One theory has it that The Police’s 1980 album Zenyatta Mondatta came from the words Zenith and Monde (French for “World”), meaning Top of the World. Another says the translation came from Sanskrit, also meaning Top of the World. Whatever the case, after watching the thoroughbred version of Zenyatta win the Ladies Classic on Breeders’ Cup Day 1, you saw a horse on top of the (racing) world. After making her customary rally-wide move from last, Zenyatta ran by Cocoa Beach to remain perfect, running her record to nine-for-nine. If there has been a better filly or mare in my lifetime, I haven’t seen her. I remember Ruffian as a kid, and more recently the undefeated Personal Ensign, and brilliant runners like Inside Information and Azeri. They might have been as good but none of them better than Zenyatta. The gorgeous amazon, who exudes sheer class when she steps on the racetrack, runs the same race every time, lagging behind early, picking it up on the far turn under light urging from rider Mike Smith, then swooping by her outclassed rivals through the lane. Here’s hoping she stays in training next year and comes back to win another Classic—the Breeders’ Cup Classic against the boys.

The Breeders’ Cup card kicked off with a huge performance from Ventura, who rallied from far back to win the Filly and Mare Sprint in 1:19.90, just a hundredth of a second off the track record. She ran by champion Indian Blessing like that one was tied to a post, drawing off powerfully through the final 100 yards. Late runners, seemingly no matter how wide, had all the best of it today. Besides Zenyatta and Ventura, Juvenile Fillies winner Stardom Bound wrapped up a championship with a Zenyatta-like move on the far turn, rallying 5-wide into the lane to win impressively while giving Smith the first of his two BC wins on the day.

Prior to that race, Maram remained undefeated in three starts by narrowly holding off Euro invader Heart Shaped in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, with favored pacesetter Laragh tiring to third. In the other turf event, Forever Together duplicated her latest Keeneland victory with another strong stretch run to sweep by Sealy Hill and Wait a While to take the Filly and Mare Turf.

Although I have been somewhat ambivalent about the BC going to a two-day event, I have to admit I really enjoyed today’s prelim card. Many felt it was a slight to Zenyatta to be relegated to the all-female Friday card, but the other side of the argument is that she got the spotlight all to herself. The crowd of 31,257 gave her a rousing ovation as she returned to the winner’s circle, knowing her status as one of the all-time greats had been secured.

Can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us. Let’s see if Curlin can put on the same kind of show.

Last weekend Oak Tree carded eight Breeders’ Cup prep races, including a record six Grade I’s on Saturday. Add another Grade I (Norfolk) and a Grade II (Oak Tree Mile) on Sunday, and we had a sensory overload weekend. Of those eight features, we saw a number of solid performances but two runners stood out—Zenyatta in the Lady’s Secret and Stardom Bound in the Oak Leaf. Let’s take a chronological look, with a brief recap of each:

The Clement Hirsch at 1 1/4 on turf saw Red Giant wear down Out of Control in what amounted to a two-horse race as favorite Spring House didn’t fire at all. The top two figure to move on to the BC Turf but my gut feeling is they are a cut below the biggies.

Zenyatta produced another scintillating performance in the Lady’s Secret, blowing away Hystericalady through the final furlong with her usual devastating stretch kick. We’re running out of superlatives to describe this amazon, who looks like the shortest-priced winner on BC day.

In the Ancient Title, Cost of Freedom showed his freakish win at Del Mar when making his first start off the John Sadler claim was no fluke when he held off odds-on Street Boss to win in 1:07.2 (over a very glib track). In Summation had some traffic trouble but was third best and Idiot Proof isn’t the same horse as he was last year at this time. The top two figure to be major players in the BC Sprint.

Stardom Bound followed up her devastating Debutante win with an equally impressive Oak Leaf score while stretching out around two turns. I had my doubts (especially after she had been kicked by a pony the day before) but she dispelled those by simply outclassing her opposition. She isn’t beating anything out here but will go into the BC Juvenile Fillies as a solid favorite.

In the Yellow Ribbon, Wait a While continued her love affair with the Santa Anita course by winning this race for the second time (also won the ’06 edition). She got a perfect trip behind the leaders, moved to the lead at the top of the stretch and held gamely over classy Vacare and late-running Black Mamba.

And to wrap up Saturday’s card, hard-knocking Well Armed took the Goodwood Stakes as the solid choice. He looked to be in some trouble on the far turn as rider Aaron Gryder was asking hard but ‘Armed responded in mid-stretch and won fairly comfortably. If the “Big Two” don’t fire in the BC Classic, he has to be given some sort of look, although I wasn’t visually blown away by the Goodwood. Tiago perked up and ran second, with Albertus Maximus (too far back early?) third.

On Sunday, Hyperbaric got the jump and held off fast-closing Tybalt to win the Oak Tree Mile while giving Garrett Gomez his 3,000th winner. The Julio Canani-trained gelding has won three straight and this barn knows how to win the BC Mile. The runner-up ran huge, coming the final furlong in under 11 seconds.

Finally, maiden Street Hero won a cavalry charge to take the Norfolk over Midshipman, Believe in Hope and Del Conte. The number might have been okay but to me this was an ugly race, and I’ll take a stand against all these local on the big day.

NOTES: Through five days of racing the revamped Pro-Ride main track has played very fair, with horses winning from everywhere. Although the surface got a little too glib for my taste on the weekend, I think it has been fair to all types of runners. The turf, while lightning fast, has also played fairly. Through the first week, there were 12 turf races, with four won in wire-to-wire fashion (two when the rails were out 30 feet, which promotes speed)….Corey Nakatani suffered a broken collarbone on opening day and is likely to miss the rest of the meet…Lainies Lion was the first horse to take advantage of the new CHRB rule that protects horses coming back from 180-day or more layoffs. Those horses cannot be claimed if entered back at or above their last claiming price…the second race of the meet saw a very rare double disqualification. Not only was it a ticky-tack call but the objection was lodged by the jockey of the original fourth-place finisher, not by the stewards…Curlin arrived here the day after becoming North America’s richest racehorse by winning the JC Gold Cup at Belmont on Saturday. His arrival wasn’t exactly the Beatles coming to America for the first time but he was greeted by a handful of track officials, media and photographers.

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