Don’t hate me, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment.
“Wasn’t that something! I thought I had it,” [jockey Mike] Smith said. “But I’ve got to admit I underestimated the company we were keeping today. They made her run.”
If Smith meant that Zenyatta’s G1 Clement Hirsch competitors were better than he thought, well, he’s delusional.
Oh, they are fine enough creatures, as Lethal Heat won the G2 Hollywood Oaks last June and finished third in the G1 Del Mar Oaks last August. However, her 4-year-old “campaign” prior to this consisted of two races, a G3 turf sprint in January (third) and $100k optional claimer last out (fourth). Second-place Anabaa’s Creation raced on turf in Europe and, while G3-placed, has yet to win a stakes—in fact, prior to her allowance n2x win back in April, the last two races she won were in the fall of 2006 (a maiden and listed race). Other than Life Is Sweet who finished third (nearly 8 lengths back) to Rail Trip and Tres Borrachos in the G1 Hollywood Gold Cup, all the others’ form is relative to Zenyatta or have no strong form: Dawn After Dawn’s 2009 wins were early (6.5f and 8f), and on turf; Champagne Eyes last out won an allowance for non-winners of two other than maiden; and Tidal Dance also last out won an allowance for non-winners in 2009.
The fractions were dawdling, and Smith made the now-patented “one-big-wide-move” (à la Stardom Bound) to just catch Anabaa’s Creation at the wire. Final time: 1:43.24, easily her slowest 8.5f race yet and nearly two full seconds slower than her track-record setting Clement Hirsch last year (1:41.48). Was the track slow? Well, in race 6, 2-year-old Champagne d’Oro nearly broke the track record (1:03.26) going 5.5f in 1:03.50, and Zenyatta went 22.49 in the final quarter, so the answer would appear to be “no.”
What really happened was Mike Smith gave a piss-poor, over-confident ride on Zenyatta, and he is damn lucky her pure class and talent got her to the wire in front. Does the man have no sense of timing? Okay, considering he blew the ride on Mine That Bird in the G2 West Virginia Derby, maybe it’s not surprising. He rode Zenyatta down to the level of her competition, which makes it even harder to gauge how good she really can be.
Oh, as for owner Jerry Moss telling TVG, “I've always said it would be great to have them run (against each other), but so far Rachel Alexandra has only raced against 3-year-olds, and we can't do that anymore.”:
Rachel may have “only” raced against 3-year-olds thus far, but, let’s see...she’s thoroughly-beaten the subsequent G1 Test victress Flashing, G1 Acorn victress Gabby’s Golden Gal, and G3 victress Just Jenda, not to mention G1 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, the G1 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, the very-talented Musket Man, G2 WV Derby runner-up Big Drama, G2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, G2 Tom Fool winner Munnings...I think you get my point.
Don’t diss on Rachel when you are unwilling to run Zenyatta against males. It makes you appear overly-defensive.