For Zenyatta, the wait is over—but not the weight. The imposing and imperturbable mare will carry top weight of 127 pounds Saturday when she makes her 2010 debut in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap, spotting eight who entered from 12 to 19 pounds in the nine-furlong race.

The undefeated 6-year-old mare, who has not started since making history by becoming the first female to defeat males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 7 for her 14th straight victory, carries her second-highest impost ever. She carried 129 pounds to a 2 1/2-length triumph in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Vanity Handicap last June 27. Runner-up Briecat toted 114.

“I sure hope it won’t make a difference,” said regular rider Mike Smith, who has ridden Zenyatta to 11 straight victories. “But it is a lot of weight to spot horses, especially in her first race back. On the bright side, she’s a big mare. She handles weight really well. It is a lot of weight to spot, but what are you going to do? We got what we got.”

Zenyatta also got post position eight of nine, but that was readily dismissed by Smith. “With her (come from behind) style, outside, inside isn’t a concern, because she’s usually way back,” the Hall of Fame rider said. “The post position should be fine. She’s training well, and if she gets an opportunity to run her race, I think she’s really ready for a big performance.

“She’s certainly training a little more forwardly than she was last year, let’s put it that way. What that means, I’m not sure yet until we see what happens Saturday, but like I said, given a fair opportunity, I think she’s going to run really, really big.” Zenyatta arrived at Santa Anita late Thursday morning from her Hollywood Park headquarters without incident.

“She shipped over very quietly and she schooled very kind,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “She’s a little heavier now, maybe 20 to 25 pounds heavier, than she was for the Breeders’ Cup here. You’d expect that, ‘cause she hasn’t run since then. We’re very excited to see her run again.”

Friday morning, Zenyatta was on the track around 7:30. She galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Steve Willard and was scheduled to school again prior to today’s third race. Ben Cecil, trainer of La Caňada Stakes runner-up Gripsholm Castle, would be pleased with a close finish by his filly. “She probably got a little tired at the end of that race,” Cecil said. “Hopefully, she’ll improve a little bit; she’ll have to.

“The weights are pretty fair. The spread has given us all an outside chance. Zenyatta’s not getting away with it easy, but having said that, she’s pretty good. She’s 1-9 in the morning line, and she deserves to be.”

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 air highlights 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.


American Lion adds blinkers for his fifth career start in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Felipe Stakes. Eoin Harty says the 3-year-old son of Tiznow has plenty of upside.

“He’s still maturing, but he’s coming up to the race very well,” the trainer said of the bay colt owned and bred by the WinStar Farms. “Like every horse, his future is in front of him.”

American Lion was third in the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 13. Prior to that, he broke his maiden by nearly seven lengths last Oct. 18 before winning the Grade III Hollywood Prevue on Nov. 21.

“The two races he’s won, he’s been in the thick of them,” Harty said. “He was in the thick of it in the Lewis, but he came up a little short. He did stumble coming away from the gate.” In other San Felipe news:

Mike Machowsky, trainer of unbeaten Caracortado, says it doesn’t matter that Lookin At Lucky passed this race for Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

“You’ve got to run against them eventually one day,” the trainer said. Asked about the oddity of Caracortado winning four of his five races by identical margins of one and three-quarter lengths, Machowsky said of the San Felipe, “I’ll settle for a nose.”

The field for the San Felipe, which goes as the ninth race on a 10-race program: Stephen’s Got Hope, Tyler Baze, 115, 20-1; Interactif, Rafael Bejarano, 117, 4-1; Erbeia, Alex Solis, 115, 20-1; American Lion, Julien Leparoux, 117, 4-1; Sidney’s Candy, Joe Talamo, 117, 3-1; Dave in Dixie, Joel Rosario, 115, 3-1; and Caracortado, Paul Atkinson, 119, 5-2.

SOLIS SALUTES SANTA ANITA’S GEORGE WOOLF AWARD WINNER BOREL With Calvin Borel, what you see is what you get. In or out of the saddle, the 43-year-old rider, latest winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, rarely changes his demeanor.

At least that’s the view of fellow rider Alex Solis, who won the Woolf Award in 1997.

“He’s very classy, humble and likable,” Solis said of Borel, who is the regular rider of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby.

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 met Calvin 20 years ago and he welcomed me like an old friend,” Solis recalled. “He’s the same today as he was then. That’s what makes him so special. He deserves the award, but then again, so does every rider who was nominated.”

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

FINISH LINES: Alexis Barba reports that Sham Stakes winner Alphie’s Bet will point to the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, while Pasadena Stakes winner Make Music for Me will ship to Keeneland for the Grade I, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on April 10. Alex Solis rides Alphie’s Bet; Mike Smith has the call on Make Music for Me. “Alphie’s Bet already has proven himself over this track,” Barba said, referring to Santa Anita, “so it makes sense to stay here. The other one hasn’t, so we’re going to the Toyota Blue Grass with him.” . . . Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward says multiple stakes winner Tuscan Evening is on course for the Grade II, $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf on March 21, while Eclipse Award finalist Blind Luck could run in either the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 2 or the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 3. “They’re the same weekend,” Ward said, “so we’ll keep our options open.” . . . Pete Sanchez of Orange won $2,500 first prize yesterday for capturing WinVivor II, Santa Anita’s on line handicapping contest. There were four players left in ShowVivor II entering Friday’s races . . . San Carlos Handicap winner Bob Black Jack, prepping for the Potrero Grande Handicap on April 3, worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park Friday in :59.40 for trainer Jim Kasparoff . . . Jon White, who makes Santa Anita’s morning line in addition to providing paddock commentary for the track's simulcast network, notes that Zenyatta will be attempting to become the second Santa Margarita Handicap winner for her dam. Zenyatta’s dam is Vertingineux, who produced 2007 Santa Margarita winner Balance . . . Today’s second race is named “Happy Birthday Ernie Z” for former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, who is celebrating his birthday. Lending moral support for the occasion is San Diego Chargers Coach Norv Turner . . . No day for royalty: Two late scratches from Friday’s card were Seeking the Queen in the third race and Connie the Queen in the sixth . . . Rosie Ybarra, the hostess with the mostess at Clockers’ Corner, will present the trophy to the winning connections of Sunday’s Clockers’ Corner Handicap, which goes as the eighth of nine races. “I’ll be wearing blue,” Rosie said. “It’s my favorite color.” . . . Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday. Set your clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.