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Jockey Mike Smith gives Zenyatta a pat before the Lady's Secret Stakes
On Saturday, the eyes of the racing world were on Hollywood Park, hosting the Oak Tree meeting for the first time. Conditions were ideal for racing, with sunny skies, temperature in the low 80's and a crowd of 25,837 on hand at the Inglewood oval. The feature race of the afternoon was the $250,000 Lady's Secret Stakes (G1), which is usually used as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, run at 1 1/16 miles on the main Cushion Track for older fillies and mares. This year the race held special significance as it would be the final home start for last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner Zenyatta, before she ships east to attempt to repeat in America's richest race and retire a perfect 20-for-20. Originally a field of 6 was drawn but due to an incident in the paddock, Rinterval was scratched by the veterinarian leaving just 5 to run. As expected, Zenyatta was sent off as the 1-10 favorite, off her win in the Clement Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar last out. In to challenge her included 4-1 second choice and Hollywood Oaks winner Switch, winner of the Torry Pines last out and taking on older competition for the first time, and 12-1 third choice Moon de French, winner of the Adoration Stakes last out.
Jockey Joe Talamo sent Moon de French to the lead and was pressed by 25-1 Emmy Darling to her outside through slow fractions of 24.67 and 48.70. Zenyatta broke slowly as usual and sat last early, about 5 lengths off the pace. Moon de French opened up a 1 1/2 length lead on the far turn through 3/4 in 1:13.06, with Zenyatta still 3 lengths back. Switch, who was 3rd early, came through at the top of the lane and opened up a 1 1/2 length advantage at the 1/8 pole. Jockey Mike Smith moved Zenyatta to the far outside for room at the 3/16 pole and the champion accelerated, closing with a rush to catch Switch very late to win by just 1/2 a length in 1:42.97. It was a long 4 3/4 lengths back to pacesetter Moon de French and late-running 22-1 Satans Quick Chick who dead-heated for third.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 Zenyatta Smith 2.20 2.10 - 1 Switch Quinonez 2.60 - 2DH Moon de French Talamo - 4DH Satans Quick Chick Alvarado - Winning Time: 1:42.97 $1 Exacta 5-1 2.00 $2 Quinella 1-5 3.40 $1 Trifecta 5-1-2 2.80 $1 Trifecta 5-1-4 3.40 $1 Superfecta 5-1-2-4 5.00 $1 Superfecta 5-1-4-2 5.80
Left: Zenyatta with her winner's flowers. This win makes her a perfect 19 for 19, equalling the modern record set by New Mexico filly Pepper's Pride.
Right: Zenyatta and Mike Smith parade for the crowd after the race. Smith said, "She seems to know where the wire is at and she likes to make it a little dramatic. It's just incredible. She's just amazing."
Left: Zenyatta does her dance in the post parade. Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, wife of the trainer as well as racing manager for owners Ann and Jerry Moss added, "I'm sweating so much. Oh my God! It's just fabulous."
Right: Zenyatta in the paddock before the race. Co-owner Jerry Moss said, "She keeps lengthening her stride. A mile and a sixteenth is tough for her. The mile and a sixteenth comes up pretty fast for her. I felt like she'd get there."
Zenyatta shows off her dapples as she schools in the paddock on Friday. Her trainer John Shirreffs said, "She has so much heart. She digs down every time. She's a heart-stopper in so many ways. She's done some amazing things the last sixteenth of a mile. She finds a little more and never gives up. Her heart must be huge. The fans really demonstrate how I feel inside. I can't really show those emotions, so I really enjoy them getting into it because that's exactly how I feel."
Winning jockey Alonso Quinonez said, "That's the way he runs. We were going to be last or second to last early. He doesn't have that kind of speed to be close and whenever he (is closer), he doesn't run good. So I just followed the instructions; let him break and let him find his stride. We were last, and I said well I'm just going to save ground. From there everything went good. I never had to move out, I stayed inside the whole way. I'll take it."
Winning trainer Mike Mitchell said, "We just always thought he was a two-turn horse. We'll talk it over with (owner Ahmed Zayat) and see how he pulls up. The ultimate race we want to run in is the (Kentucky) Derby. So if he's sharp, we do that, and if he's not, we wait. One thing about Mr. Zayat is that he totally leaves it up to me, there's no pressure. He's always doing what's best for his horse."
Winning jockey Rafael Bejarano said, "At the 3/8 I knew I had a lot of horse and I just let her go. It was a perfect trip and I had a lot of confidence." Claire Sparkes, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor added, "This is brilliant, absolutely. I was very happy with that position for her, really, because she stays 1 1/2. She had a great position throughout, and she just keeps staying on. She doesn't look like she'd want fast ground, but she does go well on it. We've been very happy with how she's been since she shipped here."
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