ARCADIA, Calif. -- It is a performance that trainer John Shirreffs and thousands of others never tire of watching -- Zenyatta running through the stretch.
Saturday at Santa Anita, Zenyatta, the champion older female of 2008, extended her unbeaten streak to 13 with a comprehensive win in the $299,000 Lady's Secret Stakes over 1 1/16 miles. She won by 1 1/4 lengths over Lethal Heat, but the margin was somewhat deceptive. Jockey Mike Smith hand-rode Zenyatta to the wire in 1:42.89.
"I love to watch her," Shirreffs said. "You have 13 wins in a row, the same as Personal Ensign. That's history. You don't see that. They come so seldom."
Zenyatta ($2.80) was warmly received by the crowd at Santa Anita, which cheered her return in front of the grandstand and her arrival in the winner's circle.
The win led to an instant discussion about whether Zenyatta will start in the Breeders' Cup Classic against males on Nov. 7, or defend her title in the BC Ladies' Classic the preceding day. No answers were immediately forthcoming from Team Zenyatta.
"I think the horse will make the decision," owner Jerry Moss said in the winner's circle.
Shirreffs said, "There is time to make that decision," and said that the issue will be discussed with Jerry and Ann Moss, jockey Mike Smith, and Shirreffs's wife, Dottie, who manages the Mosses' stable.
The Lady's Secret was a Win and You're In race, giving a winner a berth in the BC Ladies' Classic.
What is not the subject of debate is the emphatic style of her win. Zenyatta ran her typical race. She ran toward the back of the field to the end of the backstretch, moved closer with three furlongs to go, quickly reached contention, and swooped past her rivals to take the lead in the final furlong.
As in her preceding 10 stakes wins, the rally was breathtaking, but not quite as dramatic as her head win in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 9, the narrowest margin of victory in her career. Saturday's Lady's Secret looked to be over in midstretch.
"She runs her race; that's Zenyatta," Shirreffs said. "She does what's necessary."
Zenyatta's victory was her fourth of the year, preceded by the Grade 2 Milady and Grade 1 Vanity at Hollywood Park during the spring and summer, and the Hirsch at Del Mar. She has earned $2,774,580.
Lethal Heat, who was third, beaten three-quarters of a length in the Hirsch, closed from fifth in the Lady's Secret to be second. She was returning after a one-week layoff, having finished second in the California Cup Classic on Oct. 3.
Cocoa Beach, second to Zenyatta in the BC Ladies' Classic last year, was beaten 1 1/2 lengths after running third on the turn. She will start in the BC Ladies' Classic, trainer Saeed bin Suroor said.
"She's easing into her form," Suroor said. "She ran well. I'm sure she needed the race."