INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- With shocking ease, Zenyatta launched her 2009 campaign with a virtually flawless win in Saturday's $150,000 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park.
In doing so, Zenyatta, the champion older female of 2008, stretched her unbeaten streak to 10, and won in a style that left jockey Mike Smith in awe.
"I'm numb," he said. "I'm looking for some emotion now, but I'm just numb. She's just amazing. Physically, I think she's better than she was last year."
Zenyatta ($2.40) closed from last in a field of six to finish 1 3/4 lengths in front of stablemate Life Is Sweet. Zenyatta ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.30. Allicansayis Wow finished third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.
Zenyatta unleashed a devastating move midway on the turn that carried her to the front inside the eighth pole. She made up seven lengths on pacesetter Gambler's Justice in a little more than a sixteenth of a mile to reach the front in midstretch.
Such a devastating kick carried her to seven wins last year, and has become her "signature move," trainer John Shirreffs said.
"You see it so often," he said. "She covers so much ground and gets rolling. She has that move when she just lengthens her stride."
Shirreffs stopped just short of calling Zenyatta's performance in the Grade 2 Milady a perfect race. The Milady was her first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita last October.
"I couldn't imagine it could have been any better against a tough horse like Life Is Sweet," Shirreffs said. "For her to win like that puts her back to where she was at the end of last year."
Life Is Sweet, who won three stakes at Santa Anita earlier this year, including the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap in March, was in front of Zenyatta until the final turn. Jockey Garrett Gomez moved Life Is Sweet between rivals in early stretch, but could not keep pace with the winner.
Gomez said he was not content with the way Life Is Sweet was running on the backstretch, but did not offer that opinion as an excuse. "She normally takes me someplace but she wasn't taking me anywhere," he said. "She ran a respectable race, but she didn't run the races that she ran [at Santa Anita]."
Zenyatta, a 5-year-old mare by Street Cry owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, has earned $2,244,580. After the race, Shirreffs said the $300,000 Vanity Handicap on June 27 was "a possibility."