06/23/2009 11:00PM

Zenyatta towers over Vanity field

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Benoit & Associates
Zenyatta will be heavily favored to stay unbeaten in 11 starts in Saturday's Vanity Handicap.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - At the least, the entries for Saturday's $300,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park show seven fillies and mares willing to challenge reigning champion older female Zenyatta.

How many will actually start in the Grade 1 race over 1 1/8 miles will not be known until race day.

Of the nine fillies and mares nominated to the Vanity, eight were entered. The only missing name was Life Is Sweet, who is bound for the $700,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 11. Some of the fillies entered in the Vanity are expected to be scratched in favor of Sunday's $150,000 Beverly Hills Handicap or a race to be named.

As of Wednesday, the participation of Dawn After Dawn, a three-time stakes winner, was unclear, trainer John Sadler said.

The winner of the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita in February 2008, Dawn After Dawn has had mixed results in her last two starts. She was a game second in the Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on May 2 but last of nine in the Redondo Beach Stakes here June 6. In fairness, Dawn After Dawn had a troubled trip in the Redondo Beach, racing in traffic with three furlongs remaining.

Still, the performance does not inspire confidence for her to knock off Zenyatta, who is unbeaten in 10 starts and will be heavily favored in the Vanity regardless of whether she has one opponent or seven.

"I entered to see how it shapes up," Sadler said. "I don't want to put any pressure on myself. We're in there looking around."

Dawn After Dawn was entered for the Milady Handicap on May 23, won by Zenyatta, but was scratched on the morning of the race. Zenyatta finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of stablemate Life Is Sweet.

"I entered her last time and didn't run," Sadler said. "But there were two of them in there last time."

Aside from Zenyatta, none of the Vanity entrants won their last starts. Allicansayis Wow was third in the Milady. Zenyatta has drawn the outside post in the Vanity and will carry 129 pounds, the highest assignment of her career.

Nitro Active stretches out on turf

The former maiden claimer Nitro Active has found a home on turf. Trainer Mike Machowsky hopes the gelding can become an important horse by racing in distance races.

In Friday's fifth race at Hollywood Park, Nitro Active starts in the longest race of his career, an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf.

"I think he wants to run all day," Machowsky said.

Nitro Active ended a seven-race losing streak with a hard-fought win in an allowance race for statebreds over a mile on turf June 4. Ridden by Joel Rosario, Nitro Active was stuck in traffic at the eighth pole and rallied to win by a half-length.

"He was in a tough spot the whole way," Machowsky said. "I hope he gets a clean trip" Friday.

The field of seven includes Harlene, who won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes here in April 2008 and is entered for a $50,000 claiming price; and Apptoburn, who won an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf here in December 2007 but has lost his last five starts.

Apptoburn is trained by Ed Halpern, who also works as the executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers Association. Apptoburn is part of Halpern's three-horse stable.

"He's the only one that's been a mile and a quarter, and look what he did," Halpern said.

Kelly Leak targets Del Mar return

Machowsky said Kelly Leak, the winner of the Sunland Park Derby in March who has been plagued by sickness in the last two months, will not start again until Del Mar. He is pointing Kelly Leak for the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf on Aug. 15.

Machowsky intended to run Kelly Leak in the Lone Star Derby last month and then the Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park last weekend. Both starts were scrapped because of illness.

"He's lost some weight on me and didn't look like his usual self," Machowsky said. "I'm missing all the races. I may have to wait for the La Jolla."

Century Park eyes Flawlessly

Century Park, the winner of the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita in January who is winless in her last five starts, will make her next start in the $100,000 Flawlessly Stakes on July 3, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Century Park has been invited to the $700,000 American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/4 miles on turf on July 5, but Baffert wants to try the easier Flawlessly Stakes, which is run over a mile on turf.

The defection of Century Park from the American Oaks could open the way for Nan to be part of the field. Trained by Craig Dollase for Paul Reddam, Nan has started in four consecutive Grade 1 races, finishing fourth in the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks and fifth in the Ashland Stakes and Kentucky Oaks.

Nan has not been formally invited to the American Oaks. In past years, Hollywood Park officials have offered substitute invitations after horses on the original list were taken out of consideration.

Century Park was fourth in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap on June 6. Well Monied, who won the Honeymoon in her stakes debut, worked a half-mile in 51 seconds at Santa Anita on Wednesday.

Nashoba's Excess makes debut

Nashoba's Excess, a half-sister to the late millionaire Nashoba's Key, makes her career debut in Friday's first race.

Trained by Carla Gaines for Warren Williamson, Nashoba's Excess starts in a maiden race for California-bred fillies and mares over 6 1/2 furlongs. The race has drawn a field of six, including Imforeal, a half-sister to 2005 Santa Anita Derby winner Brother Derek.

Nashoba's Excess is by In Excess and has worked quickly at times in recent weeks.

Owned by Williamson and trained by Gaines, Nashoba's Key was a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the outstanding turf female of 2007. She won 8 of 10 starts, $1,252,090, and six stakes. Nashoba's Key was euthanized in May 2008 after suffering a severe leg injury in her stall on the Hollywood Park backstretch.