07/22/2008 11:00PM

Zenyatta begins her windup


DEL MAR, Calif. - The Del Mar meeting began in earnest on Wednesday for Zenyatta, the leading older female in the nation.

Unbeaten in six starts, Zenyatta had her first exercise over the track's Polytrack surface on Wednesday, preparing for a start in the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Handicap on Aug. 2. Trainer John Shirreffs left Zenyatta at his Hollywood Park base for an extra week after that track ended its spring-summer meeting on July 13, saying that he wanted to see how the Del Mar Polytrack surface played before committing the 4-year-old Zenyatta to a start here this summer.

"It's tighter than it was last year," Shirreffs said of the surface. "Horses are finishing well. They aren't laboring like last year."

Shirreffs said that Zenyatta will have a workout on Saturday in advance of the Grade 2 Hirsch, which is run over 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has won four stakes and $734,500. She won the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 5 in her most recent start.

Shirreffs said that Zenyatta will have two races before the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Oct. 24. She is likely to start in the Grade 1 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 27. The Ladies Classic was formerly known as the BC Distaff.

Candy Ride gave Craig his biggest thrill

Sid Craig, the prominent racehorse owner who died on Monday at 76 after a lengthy battle with cancer, considered Candy Ride's win in the 2003 Pacific Classic his favorite victory.

Candy Ride's win fulfilled a prediction made by trainer Ron McAnally eight months before the Pacific Classic - and McAnally seldom makes predictions.

McAnally was scouting South American prospects for Craig and his wife, Jenny, when he came across Candy Ride. McAnally recalled on Wednesday that he could not contain his confidence in Candy Ride.

"It was in the month of January and he came up for sale," McAnally said. "It was quite a bit of money. I flew to Argentina. I come back and had the videotape of his races. I called Sid up and said, 'If we're going to win the Pacific Classic it will be with this horse.' He said, 'I'll take your word for it.'"

Shortly after that conversation, McAnally drove to Craig's office in San Diego to review the tapes and discuss the purchase. McAnally said Craig was enthusiastic about Candy Ride after seeing the videotape, and they made a successful offer to buy Candy Ride.

Craig and his wife had already had major success in the sport, campaigning two-time champion Paseana and winning the 1992 Epsom Derby with Dr Devious.

In the Pacific Classic, Candy Ride beat Medaglia d'Oro by 3 1/2 lengths, and set a track record of 1:59.11 for 1 1/4 miles. Craig was ecstatic.

"It's probably the most exciting moment of my racing career, bigger than the Epsom Derby or the Breeders' Cup," he said that day. "It doesn't get any better than winning in your own backyard."

Crunch time for Lang Field

This could be the month when Lang Field regains his place among the nation's top turf milers.

The winner of the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park last November, Lang Field makes his third start of the year in Friday's $85,000 Wickerr Handicap over a mile on turf. Trainer Art Sherman hopes to use the race as a prep for the $400,000 Del Mar Mile on turf on Aug. 24.

Lang Field won the Ferdinand Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on July 3, his first start since finishing fourth in the Thunder Road Handicap at Santa Anita in February.

After the Thunder Road, Sherman said he was unhappy with Lang Field's condition. "I had a bad vibe about my horse," he said. "I said, 'He can do with a couple or three months in the paddock.' It was a good move."

Owned by Nigel Shields, Lang Field typically runs near the front - he led by five lengths on the backstretch of the Ferdinand - but may not have the lead in the Wickerr. Sherman says that Lang Field can stalk the pace if the speedy One Union tries to lead.

"I think there'll be a lot of pace," Sherman said. "This will be a good time to sit off of them. I'm looking for him to run a good race."

Missit attempts turnaround in San Clemente

Missit won the Grade 2 Providencia Stakes at a mile on turf at Santa Anita in April in her first start in the United States, suggesting that she would play a major role in the 3-year-old filly turf division this year. But then she lost twice during the Hollywood Park meeting, including in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks.

Saturday, Missit starts in the $150,000 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, and the one-mile distance of the Grade 2 turf race suits her better than the distance of the American Oaks.

Trainer Ben Cecil said that Missit bled "a three" on a scale of four when she finished fifth, beaten four lengths, in the Grade 1 American Oaks on July 5.

"I think the mile and a quarter had something to do with that," he said. "She was going pretty well turning for home and stopped. We thought the mile and a quarter was too far."

Missit has drawn the rail in the San Clemente, which has a field of 10. The race drew 11 entrants, but the Cecil-trained Comeback Queen was relegated to the also-eligible list and needs a scratch to draw into the race.

The race is led by Misty Ocean, who has not started since winning the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 7, a race in which Missit finished fourth.

Missit, who tends to stalk the pace, breaks from the rail. Jockey Victor Espinoza said he is likely to keep her close to the front.

"She doesn't have a big turn of foot," he said. "I'd like to put her into the race."