INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Zenyatta's five opponents tried to keep up with her in Saturday's $287,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. In the end, it was in vain. The final result was the same as Zenyatta's 10 previous races.
Zenyatta stalked the pace, cruised past her rivals in the stretch, and won easily. The champion older female of 2008, Zenyatta carried a career-high assignment of 129 pounds and won the Grade 1 Vanity by 2 1/4 lengths for her ninth stakes win.
The margin of victory was a surprise to winning jockey Mike Smith.
"I was trying to time it where I won by a length," Smith told trainer John Shirreffs after the race.
Briecat, winner of the Grade 2 Bayakoa Handicap here last December, set the pace and held second, finishing three-quarters of a length in front of Dawn After Dawn in the field of six fillies and mares. You Lift Me Up and Forest Melody were scratched.
Zenyatta ($2.60) ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.15. There was only minor suspense during the race, and some of that may have been caused by Smith's patient approach. Zenyatta was fifth on the backstretch, moved up to fourth on the turn, and did not take the lead until the final furlong. When she did, she quickly went clear.
"When she stretches, she covers a lot of ground," Shirreffs said. "It's nice the way they inched their way up instead of blasting."
Shirreffs was not concerned that Smith waited until the final furlong to take command.
"I know Mike wasn't really asking her yet," Shirreffs said. "He rode with a lot of confidence. She always pulls herself up a little when she makes the lead."
Zenyatta has won 11 races and $2,414,500 for owners Jerry and Ann Moss. The Vanity was her second start of the year, coming five weeks after she won the Grade 2 Milady Handicap here. Last year, she won seven stakes, highlighted by the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita in October.
Her success has led to the admiration of racegoers and rival trainers.
"I love the mare and I love what she does to the racing crowd," said Vladimir Cerin, who trains Briecat. "She's so impressive."
Briecat set early fractions of 24.46 and 48.02 seconds and fought off Dawn After Dawn to save the place.
"She dug in so hard from the quarter pole to the wire," Cerin said. "She was best of the rest, no doubt about that."