Zenyatta to stay in California

Zenyatta’s appearance in the G1 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on Sunday is likely to be the first of two races for the champion mare in Southern California this summer.

Trainer John Shirreffs said the $300,000 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on August 7, a race that Zenyatta won in 2008 and 2009, will be a late summer goal.  Races on the East Coast had entered the discussions, but Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss intend to leave her in Southern California for now.

A two-time champion and undefeated after 16 starts, Zenyatta will have a more difficult test in the G1 Vanity than originally expected.  The list of probable starters grew on Wednesday to include the Shirreffs-trained Zardana, who defeated the 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds in March.

Shirreffs had hoped to start Zardana in the G1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday, but said he was not happy with potential shipping arrangements.

The inclusion of Zardana will significantly affect the Vanity, giving the race, run over 1800m on dirt, a likely front-runner. Zardana has shown the ability to lead throughout races or stalk the pace.  She has won four stakes, including the G2 Bayakoa Handicap over 1700m at Hollywood Park last December.

Zenyatta, a closer, would benefit from a quick pace.  “If there’s speed, it’s easy to settle a horse,” Shirreffs said.  “But if there is no speed, it’s impossible.”

Shirreffs said Zenyatta will remain at Hollywood Park this summer, and will be based at Del Mar only briefly.  Shirreffs has said in the past that Zenyatta does not train well on Del Mar’s Polytrack surface, which led to speculation that Zenyatta would start on the East Coast in late summer. But Shirreffs said he has no problem running Zenyatta at Del Mar.

Shirreffs said the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10 arrives too soon after the Vanity to be a logical spot for Zenyatta, who will be after her 17th win on Sunday.  She has earned $5.92 million.  The Street Cry mare has not started since winning the Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park on April 9, her second start of 2010 and the second trip of her career outside of California.

“Sometimes the stakes races don’t fit in the schedule.  But Zenyatta comes first.  The races don’t come first.”