Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome Back Zenyatta and Chantal Doubles Up at Santa Anita

**UPDATE: 2009 Sovereign Award Finalists
announced. Click on the link above to see the full list. More details to follow in Tuesday's blog.**

The big news of the weekend is that Zenyatta is returning to racing with a potential splash in the Santa Margarita Handicap.

The Santa Margarita would be used as a prep for the $500K 1 1/16M Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 3rd. Zenyatta won this race in 2008. Of note, Azeri won the Apple Blossom three times on the trot.

The rub here being that Oaklawn Park has a dirt course (Rachel owner Jess Jackson refuses to play on plastics) which sets up the possibility of the hotly anticipated showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

There are a few items worth noting here.

* Zenyatta is already in training with published works.
* Zenyatta will have the Santa Margarita under her belt.
* Rachel Alexandra has been on extended hiatus since the Woodward with an eye to returning to training in February.

Given the circumstances, will the Rachel Alexandra camp want their first race of 2010 to come against an in-form Zenyatta?

I would prefer to see a showdown at Belmont Park in the G1 1 1/16M Odgen Phipps Handicap held June 12th. Given the magnitude of the match up, I'm sure a variety of sponsors might step up with a huge purse incentive and the June date gives both camps opportunity to point towards this event.

Regardless, it's fantastic to have the six-year-old Zenyatta return to racing. Thank you Jerry Moss for sending your amazing mare back to the track.

In related news, the Eclipse Award for Horse of The Year will be handed out later this evening.

I have a feeling the award will go to Zenyatta for all the wrong reasons.

There's no doubt in my mind that Zenyatta is the better horse at a mile and a quarter, but I feel Horse of the Year should not be decided on hypotheticals and the winner must be the horse who raced the strongest campaign in the calendar year.

Zenyatta's five race campaign featured only one quality win. Granted, an incredible win with a cavalry charge to the wire in the Breeders' Cup Classic - but her other four races were decidedly underwhelming.

Rachel Alexandra put together an incredible eight-race win streak in 2009 touring across North America to defeat a variety of competition including Derby winner Mine That Bird and the likely Eclipse Award winner for 3YO Male in Summer Bird.

Is Zenyatta the better horse? Possibly. But I'm sure a retired Secretariat was still the best horse in the world in 1974 and he didn't win any awards.

I hope the voters reward Rachel Alexandra for her courageous campaign. It's good for racing.

* * *

A great weekend for Woodbine-based jockey Chantal Sutherland who scored her first two graded stakes wins at Santa Anita. On Saturday, Sutherland piloted 4-1 shot Amen Hallelujah to victory in the G2 Santa Ynez Stakes.

Woodbine locals will not be surprised to watch a determined Sutherland throw it down in the stretch to win a deft right-handed duel over Garret Gomez aboard Franny Freud.

Amen Hallelujah - Chantal Sutherland wins the Santa Ynez Handicap

Sutherland returned to the winners circle on Sunday after upsetting the 1 1/16M El Encino Stakes with 29-1 shot Pretty Unusual over Stardom Bound. Pretty Unusual was in traffic trouble early before before Sutherland found sufficient room to close and win the Grade 2 race by 1 1/4 lengths.

Pretty Unusual, with Chantal Sutherland aboard, defeats Stardom Bound

"Let the good times roll," said Sutherland. "(Pretty Unusual) ran amazing - such acceleration. I was pleasantly surprised. I got through that hole and all I could see was Stardom Bound."

Chantal Sutherland doubled up at Santa Anita

Pretty Unusual is owned in part by Jack Klugman of The Odd Couple and Quincy M.E fame who was in attendance. I'm hoping to track down a copy of the win photo.

* * *

Roger Attfield was denied an impressive victory in the Marshua's River Stakes as Quiet Harbor headed out Lady Shakespeare in the final jump. Romacaca and Lady Shakespeare dead-heated for place just a head in front of another Woodbine-based runner Lomaki who is trained by Eric Coatrieux for Chiefswood Stable

Quiet Harbor wins a dramatic finish over Lady Shakespeare

(Video provided by GulfStreamParkRacing.)

* * *

Woodbine-based trainers have been keeping busy down south. Here's a sampling of some of the recent success.

Scott Fairlie
Results for January 12
Philadelphia Park, Race 7 Claiming $20,000 Six Pack Sammy Finished: 1st by 5 1/4 lengths

* Six Pack Sammy won a meet-leading five races at Woodbine in 2009 and was claimed out of this event by trainer Sharon Banford for Dana Point Farm.

Philadelphia Park Race 8 Claiming $25,000 Wink At the Girls
Finished: 2nd beaten 1 1/4 lengths

Josie Carroll
Results for January 13
Gulfstream Park Race 9 Maiden Special Weight Romantic Song
Finished: 6th beaten 4 1/2 lengths

*Toronto's Rob Landry piloted Romantic Song in this event.

Results for January 17
Gulfstream Park Race 3 Maiden Claiming $75,000 Reminiscence
Finished: 4th beaten 5 1/2 lengths

Mark Frostad
Results for January 13

Gulfstream Park Race 9 Maiden Special Weight Quick Split
Finished: 5th beaten 4 lengths

Results for January 14
Gulfstream Park Race 3 Maiden Claiming $25,000 Asset
Finished: 5th beaten 4 lengths

Steven Chircop
Results for January 14
Penn National Race 2 Maiden Special Weight First Bullet
Finished: 4th beaten 10 lengths

Mark Casse
Results for January 15
Tampa Bay Race 10 Maiden Claiming $50,000 Northern Monarch
Finished: 3rd beaten 3 3/4 lengths

Results for January 16
Tampa Bay Race 1 Maiden Claiming $12,500 Cliff Cottage
Finished: 1st by 1 1/4 lengths

Tampa Bay Race 10 Maiden Claiming $50,000 Chrome Cruiser
Finished: 2nd beaten 2 1/4 lengths

Tampa Bay Race 10 Maiden Claiming $50,000 Uniform
Finished: 4th beaten 2 1/2 lengths

Roger Attfield
Results for January 17
Gulfstream Park Race 10 Allowance Flowerbomb
Finished: 5th beaten 12 1/2 lengths
*Rob Landry had the call on Flowerbomb

Reade Baker
Results for January 17
Gulfstream Park Race 1 Maiden Claiming $12,500 Fiji Boy
Finished: 1st by 9 1/4 lengths

*That's a huge 9 1/4 length win for the Baker maiden owned by Rosemont Farm LLC. The four-year old gelding covered a mile in 1:39.47

* * *

Woodbine punters take note: Roger Attfield sends out a pair of runners - Society's Chairman and Simmard - in a ALLOWANCE OPTIONAL CLAIMING $100,000 at Gulfstream on January 22nd. This 1 1/8M turf tilt features a full ten-horse field including the Mark Casse conditioned Sterwins.

G3 Connaught Cup winner Sterwins returns at Gulfstream on January 22nd

Rob Landry will get the call on Simmard. This impressive race features Bittel Road and Yate's Black Cat in what should be a highly competitive field.

Click on the link to see the entries.

Attfield also sends out Ontario-bred Impossible Time to take on another Ontario-bred Manitoba Miss on January 21st at Gulfstream. Click on the link to see the entries.

Mark Frostad has entered Sam-Son Farms Ontario-bred colt Giant's Tomb entered in a 1 1/16M Turf Allowance at the Fair Grounds on January 22nd. Giant's Tomb is the 5-2 morning line favourite with Robbie Albarado in the irons.

Click on the link to see the entries.

All of these races are available for wagering at HorseplayerInteractive.

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