In Sunday's Lady's Secret Stakes, Zenyatta will be trying to improve her unbeaten record to 13 for 13. The longest unbeaten record was set last year by the New Mexico mare Pepper's Pride. Pepper's Pride went 19 for 19, beating the previous record of 13 for 13 set by Personal Ensign. The reason why Pepper's Pride's record is not held as highly as Personal Ensign's is because she only raced in New Mexico, against New Mexico bred fillies. Personal Ensign raced mainly in New York, but she won on the highest levels of the sport, beating boys and that years Derby winner Winning Colors. If Zenyatta wins the Lady's Secret on Sunday, she will have tied Personal Ensign's record of winning 13 straight against grade one competition, but she will not be handed this race, she'll need to revert back to the Zenyatta she was last year.
In her three starts this year, Zenyatta has yet to show the same dominance and brilliance she did while racing as a four year old. Her Milady Stakes was an impressive score, but in the Vanity she almost seemed to hang in mid stretch before slowly drawing clear of her opponents. In her latest start she was all out to catch one of Europe's less heralded fillies and only poked her head in front in the last two strides before the finish. Many of her supporters say that the race was impressive because she fell victim to a snail-like pace and was eight lengths from the front when they turned for home. I don't buy that. Zenyatta was in similar situations last year and still ran down the leaders with ease, and the fields she faced then were of much better quality than the last one she was facing. When I think about the dominance she asserted last year in the same situations and against better quality horses, I wonder why didn't she dominate in this race like she should have?
In the Lady's Secret she will find the competition considerably better and tougher. She will be facing a fresh Cocoa Beach, who is a grade one winner and will run on any surface. She will face Lethal Heat, who was second in the Cal Cup Classic against males last weekend. She will also face her stablemate Life is Sweet, who finished third in the Hollywood Gold Cup against males. Life is Sweet will also be returning to her favorite track, Oak Tree at Santa Anita, for the Lady's Secret.
To win this race Zenyatta will have to show that she has not passed her peak, and that she can still win against a quality field. If she does win she will have set herself up to win her 14th straight race when running in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic, which will be even tougher than the Ladies Secret. Besides Life is Sweet and Cocoa Beach, the second best three year old filly Careless Jewel and a fresh and four year old Music Note will be entered.
These races are the biggest opportunities for Zenyatta to either make or break herself. All jockeys and owners will be gunning for her in each race, trying to take her down from her throne. They sense that Zenyatta has been vulnerable and know that now is the time to try and beat her. It's time for Zenyatta to prove that she hasn't lost a step, that she is not past her prime. It's time for Zenyatta to do or die.