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Oct 30, 2009

Zenyatta to be favored in Breeders' Cup Classic



Arcadia, CA (Sports Network) - Zenyatta, 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner, is slated to be the favorite for this year's running of the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday, November 7. This would be the five-year-old mare 's first career start against males.

Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, is expected to start in the 1 1/4 mile race on Santa Anita's synthetic track in an effort to get her named 2009 Horse of the Year.

"Zenyatta not only is 13 for 13, she has been the favorite in her last nine races," said Jon White, Oak Tree's new morning-line oddsmaker. "Granted, this would be the first time Zenyatta has run against males, plus she's never gone farther than a mile and an eighth. But Zenyatta likes Santa Anita's main track and it looks like she actually might thrive going a mile and a quarter. I also think she will get a lot of play because of her big-time reputation."

Last year's Classic was won by European invader Raven's Pass with fellow European runner Henrythenavigator finishing second.

"I would have made European superstar Sea the Stars the favorite had he been in the Classic," White noted. "And some may feel that Europe's Rip Van Winkle will be the Classic favorite. But I expect Zenyatta to be a lower price than Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle has been the favorite only twice in eight career starts. He also will be running on a synthetic surface for the first time, so there will be bettors who have reservations about him on the surface.

"After the success of the Europeans last year, they probably will get more respect from the bettors this year. In trying to determine who will get bet more, Zenyatta or Rip Van Winkle, I took a look back at a couple of other Europeans with outstanding records, Giant's Causeway and Sakhee. Giant's Causeway was 7-1 when he ran second in the Classic to Tiznow (2000), and Sakhee was 9-2 when he finished second in the Classic to Tiznow (2001). Even though I don't think Rip Van Winkle will be the Classic favorite, I think there's a pretty good chance he will be a shorter price than Sakhee."

With final entries for the Breeders' Cup World Championships to be drawn on Tuesday, White has a tentative morning-line for the Classic.

"With the Classic eight days away, such factors as defections, developments, workouts and post positions could lead to some tweaking," White said. "But as it stands right now, I'm planning to make Zenyatta the 5-2 favorite for the Classic, with Rip Van Winkle next at 7-2. For those who believe 5-2 might too low on Zenyatta in such a big field, keep in mind the last time that Zenyatta was higher than 3-5 was about a year and a half ago. That was in the 2008 Apple Blossom Handicap when Zenyatta was 9-5 and beat Ginger Punch."

Belmont Stakes and Travers champ Summer Bird will be the third choice in the program for White.

"With each Grade One win, Summer Bird is getting more and more respect," White said. "But when Summer Bird won the Jockey Club Gold Cup as the 6-5 favorite, it was the first time he's ever been the favorite. Right now, I'm planning to put Summer Bird at 9-2 for the Classic.

"The way I see it, Zenyatta, Rip Van Winkle and Summer Bird are the 'big three' in terms of Breeders' Cup Classic wagering. I think there will be a pretty good gap to the rest. I doubt that I will have anyone else lower than 10-1."

Also expected to run in the Classic are Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, 2008 Santa Anita Derby champ Colonel John and Florida Derby winner Quality Road.

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