07/04/2010 11:00PM

Zenyatta shows her new restraint in work


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Mike Smith is sensing a change in Zenyatta in recent months. She seems to be more willing to wait later in the stretch before unleashing the explosive kick that has led to 17 consecutive wins and two champion female titles.

Zenyatta, 6, won her 17th race in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap on June 13 by catching St Trinians in the final 50 yards. Monday, in her second work since that race, Zenyatta caught stablemate Theodora in the final 50 yards, finishing five furlongs in 1:01.20.

"I'm starting to believe more and more that she knows where the wire is," Smith said after returning to the barn. "She wants some competition and she lets them open up three or four lengths on the turn. She gets 100 yards from the wire -- and whoom -- she was flying."

Theodora, a three-time winner who was fifth in an allowance race in her last start on May 19, was timed in 1:01.40 after leading early in the workout.

Before the workout, trainer John Shirreffs said he wanted "an easy work, nothing" from Zenyatta. He timed Zenyatta galloping six furlongs in "1:14 and change. This was just a fun work," he said. "You can't drill, drill, drill."

Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss have not confirmed Zenyatta's next start, though the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 7, a race she has won the last two years, remains a strong possibility.

Jerry Moss attended Monday's workout and said he will defer largely to Shirreffs in making a decision on Zenyatta's next race. This year, Zenyatta has won three stakes at 1 1/8 miles. A defense of her win in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November is a long-term goal, Moss emphasized.

The Clement Hirsch "is a mile and a sixteenth, and this year we've been so solid at a mile and an eighth," Moss said. "What I think is not that important. The coach is the coach. We want to get her as good as we can for the Breeders' Cup.