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Apr 09, 2010

Zenyatta versus four in Apple Blossom


Arcadia, CA (Sports Network) - Top rate thoroughbred Zenyatta will take on four challengers in Friday's $500,000 Apple Blossom Invitational at Oaklawn Park. The 1 1/8-mile race is the second of the year for the champion mare.

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta will be ridden by her regular jockey Mike Smith and start from post four. The six-year-old mare will be attempting to remain perfect in her career which now stands at 15 for 15 in lifetime starts with $5.6 million in earnings.

Trained by John Shirreffs, Zenyatta is coming off a win in last month's $250,000 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita. The mare won the Apple Blossom two years ago in her only start outside of California.

Officials at Oaklawn Park announced in February that the Apple Blossom would have a purse of $5 million if both Zenyatta and 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra start the race. Rachel Alexandra finished second in her debut last month in the New Orleans Ladies and was held out of the showdown with Zenyatta.

The last two years Zenyatta has been voted champion older female and for 2009 finished second for Horse of the Year to Rachel Alexandra. She won the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic and last year became the first female to capture the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"The last time a crowd like this turned out, it was for Air Force One," said Oaklawn's assistant general manager David Longinotti when the champion arrived at the track. "Bill Clinton came home one time and landed here. This crowd is about the same."

Her main competition in Friday's race is expected to come from Just Jenda who is owned and trained by Cindy Jones along with husband Larry. Just Jenda will start from the outside post with Terry Thompson in the saddle.

"Someday, I'm sure, I will be honored to say I had a horse in a race against her (Zenyatta)," said Cindy Jones. "She's just incredible."

Just Jenda is the winner of six of 13 career starts for $480,680. Last year she won the Tiffany Lass at the Fair Grounds and the Honey Bee at Oaklawn Park. Later in 2009 the filly had wins at Monmouth Park in the Serena Song and Monmouth Oaks.

The four-year-old is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Azeri at Oaklawn in her seasonal debut.

Here is the complete field in post position order for the Apple Blossom: Be Fair, Calvin Borel; Taptam, Cliff Berry; War Echo, Shaun Bridgmohan; Zenyatta, Mike Smith and Just Jenda, Terry Thompson.

Post-time for the Apple Blossom is set for 7:25 p.m. (et).

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