Beholder… Stellar Wind… Azeri… Hollywood Wildcat… even Zenyatta herself. The list of champion fillies and mares who have won Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park is impressive. It’s no wonder why the 1 1/16-mile event awards a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Will we see a future champion participate in the 2021 Zenyatta? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: the Zenyatta is shaping up to be a terrific betting race with eight evenly matched runners in the entries.
The slated starters are as follows:
#1 Samurai Charm (10-1): Since finishing third in her debut, Samurai Charm has been unstoppable, rattling off five consecutive victories. She’s 4-for-4 in 2021 and enters off a gutsy victory in the one-mile Dark Mirage Stakes at Los Alamitos, where she led all the way to win by a diminishing head. But the waters get deeper in the Zenyatta, and the longer 1 1/16-mile distance is a question mark.
#2 As Time Goes By (2-1): The first of two Bob Baffert trainees, As Time Goes By was in strong form during the winter and spring at Santa Anita, parlaying a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile into consecutive victories in the Grade 2 Santa Margarita Stakes and Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes. But she hasn’t finished within a dozen lengths of victory in her last two starts and will need a form turnaround to challenge in the Zenyatta.
#3 Private Mission (5-2): The second Baffert filly has visited the winner’s circle in three of her four starts, most recently employing pace-pressing tactics to dominate Del Mar’s Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes by 6 ½ lengths. Private Mission is only three years old and still has upside for improvement, a positive when you consider how four of the last 10 editions of the Zenyatta have been won by 3-year-olds. The only concern is the fact there’s a lot of speed in the Zenyatta field – will Private Mission get caught up in a hot pace?
#4 Miss Bigly (6-1): A consistent mare who hasn’t finished out of the top two in her last five starts, Miss Bigly enters the Zenyatta off a hard-fought victory in the Tranquility Lake Stakes at Del Mar. But the Tranquility Lake was restricted to fillies and mares who hadn’t won a major stakes since February, and Miss Bigly may find the Zenyatta competition a bit tougher.
#5 California Kook (8-1): Runner-up in the 2020 Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on turf, California Kook has run well in a couple of recent starts against allowance competition at Del Mar. But she was beaten three-quarters of a length by Samurai Charm in her most recent effort and will need a step forward to turn the tables on Sunday.
#6 Miss Stormy D (15-1): On her best day, Miss Stormy D is capable of competing at the graded stakes level – so far this season, she’s finished second in the Grade 3 La Canada Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes. But Miss Stormy D has finished behind As Time Goes By on a couple of occasions and hasn’t run since June, when she won the She’s a Tiger Stakes against much easier company at Pleasanton by 8 ½ lengths. The layoff – and the class jump at Santa Anita – are both question marks for Miss Stormy D.
#7 Lady Kate (8-1): Shipping in from the Kentucky circuit is Lady Kate, who was good enough to finish second behind champion Monomoy Girl in the 2020 Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs. But Lady Kate hasn’t had the best of luck this season, with a runner-up effort in the Groupie Doll Stakes at Ellis Park standing as her best showing. A speedy front-runner, Lady Kate will need to recapture her strongest form if she’s going to vie for victory against several pacesetting rivals in the Zenyatta.
#8 Stellar Sound (5-1): In a field packed with speed horses, Stellar Sound brings appealing versatility to the table. While she’s yet to win a graded stakes, the daughter of Tapit finished third in both the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes and Grade 3 Bayakoa Stakes last season, showing flashes of talent alongside some inexperience. Stellar Sound is versatile in terms of running style and enters the Zenyatta off a gallant third-place finish in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap sprinting at Del Mar, which should serve as a perfect sharpener for the Zenyatta. As a daughter of Tapit out of a mare by Unbridled’s Song, Stellar Sound is bred to run long, and I’m optimistic she’ll get the setup she needs to challenge on Sunday.
Let’s favor Stellar Sound on top of our Zenyatta Stakes tickets. Assuming her 5-1 morning line odds hold up, she’ll make for an excellent win bet. But we’ll also key Stellar Sound on top of exacta and trifecta tickets emphasizing Private Mission underneath.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$8 to win on #8 Stellar Sound
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 9th race, $8 to win on 8
$2 exacta: 8 with 3
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 9th race, $2 exacta 8 with 3
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$14 to win on #8 Stellar Sound
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 9th race, $14 to win on 8
$2 trifecta: 8 with 3 with 2,4,5,7 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 9th race, $2 trifecta 8 with 3 with 2,4,5,7
$2 trifecta: 8 with 2,4,5,7 with 3 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 9th race, $2 trifecta 8 with 2,4,5,7 with 3
Good luck, and enjoy the race!