Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Zenyatta

An Homage, For Now

Zenyatta’s Hollywood stall stands empty, a shrine to the mare:

There are photos of Zenyatta on the walls of the stall. There are drawings and paintings that Sherriffs has received from Zenyatta’s fans.

I’d like to see a photo, before the racing secretary insists on a new inhabitant.

Where To?

Jaycito’s next start could be the Santa Anita Derby, or maybe the Wood:

“He might stay home, I’m not sure yet. I don’t have to make any decisions right now so I’m not going to,” Baffert said. “I know one thing: The horse needs more ground. He needs a mile and a quarter.”

If he stays at Santa Anita, he’ll face San Felipe winner Premier Pegasus again. If he ships to Aqueduct, he’ll meet Uncle Mo. Seems like a question of to whom trainer Bob Baffert would prefer the colt finish second in his final Derby prep.

Steve Davidowitz and Mike Maloney share the same top three Derby prospects, and Jaycito’s not among them. Soldat breaks up the trio in this week’s PDI.

After NYC OTB closed last December, some predicted illegal bookies would pick up business. Bookmakers tell the NY Post there’s indeed been a spike: “I do a few hundred dollars in bets in a day to a few thousand.”

Back to Bernardini for Zenyatta; her first pregnancy didn’t take.

Zenyatta Connections

Dazzling praise for Zenyatta’s 2-year-old half-sister by Bernardini:

“She has as much presence as any young horse I’ve ever been around,” Robinson said. “It scares me. She’s completely herself, very independent, but in a good way. She’s sweet, but not sugary. Very businesslike. She was definitely the dominant one, but in a kind way, with the other yearlings. I watched Zenyatta at Lane’s End several weeks ago when they first introduced her to the other maidens, and it’s the same thing. It’s not a kick-your-ass kind of dominance, but it’s like they just knew who the boss was. Eblouissante is very much that way.”

Here’s a photo of Eblouissante from last summer, giving a look that’s very like her Horse of the Year sibling. She’ll go to trainer John Shirreffs later this year.

Uncle Mo is on Facebook and Twitter and owner Mike Repole credits Team Zenyatta. “I’ve always connected with products that connected with me.”

3/1/11 Update: Eblouissante now has her own Facebook fan page.

Thursday Notes

You’ve probably heard? Zenyatta will be bred to Bernardini. If you’re into nicks, it’s a match that gets an A++ or a B+, depending on methodology. And while the most anticipated foal of the 21st century hasn’t even been conceived yet (that’ll probably happen in February, if all goes as planned), it’s apparently not too early to think of names. (Bernyatta? Zendini?) I don’t know enough about breeding to call the mating conservative or not, but from a handicapping perspective, it’s an intriguing mix of flash and substance, class and speed. Bernardini’s first-crop runners were precocious and versatile juveniles; Zenyatta was sound through a three-year career and never faltered on track.

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo is listed as the 128-pound highweight on the 2010 Experimental Free Handicap, announced today by the Jockey Club. That’s the highest assignment since Favorite Trick was weighted 128 in 1997.

Boys at Tosconova will miss the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Sunday. The Rick Dutrow trainee hasn’t seemed himself since a work on January 13. Santiva will also pass on the Holy Bull. The Kentucky Jockey Cup winner, just getting back into training, could make his first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth.

Recovered from the hind ankle injury that knocked him out of Saratoga and a fall campaign, Sovereign Default returns on Saturday at Gulfstream in race five, a seven-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds over the main track that drew seven starters. The colt attracted attention after winning his well-bet debut by two lengths at Belmont Park last July 15, a maiden race that yielded two next out winners in Stay Thirsty (who followed his maiden win with a second to Boys at Tosconova in the Hopeful) and Air Support (who won the Pilgrim Stakes).

I suppose this story’s good news is that 84 past-posters weren’t able to cash.

4:30 PM Addendum: Entries are now up for Sunday’s Holy Bull and Forward Gal Stakes. As often in recent years, the potential Oaks fillies look like a more interesting bunch, with Pocahontas Stakes winner Dancinginherdreams and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up R Heat Lightning, both making their first starts since November, topping the seven-horse Forward Gal field. The Holy Bull drew nine, including Dialed In, Mucho Macho Man, and Major Gain.

Feeling Recognized

Trainer John Shirreffs on what Zenyatta winning 2010 Horse of the Year meant:

“Historically, it was just so important that she got that credit next to her name, I think. It just stamps her as one of the elite horses,” Shirreffs said. “No matter what emotions there are, I mean I’m emotionally tied to her, but when the industry recognizes a horse as Horse of the year, that is the ultimate compliment.”

Expert Opinion

John Pricci on the DRF bloc voting Blame as Horse of the Year:

The shocking portion, however, was Daily Racing Form’s tally, a margin that looked very much like a third judge at a heavyweight title fight who was looking the other way while a battle was joined.

Joe Drape on the same subject:

Not surprising, but how un-expert. (via @raypaulick) DRF block went for Blame 38-21. How can DRF say it’s the authority on horse racing?

The argument could be made that the DRF bloc made the least shocking, most expert pick, going for a male winner of multiple Grade 1s over main track dirt with a narrow edge in speed figures (five triple digits to Zenyatta’s four) — a horse who beat the other the one time they met in the race that everyone said would decide the title (before the race was even run). They voted the dogma, which, most years, nicely aligns with what happens on track. That it didn’t this year says much more about how ultimately unsatisfying both leading HOTY contenders’ 2010 campaigns were than it does about DRF voters’ judgment.

Based on the rancorous debates of the past couple years surrounding the HOTY title, Todd Lieber argues in the Thoroughbred Times that Eclipse voters should have set criteria to guide their votes:

It would be up to others with far more knowledge and greater standing in the industry than this correspondent to determine what those criteria should be, but since I’ve raised the issue I will at least hazard a suggestion. The honor should go to the horse with the most consistent record of achievement at the highest level of racing during the year. To be sure, this will not stifle debate, but it would at least focus the questions.

Well, that’s awfully vague. How about a points system for HOTY?

Congratulations, Ramon

Ramon Dominguez’s 15-year career as a jockey has been more journeyman than money rider. Before moving his tack to New York in 2009, where he swept the leading rider title at every NYRA meet that year and scored his 4000th career win at Aqueduct last March, he dominated the mid-Atlantic circuit, only occasionally breaking through nationally, as he did when Better Talk Now won the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf or Scrappy T collided with Afleet Alex at the top of the Pimlico stretch in the 2005 Preakness Stakes.

In 2010, hard work and talent not only made Dominguez one of the most consistent and capable jockeys in the game, it also made him one of the most successful, with earnings of $16,911,880 and 369 wins, including 43 stakes, five of those G1s. Last night, out-polling Garrett Gomez 124-60, Dominguez won his first Eclipse Award. Of the honor, NYRA handicapper Andy Serling said it best: “Glad to see Ramon Dominguez win the Eclipse for Jockey of the Year. People like him make me proud to work in this industry.”

More Dominguez! Here’s a Flickr gallery of the jockey, with stakes winners Better Talk Now, Gio Ponti, Haynesfield, Fabulous Strike …

More Eclipse Awards: Steve Crist counts votes, Claire Novak recaps, Bill Dwyre celebrates with Horse of the Year Zenyatta’s connections (“I’m so happy for the fans”), Foolish Pleasure lists. And even more reactions via Raceday 360 …

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