Barn 55 South at Hollywood Park was so quiet Thursday morning that somebody might not have guessed that unbeaten superstar Zenyatta was preparing for her California finale in the $250,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes Saturday.
Hot walker Carmen Zamora walked the 6-year-old mare around the stable after she galloped on the main track under exercise rider Steve Willard to the satisfaction of trainer John Shirreffs. Groom Mario Espinoza freshened her stall.
“She’s just getting better and better and as nonchalant as ever,” said veteran assistant and exercise rider Fred Wilson.
Asked if the quest for victory No. 19 had any special meaning, Shirreffs indicated he would prefer to let Zenyatta do the talking on the track.
“No, not really,” said Shirreffs. “It’s the same routine.”
Zenyatta is expected to be the marquee attraction Saturday on Breeders’ Cup Challenge weekend in the Lady’s Secret, one of four Grade I stakes Saturday during the first Oak Tree Racing Association meet at Hollywood Park .
Zenyatta, promising to entertain fans with her famous “march-step” in the paddock before the race, seeks to become the all-time female earnings leader with the $150,000 first prize, passing leader Ouija Board with $6,312,552.
Zenyatta, who has earned $6,254,580 for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, seeks to become the first horse to win the Lady’s Secret three times. She leaves from post five in a field of six under scale weight of 123 pounds with regular rider Mike Smith in the 1 1/16-mile race on Cushion Track.
Zenyatta seeks her 13th Grade I victory. In her 18-race journey into immortality, Zenyatta has beaten 108 rivals. Her total victory margin has been 33 ½ lengths. Betting $2 to win on each of her races would have shown a profit of $33.90.
The Lady’s Secret scheduled as the seventh race. Post time is approximately 4:15 PDT. The Lady’s Secret will be televised nationally on ESPN and as part of a 90-minute program (3:30-5 p.m. PDT) on ESPN Classic.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano passed the $100-million earnings mark this month as he shoots for a third straight Oak Tree riding title beginning Thursday night and continuing through Oct. 31
Bejarano, third in the national standings this year with $10,548,450, has earned $100,129,597 during his career. The Peruvian native became the 41st jockey to reach the coveted plateau and one of the youngest at 28. Retired Hall of Famer Pat Day is the leader in the category with earnings of $297,914,839.
Bejarano, who edged Joel Rosario 31-30 to win his second straight Oak Tree title last year at Santa Anita, seeks the first Oak Tree three-peat since Laffit Pincay, Jr. (2000-2002).
Agent Joe Ferrer has booked Bejarano on mounts in all six Grade I stakes this weekend in hopes of a fast start. On Saturday, Bejarano has calls on English shippers Boxeur des Rues in the Norfolk and Hibaayeb in the Yellow Ribbon, Rinterval in the Lady’s Secret and Crown of Thorns in the Goodwood. On Sunday, he will ride Bourbon Bay in the Clement Hirsch and Pacific Pride in the Oak Leaf.
Trainer H. Graham Motion served warning from his Fair Hill, Md., training center Thursday that he did not put Gypsy’s Warning on a flight to California for the frequent-flyer mileage.
Gypsy’s Warning, a 5-year-old South African-bred mare, was scheduled to arrive in Barn 54 at Hollywood Park Thursday night with assistant Heather Craig after a flight from Newark to LAX for the $250,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes Saturday.
Gypsy’s Warning, winner of two Group I stakes in her native South Africa in 2008 and 2009 before being sold to Team Valor and Green Lantern Stables, finished third in the Grade I Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park in August in her third United States start.
“I picked her up in Florida this winter,” said Motion. “What I have learned the most about her is how competitive she is. She is one of those fillies that never stops trying.
“The Yellow Ribbon has been on the radar since Arlington ,” said Motion, who will be in New York Saturday to saddle Shared Account in the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont . “It seemed like the logical thing to do. It’s a Grade I. And the distance (1 ¼ miles on turf) should suit her.”
Gypsy’s Warning, to be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith, drew post three in a field of nine. By the Storm Cat stallion Mogok, Gypsy’s Warning has recorded six firsts and six thirds in 14 starts and earned $311,862.
Izshelegal, the only maiden in a field of seven 2-year-old fillies entered for the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes Sunday, hopes to register a surprise.
Izshelegal was a fast-closing second in the Landaluce Stakes in her debut here on July 11 and subsequently finished third in the Sorrento Stakes and fourth in the Darley Debutante at Del Mar.
“She didn’t do good at Del Mar and didn’t have a good trip in either race,” said trainer Terry Knight Thursday. “I don’t know if it was the surface, but she just didn’t do good down there.
“She seems more settled here,” said Knight. “Hopefully that will carry over.”
Knight also hopes that the extra distance of 1 1/16 miles will help the gray/roan daughter of Maria’s Mon, who will be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith. Izshelegal drew the rail.
Luckily, trainer David Hofmans said Thursday, Norfolk Stakes favorite J P’s Gusto is doing much better than the veteran conditioner.
Hofmans, wearing a sling for a fractured scapula (shoulder blade), will need the help of assistant Brent Fabbri in saddling the 2-year-old ridgling in the $250,000 stake at 1 1/16 miles Saturday.
“I was playing with the grandchildren in Kentucky and lost my balance,” said Hofmans of a tumble that caused the injury.
J P’s Gusto, who won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity September 8 for his fourth straight stakes victory, drew the rail in a seven-horse field as he tries to negotiate two turns for the first time.
“The rail isn’t my favorite post, but we’ll see,” said Hofmans. “If somebody else wants to go, we can sit, which I would prefer. Hopefully, we’ll be able to sit behind something. He’s pretty much switched off, relaxed, right now.”
Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella hopes the finish of the $250,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes Sunday works out the same way as the Thursday draw, in which entrants Champ Pegasus and Worth Repeating drew posts one and two, respectively.
Champ Pegasus and Worth Repeating just missed giving Mandella that exacta in their last starts in the Grade II Del Mar Handicap on August 29. Champ Pegasus won by 1 ¼ lengths and Worth Repeating finished third, edged by a nose for second by Buenos Dias.
“They’re doing just as well as they did going into the last race,” said Mandella of the two 4-year-olds that appear to be improving with each start.
Mandella has won the 1 ¼-mile grass race four times, most recently with The Tin Man in 2006.
Dan Landers, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, expects Buenos Dias to be in the thick of the battle again. “He was a good second, and he’s training good,” said Landers, who will deputize for McAnally, who is in France .
Trainer Craig Dollase said Thursday that he hoped to see another Hollywood Gold Cup performance from Awesome Gem in the $250,000 Goodwood Stakes Saturday after a disappointing tenth-place finish in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 28.
“He’s training well on this track,” said Dollase of the 7-year-old gelding, who won the Gold Cup here in his previous start in July. “He doesn’t pick his feet up as well at Del Mar as he does over this surface.”
Awesome Gem drew post six in a field of seven under regular rider David Flores.
Trainer Ben Cecil also expects a big effort from Crowded House, who rallied to finish second in the Pacific Classic before finishing fourth in the Woodbine Mile on September 19.
“A mile was a bit short for him, and I think an extra furlong will be ideal,” said Cecil. “He’s coming back a bit quick but he seemed to take the race well.”
Trainer John Sadler looks ahead to two productive weekends in Grade I Breeders’ Cup Challenge stakes, with Twirling Candy in the Goodwood Saturday and Tell a Kelly in the Oak Leaf Sunday and Sidney’s Candy in the Oak Tree Mile and Cost of Freedom in the Ancient Title on October 9.
“I think he’ll be fine,” said Sadler of rising 3-year-old star Twirling Candy, unbeaten in four starts and tangling with older horses for the first time.
“He’s like an old horse. I don’t think it will bother him.”
Twirling Candy appears to be the controlling speed in a field of seven and will be ridden for the first time by Mike Smith.
Sadler also did not seem worried about Darley Debutante winner Tell a Kelly trying two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf. “She’s by Tapit; I think she’ll be fine,” said Sadler of the filly, who drew post six in a field of seven under Alonso Quinonez.
Sadler said that Sidney ’s Candy, who set a Del Mar course record for 1 1/16 miles on turf in winning the La Jolla Handicap in his last start, would work Monday for the Del Mar Mile. Joel Rosario will ride the 3-year-old colt back.
Cost of Freedom seeks his second Ancient Title victory in three years. He lost all chance in his last start when he missed the break in the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar.
FINISH LINES—Director of racing Martin Panza was delighted to see the stable area filled to capacity with 2,050 horses for opening night of the meet… Dan Ward, assistant trainer to Jerry Hollendorfer, said he thinks Indian Gracey has an edge in the Oak Leaf Stakes because of the experience of two turns in her previous start… Trainer Brian Koriner said he plans to ship stakes winners California Flag and Sweet August Moon to Kentucky for October 9 stakes at Keeneland: California Flag in the Woodford and Sweet August Moon in the Thoroughbred Club of America. Trainer Doug O’Neill plans to ship Enriched to run in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland the same day.
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