06/08/2010 11:00PM

Zenyatta aimed at Hirsch three-peat


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Zenyatta's appearance in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on Sunday is likely to be the first of two races for the popular 6-year-old mare in Southern California this summer.

Wednesday, trainer John Shirreffs said the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 7, a race that Zenyatta won in 2008 and 2009, will be a late summer goal. Races on the East Coast had entered the discussions, but Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss intend to leave her in Southern California for now.

A two-time champion and undefeated after 16 starts, Zenyatta will have a more difficult test in the Grade 1 Vanity than originally expected. The list of probable starters grew on Wednesday to include the Shirreffs-trained Zardana, who defeated the 2009 Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra, in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds in March.

Shirreffs had hoped to start Zardana in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday, but said he was not happy with potential shipping arrangements.

The inclusion of Zardana will significantly affect the Vanity, giving the race, run over

1 1/8 miles on the main track, a likely front-runner. Zardana has shown the ability to lead throughout races or stalk the pace. Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Zardana has won four stakes, including the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on this track last December.

Zenyatta, a closer, would benefit from a quick pace.

Zardana was fifth behind Unrivaled Belle in the Grade 2 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 30, her most recent start, proving difficult for jockey David Flores to handle in the early stages of the race. Victor Espinoza, who rode Zardana in the Bayakoa and three other races last year and earlier this year, regains the mount.

"If there's speed, it's easy to settle a horse, but if there is no speed, it's impossible," Shirreffs said.

Zenyatta is the 129-pound topweight in the Vanity, which is also expected to include St Trinians, Will O Way, Cherryblossommiss, and Miss Silver Brook. Zardana will carry 118 pounds, two fewer than St Trinians.

Zardana worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds on Sunday, the fastest of 55 works at the distance. Shirreffs said the fast workout, and complications with travel, made shipping to New York a hardship. "She worked too fast to ship across the country and be settled," he said.

Shirreffs said Zenyatta will remain at Hollywood Park this summer, and will be based at Del Mar only briefly. Shirreffs has said in the past that Zenyatta does not train well on Del Mar's Polytrack surface, which led to speculation that Zenyatta would start on the East Coast in late summer. But Shirreffs said he has no problem running Zenyatta at Del Mar.

"I said I didn't want to train at Del Mar," he said. "There is a difference."

Shirreffs said the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10 arrives too soon after the Vanity to be a logical spot for Zenyatta, who will be after her 17th win on Sunday. She has earned $5,924,580.

The champion older female of 2008 and 2009, Zenyatta, 6, has not started since winning the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 9, her second start of 2010 and the second trip of her career outside of California.

Jerry and Ann Moss had intended to retire Zenyatta this year to be bred, but reversed that decision in January and said she would stay in training. The schedule of starting in the Vanity and Clement Hirsch will keep Zenyatta in front of Southern California racing fans at the expense of a start at a prominent track such as Saratoga.

"When they decided to bring Zenyatta back, it was about having fun with her," Shirreffs said. "Sometimes [stakes] don't fit in the schedule, and the most important concern is Zenyatta and the best care possible for her. She comes first. The races don't come first."

Cost of Freedom pointed for Crosby

Cost of Freedom will stick with six-furlong races this summer after winning his first stakes in more than 20 months in Saturday's $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap.

Owner Gary Barber and trainer John Sadler hope to start Cost of Freedom in the $250,000 Bing Crosby Handicap over six furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 1. The race may be Cost of Freedom's only start until the autumn, when the build-up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6 intensifies.

"The timing is really good," Sadler said of the Bing Crosby. "He can go month to month, and that's a good track for him."

Cost of Freedom won his second race of the year in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap, leading throughout as the even-money favorite. He ran the six furlongs in 1:08.49.

A 7-year-old gelding, Cost of Freedom was third in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. He won the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita in 2008 but missed out on the BC Sprint that year because of soundness problems.

Cost of Freedom made just three starts in late summer and the fall of 2009 and was given the winter off. His perfect season this year has led Barber to think that Cost of Freedom can continue to play an impact in the sprint division later this year. "This feels good," he said. "The main thing is to keep him healthy. If everything goes right, we'll shoot for the Breeders' Cup."