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Nov 05, 2010

Zenyatta: The Star Attraction of the 2010 Breeders' Cup

By: by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - No American-bred horse has ever won 20 consecutive races, let alone retire undefeated. Zenyatta has a chance to accomplish both feats with a second straight victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The queen of California has ventured outside her home state on two occasions - both times racing at Oaklawn Park in the Apple Blossom Handicap. Ironically, those two wins were her most impressive in terms of margin of victory, taking this year's version by 4 1/4 lengths and the '08 race by 4 1/2 lengths.

Zenyatta has raced against the boys once before, in the '09 Breeders' Cup Classic, and many observers argue it was her crowning achievement as she knocked off Gio Ponti with a powerful stretch drive while running her final quarter-mile in a brisk 23 1/5 seconds. It was her first and only race at 1 1/4-miles - until this Saturday when she has a much tougher task ahead of her against the likes of Quality Road, Blame and Lookin At Lucky.

Even though the field is 10 times better, each of those horses mentioned above have their question marks. The first three have never won at 10 furlongs.

The pace should be a fast one with the likes of First Dude, Morning Line, Etched and Haynesfield keeping Quality Road honest on the front end. Lookin At Lucky should get a dream trip but the three-year-old might not be good enough to beat this type of field.

If any horse is to hold off the late charging Zenyatta, the odds are it will be Blame.

The four-year-old has lost just once since 2009 and that was a second-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a race Haynesfield had all his own way on the lead. Jockey Garrett Gomez didn?t abuse Blame through the stretch in his first try at 1 1/4-miles so an improved effort is expected. Don?t forget, he has won three of four lifetime starts at Churchill Downs, including the Stephen Foster Handicap back in June.

A couple of longshots to watch are Paddy O'Prado and Musket Man.

TOP PICKS FOR FRIDAY

Temple City comes into the Marathon off a dismal last-place performance in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. His odds will be sky high because that was his only career race on dirt.

Prior to that effort, he held his own in the Pacific Classic, losing to Richard's Kid by just over three lengths and his latest workout (six-furlongs at Hollywood Park in 1:11 3/5 seconds) shows he might revert to top form. He also has the speed to control the pace or sit right off Gabriel's Hill.

Gabby's Golden Gal might not be as talented as others in the Filly and Mare Sprint, but when she's on, she's brilliant. She came into national consciousness with a 13-length score in the Sunland Park Oaks last spring and then went on to win the Acorn at Belmont Park two races later.

She's only had one start as a four-year-old - a smashing win in the Grade I Santa Monica Handicap at seven-furlongs, knocking off Proviso. More importantly, she showed she didn't need to be on the lead to win.

If there's one trainer that can get a horse to run well off a 10-month layoff, it's Bob Baffert so don't be shocked if Gabby's Golden Gal wins at double- digit odds.

Take a shot with Delightful Mary in the Juvenile Fillies event. A half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Delightful Kiss, this chestnut filly cruised over the Churchill surface in a five furlong work back on Oct. 25, a little over two weeks after losing the Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine.

The $500,000 two-year-old purchase won her first two prior to that loss, including an eight-length victory over colts. Play Delightful Mary on top and underneath the undefeated Awesome Feather.

SATURDAY'S SPOT PLAYS

The Juvenile Turf race has been dominated by European-based horses and this year should be no exception.

Utley has won only one of three career starts but he did finish fifth, beaten only five-lengths, in the same Group I event that Pounced raced in last year. Even though he hasn't been further than seven-furlongs, he's bred to get the distance as his dam is a half-sister to E Dubai, a winner of the 10-furlong Suburban Stakes.

Tizway should be favored in the Dirt Mile after his powerful five-length triumph in the Kelso Handicap. That win came off a four-month layoff after finishing third to Quality Road and Musket Man in the Met Mile.

Play Tizway back and forth with Hurricane Ike, who is sitting on a huge effort. In fact, it might be worthwhile to throw a few bucks on the John Sadler-trained three-year-old to win as well, since he might not get much backing amongst the gamblers.

OTHER SELECTIONS

In the other Friday races, take Winter Memories in the Juvenile Fillies Turf; Plumania over Midday in the Filly & Mare Turf; and Life At Ten in the Ladies' Classic.

On Saturday, go with California Flag over Chamberlain Bridge in the Turf Sprint; Sidney's Candy to upset two-time winner Goldikova in the Mile; Atta Boy Roy in the Sprint; and Behkabad in the Turf.

My advice for the Juvenile is to watch either Uncle Mo or Boys At Tosconova put on a show to get ever.



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