Our analysis of the feature race today, from Santa Anita Park.

Ladies Classic, Nine Furlongs

The great television host Harvey Pack was always fond of saying “never bet a horse to do anything it hasn’t done before as the favorite.” Which is a convoluted way of saying bet against Zenyatta at your peril. The one thing she’s never done is lose. By definition the fastest horse, her figures are superior, she gets over the Pro-Ride better than any other synthetic surface, says the man on her back, her deep run style has never been compromised no matter how slowly her rivals try to back down the pace, and she’s coming off a “soft win” pattern, meaning her Lady’s Secret score was the perfect prep. Between Hysterical Lady, Ginger Punch and Bear Now breaking from the outside, the pace, if not fast, will be contested, enough to tip the scales in favor of the shortest-price favor over the two days of the event. She won her prep with disdainful ease and worked brilliantly since.

The other brilliant worker is Cocoa Beach (8-1). While recent figures may be wanting, she is undoubtedly on the march and does have that 78.5 to run back to, earned while winning the UAE 1000 Guineas. The workout indicates a fondness for Pro-Ride--at least in the mornings--and she really gets along (2-for-2) with the great Ramon Dominguez. A significant question is what to do with Carriage Trail (8-1) who absolutely freaked winning the G1 Spinster. This wouldn’t be the first time Shug McGaughey used the Spinster to win a “Dist…,” er, Ladies Classic. She’s loves the Keeneland Polytrack but Poly isn’t Pro-Ride. Given the rapid turnaround, she figures to regress from the 79, a huge top. That doesn’t mean she will; just that she figures to.

My personal wagering approach in this race will be to ignore defending champion and strong second favorite Ginger Punch (9/2). She’s a wonderful mare, no doubt, but she might be going in the wrong direction after two extremely enervating efforts at Saratoga prior to her non-excuses placing to Cocoa Beach in the Beldame. I am trying to defeat Music Note (6-1) even if she is an extremely talented filly. But while she seems to be marching forward again, this is her synthetic debut while meeting her elders for the first time. She has been very impressive visually but beating up on her own age group in small fields is a completely different ballgame. Clearly, the Ladies Classic, with an outside chance to crown a Horse of the Year in Zenyatta, it’s the least appealing betting race of the weekend.

Most Probable Winner: Zenyatta

Must Exactas: Cocoa Beach and Carriage Trail

Trifecta Mix: Music Note and Hysterical Lady

Running Totals Updated Upon Return to New York