Looking every inch the champion in grand repose, Zenyatta arrived at Santa Anita Thursday morning, her dark bay coat glistening in the bright Southern California sunshine as she disembarked from the van that brought her from Hollywood Park to zero in on her 2010 debut Saturday in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap.

The 6-year-old mare was bedded down in Barn 66, where trainer John Shirreffs has a string of horses at Santa Anita apart from his main base of operations at Hollywood Park. The trip from Inglewood took less than an hour. Zenyatta arrived around 11:30 a.m.

“She’s a good shipper,” said groom Mario Espinoza, who accompanied the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Classic winner. “She’s a pro. The trip was uneventful.”

Zenyatta immediately attacked the hay rack once she settled in. Both she and the unbeaten California-bred gelding Caracortado, entered in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Felipe Stakes, were scheduled to school in the paddock for Thursday’s third race.

The racing world hopes a Zenyatta victory in the Santa Margarita will lead to the “Race for the Ages” against Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the $5 million Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 9.

HRTV will present a special one-hour live show Saturday featuring the 2010 debuts of Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Entitled “The Champions Return,” the HRTV show will be hosted by Scott Hazelton and Gary Stevens, who will be at the Fair Grounds for Rachel Alexandra’s race, the $200,000 New Orleans Ladies’ Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. It will go as the 10th race at approximately 3:15 p.m. The Santa Margarita will be Santa Anita’s seventh race with a probable post time of 3:40 p.m.

ESPN’s SportsCenter will take both the New Orleans Ladies Stakes and the Santa Margarita from HRTV. While they cannot run them live because of the tight nature of the show and the unpredictability of the races, they will run them in a highlight package during their 3-4 p.m. SportsCenter show.

The field for the Santa Margarita: Dance to My Tune, Martin Garcia, 111, 50-1; Pretty Katherine, Joel Rosario, 111, 50-1; Made for Magic, Omar Berrio, 111, 50-1; Pretty Unusual, Chantal Sutherland, 113, 12-1; Striking Dancer, Alex Solis, 115, 8-1; Powerofvoodoo, Tyler Kaplan, 108, 50-1; Gripsholm Castle, Victor Espinoza, 112, 12-1; Zenyatta, Mike Smith, 127, 1-9; and Floating Heart, Joe Talamo, 111, 12-1.


Zenyatta has been established as a rare 1-9 favorite on Jon White’s morning line for Saturday’s Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap.

Last year, White made Zenyatta a 2-5 morning line favorite for the Grade I Lady’s Secret Stakes. Zenyatta left the starting gate as the 2-5 favorite. White then listed Zenyatta as the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic. Zenyatta started as the 5-2 favorite.

“Zenyatta now is running against fillies and mares again after her historic win in the Classic against males,” White said. “After defeating eight Grade I winners in the Classic, she is not facing a single Grade I winner this time. In the Lady’s Secret, Zenyatta was 2-5 against Grade I winners like Cocoa Beach and Life Is Sweet.

“That leads me to think Zenyatta will be a shorter price than 2-5 in the Santa Margarita. If that’s true, she will be either 1-5 or 1-9 on the board. I think it’s more likely that she will be 1-9 based mainly on her 14 for 14 record, her scintillating performance in the Classic and her superstar status. Zenyatta also is five for five on the main track at Santa Anita, including two Breeders’ Cup victories. The rest of the Santa Margarita field combined has won four races on Santa Anita’s main track.

“In trying to ascertain who might be the second favorite, Striking Dancer is the only other Santa Margarita entrant coming off a win besides Zenyatta. Striking Dancer goes into this race off a win in the Grade II La Caňada Stakes. I have made her the second favorite in the Santa Margarita at 8-1. But 8-1 might even be a bit low. It’s possible she will be a higher price than that considering she was 13-1 in the La Caňada.

“I put Pretty Unusual, Gripsholm Castle and Floating Heart at 12-1. Pretty Unusual did win the Grade II El Encino Stakes earlier in the meet, but she’s lost twice since then. Gripsholm Castle ran second to Striking Dancer in the La Canada. That was pretty good considering it was Gripsholm Castle’s first race in this country and first race on a synthetic track. Gripsholm Castle was 17-1 in the La Caňada.

“As well as she ran in the La Caňada, she might get a little more respect in the wagering this time. Floating Heart was 5-1 when she ran third against St Trinians in the Paseana Handicap. Floating Heart then was 6-1 in the La Caňada. But she finished third in the La Caňada when outrun by both Striking Dancer and Gripsholm Castle, so raising Floating Heart from 6-1 to 12-1 against Zenyetta seemed the right thing to do.

“When Zenyatta made her 2009 debut, she was a 1-5 favorite in the Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park. That was when she was coming off a win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Now Zenyatta is coming off a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With that in mind, I’d say the odds are she will be 1-9 Saturday.”


On the heels of an upset of Eclipse Award finalist Blind Luck as the 1-2 favorite by Crisp in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks last Saturday, John Sadler seeks to hand Caracortado his first defeat in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Felipe Stakes.

Santa Anita’s defending training king and current leader has entered Dave in Dixie and Sidney’s Candy in the 1 1/16-mile race, a major steppingstone to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 3.

“We’re ready with both of them,” Sadler said. “Sidney’s Candy comes off a nice win in the San Vicente (Stakes). He’s trained very well for this race. Dave in Dixie was a good second last time, and he’s doing really well, so we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully, they’ll meet inside the 16th pole and one of them will win.”

The field for the San Felipe, which goes as the ninth race on a 10-race program: Stephen’s Got Hope, Tyler Baze, 115; Interactif, Rafael Bejarano, 117; Erbeia, Alex Solis, 115; American Lion, Julien Leparoux, 117; Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo, 117; Dave in Dixie, Joel Rosario, 115; and Caracortado, Paul Atkinson, 119.


Mike Smith is but one of Calvin Borel’s fellow riders who say the regular rider of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and winner of the Kentucky Derby twice is a most-deserving recipient of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.

Borel is the 61st Woolf winner selected by a vote of his peers, and will receive the award in a winner’s circle ceremony following Sunday’s sixth race.

“I know Calvin very well,” said Hall of Famer Smith, who won the Woolf Award in 2000. “I’ve ridden against him probably 20 years. He’s a great friend, a great rider, and one of the hardest-working riders around, to tell you the truth.

“He gets up at 4:30 every morning and helps his brother out, gets on a lot of his own horses, then rides eight, nine in the afternoon. He’s a tremendous rider. The award is well-deserved.”

HRTV will tape its Across the Board show featuring Borel shortly after the Woolf Award ceremony. The show will air next Wednesday at 5 p.m.


Joel Rosario, Santa Anita’s No. 1 stakes rider this meet with eight wins and second to Rafael Bejarano in overall victories with 42 through Wednesday, fired agent Vic Stauffer yesterday and hired Ron Ebanks, who had represented cousins Tyler and Michael Baze. Stauffer also handles business for jockey Martin Garcia, who won last Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap aboard Misremembered.

“Joel contacted me yesterday after the races,” Stauffer said Thursday morning. “He said very little. He said he felt that he could do better with a new agent. That’s all he said.”

Asked if he was taken aback by Rosario’s decision, Stauffer said, “I was heartbroken. I put my heart and soul into it and thought I did a great job. I feel saddened, but I wish him well.”

Stauffer had represented the 25-year-old Rosario, a native of the Dominican Republic, for 16 months.

“I got him at the fall meet of Hollywood in 2008,” Stauffer said. “At that time, he was 10th in the standings; he ended up second. The next meet was the main one at Santa Anita, he finished third. The next meet was Hollywood spring; he was leading rider. Then was Del Mar; he was leading rider. Then came Oak Tree. He had a chance to tie for the title in the last race of the meet, and finished second.

“The next meet was Hollywood fall, and he was leading rider. In 2009, he was fifth in North America in purse earnings, and thus far this year, he is third in North America in purse earnings and the leading stakes winner at Santa Anita this meet, second in the standings, and he’s missed 11 days.”

Ebanks will represent Rosario effective immediately. “He’s the best young rider I’ve seen,” Ebanks said. “The sky’s the limit.”

Michael Baze said he would ride out the Santa Anita meet, then head to Arlington where he will be represented by agent Jay Fedor, who currently handles Corey Nakatani. Tyler Baze, whose ties were severed by Ebanks when he took Rosario, reportedly was set to decide on a new agent shortly.

FINISH LINES: Tomorrow is another of Santa Anita’s popular Free Fridays. Patrons will receive free General Admission and box seats, while supplies last, as well as being offered $1 hot dogs, beers, sodas, popcorn and coffee . . .There will be a plethora of consonants and vowels at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum when maven of mimicry Frank Mirahmadi and Today’s Racing Digest and Orange County Register contributor Bob Mieszerski will be Jack Disney’s guests at 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . The first mare bred to $1,121,190 earner Papa Clem has been pronounced in foal. Papa Clem, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike out of the Grade I winner Miss Houdini, retired after winning the recent Grade II San Fernando Stakes. Fourth in the 2009 Kentucky Derby after winning the Grade II Arkansas Derby, Papa Clem is standing his first season for $7,500 at Legacy Ranch in Clements, California . . . ShowVivor II had six contestants alive going into Thursday, while WinVivor II, which began last Saturday, was down to three . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Set your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.