ARCADIA, Calif. - Your turn, Curlin.
The unstoppable filly Zenyatta made a strong case for horse of the year honors with a spectacular victory in the $2-million Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Friday at Santa Anita.
The 4-year-old improved to 9-0 by roaring from last place to pull away for a 1-1/2-length win over Cocoa Beach. It was the kind of command performance that could be hard for Curlin, reigning horse of the year, to top in today's $5-million Classic.
"Zenyatta's the ultimate stopper," trainer John Shirreffs said. "Whatever's going on, you can always look to her and something fantastic is going to happen."
Zenyatta, ridden by Mike Smith, trailed by 10 lengths on the backstretch. But when Smith asked her, she responded with her trademark push.
"She's sent from God, I tell you," Smith said after picking up his second win on the day. "She was there any time I wanted her. I knew she was going to make her move today."
The heavy favorite paid $3 while covering 11/8 miles over the track's new synthetic surface in 1:46.85. Ginger Punch, last year's champion, was never a factor, finishing sixth.
It was the first Breeders' Cup win for Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss. The trio won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo, ridden by Smith.
Zenyatta wasn't the only star on Ladies Day and may have found a kindred spirit in Stardom Bound. The 2-year-old gray filly, ridden by Smith, came through in the $2-million Juvenile Fillies.
Trainer Christopher Paasch dubbed his star "Baby Z" in honor of Zenyatta, and Stardom Bound ran like it in a 1-1/2-length win over Dream Empress. Like Zenyatta, Stardom Bound spotted the field early, falling to 12th as Smith waited to push the button.
All it took was a little urging at the turn, and Stardom Bound exploded to the front. She got away so quickly that Paasch saw her start looking around for someone to race. Smith managed to keep her attention through the stretch and she cruised across the finish line well clear of Dream Empress.
"It was just an incredible performance. I'm at a loss for words," said Smith, whose two wins moved him into a second-place tie with Pat Day for most Breeders' Cup victories, 12. All-time leader Jerry Bailey has 15.
Stardom Bound isn't undefeated like Zenyatta. But after gamely finishing off her third straight Grade I win, she is unquestionably this season's champion 2-year-old. Stardom Bound paid $5.20 as the seventh straight favorite to win the Juvenile Fillies.
Also on the five-race card devoted exclusively to fillies and mares, Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel pulled off an upset in the $1-million Filly & Mare Sprint and former assistant Chad Brown quickly followed in his mentor's footsteps with a win in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Forever Together prevailed by three-quarters of a length in a wide-open stretch scramble to win the $2-million Filly & Mare Turf.
"She fights all day, and she was the best today," jockey Julien Leparoux said.
It took Frankel 17 years to break through at horse racing's richest weekend. It took Brown, who worked for Frankel before going out on his own after last year's Breeders' Cup, one race.
Frankel's Ventura started the day by surging past heavy favorite Indian Blessing midway through the stretch to take the Filly & Mare Sprint, and Brown's Maram backed it up a half hour later.
Jose Lezcano, Tampa Bay Downs' leading rider in 2005-06, rode Maram ($24.20) to a nose victory over Heart Shaped in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Winning time for 1 mile was 1:35.15. It was the third victory for the unbeaten 2-year-old Maram, owned by Karen Woods and Saud Bin Khaled.
The first-ever Friday card last year at cold and rainy Monmouth Park in New Jersey attracted 27,803. Switched to sunny Santa Anita, the announced on-track turnout was 31,257, with temperatures in the upper 80s.
25th Breeders' Cup
When/where: Today; Santa Anita, Arcadia, Calif.
Schedule: $500,000 Marathon, 1 1/2 miles, 1:10 p.m.; $1M Turf Sprint, 6.5 furlongs, 1:50 p.m.; $1M Dirt Mile, 2:30 p.m.; $2M Turf Mile,3:15 p.m., Ch. 28; $2M Juvenile, 11/16 miles, 3:55 p.m.; $1M Juvenile Turf, 1 mile, 4:35 p.m.; $2M Sprint, 6 furlongs, 5:15 p.m.; $3M Turf, 11/2 miles, 6 p.m.; $5M Classic, 11/4 miles, 6:45 p.m., ESPN
Simulcast outlets: Tampa Bay Downs, Oldsmar (gates open at 11 a.m.); Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and Tampa Greyhound Track (gates open at 11:30 a.m.)
Wagering: Win, place, show, exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagering on all 14 races. The superfecta will be offered with a 10-cent minimum. Other wagering options include rolling pick threes, pick four with a $2-million guarantee and a $3-million ultra pick six. In the first 24 years, exactas have averaged $230 and trifectas $2,600.
Area note: TBD graduates Go Between and Smooth Air are in the Classic, Salute the Count in the Turf Sprint and Delightful Kiss in the Marathon.