by Hollywood Park stewards on Sunday for failing to report that Evolution, who finished last of seven in a $12,500 claiming race at Santa Anita on April 20, had been gelded since his last start.