Zenyatta gave her legion of fans a few heart flutters in the G1 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Saturday but the champion mare did enough to stretch her perfect record to 18 wins from 18 starts.
Zenyatta wasn’t helped by a pedestrian pace and she was also pushed wide turning for home but a distinct difference in class helped her prevail by a neck from Rinterval (Desert Prince).
“I think I hit the front too soon with her,” jockey Mike Smith said. “She started looking around but we got it done. She was Zenyatta. She’s something to believe in.”
The six-year-old Street Cry mare started a 1-9 favourite and tote operators reported a big percentage of winning tickets weren’t cashed in. They will probably be kept as a souvenir of her third straight Hirsch victory.
Zenyatta has also posted three straight victories in the G1 Vanity Hcp and she’s doubled up in the G1 Apple Blossom Hcp, G1 Lady’s Secret Stakes and G2 Milady Hcp.
She also won the 2008 G1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic and 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Her ultimate goal this year is to attempt to become only the second dual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner following Tiznow (2000-2001) and earn that elusive Horse of the Year title.
If trainer John Shirreffs stays true to form, Zenyatta could go for a third straight win in the Lady’s Secret at Santa Anita. In a twist, the Lady’s Secret was renamed the Zenyatta Stakes following her brief retirement late last tear. She’ll bring a bankroll of $6.25 million into whatever race is next on her schedule.
“There was a lot of pressure this week, but she’s a great horse and we’re grateful for that,” owner Jerry Moss admitted. “We want her to keep winning. She’s brilliant and she has a great bunch of fans that recognize that. She hasn’t let them down yet.
Bred by Maverick Production Limited in Kentucky, Zenyatta was a bargain at only $60,000 for her owners at the 2005 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She is out of Broodmare of the Year Vertigineux (Kris S.) and the mare has a yearling filly named Eblouissante (Bernardini) and a 2010 filly by Henrythenavigator.