ARCADIA, Calif. - -The story of this year's Breeders' Cup centers on Zenyatta, the undefeated mare who plans to take on the boys in today's $5 million Classic. And even though she didn't race Friday, her specter was still large as the day's big race was won by the horse who could never beat her.
Life Is Sweet, the 4-year-old filly from John Shirreff's barn, beat Mushka by 2 1/2 lengths to win the $2 million Ladies Classic at Santa Anita Park. Zenyatta, also trained by Shirreff, had beaten Life Is Sweet three times since May.
Zenyatta's absence from the race she won last year made it wide open. Careless Jewel, the race-time favorite, built a nine-length lead in the 1 1/8 -mile race but tired badly and finished last.
Winning jockey Garrett Gomez perhaps put it best when asked how Zenyatta's absence affected the race. "It meant I didn't finish second," he joked.
Now it will be up to Zenyatta, in what could be her 14th and last race, to lay claim to Shirreff's shot at a Classic double.
Zenyatta will be the favorite, which is what you didn't want to be Friday as every post-time choice went down in defeat.
It started in the $500,000 Marathon when Man of Iron upset favored British horse Mastery by a nose.
The $1 million, one-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf race was won by Tapitsfly over Rose Catherine
She Be Wild was a three-quarter-length winner in the 1 1/16 -mile, $2 million Juvenile Fillies race. It was the first of two wins by jockey Julien Leparoux. The French-born rider's other victory came in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint contested over seven furlongs. He did little more than hold on to Informed Decision, who put forth one of the more dominant performances of the day. The favorite, Ventura, trained by Bobby Frankel, finished second.
The only European horse to win was second-favorite Midday, who won the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf race, run over 1 1/4 miles. The favorite, Forever Together, finished third.
There was fear going into the weekend that the economy would take a big bite out of the interest at this picturesque Southern California track. But an announced 37,651 showed up for the warm-up to today's races. Last year, an announced 31,527 attended the first day of the two-day Breeders' Cup Championships.