Zenyatta ran her way into rare company Saturday, improving to 13-0 with a victory in the $300,000 Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita.
The stellar mare tied filly Personal Ensign's streak of 13 consecutive wins set from 1986-88. Personal Ensign retired as the first undefeated champion in American racing in more than 80 years.
It wasn't such a good day for Mine That Bird, who missed the winner's circle again with a sixth-place finish behind upset winner Gitano Hernando in the $350,000 Goodwood Stakes.
Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Zenyatta covered 1 1-16 miles on the synthetic Pro-Ride surface in 1:42.89. Sent off as the 2-5 wagering favorite, she won by 1 1/4 lengths and paid $2.80, $2.40 and $2.10.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime horse, believe me," trainer John Shirreffs said.
A smiling Smith pointed down at Zenyatta as he guided her into the winner's circle, greeted by loud cheers from the crowd of 20,329, many of them lining the rail from mid-stretch to the finish line to watch the nation's other star female horse.
"She only seemed to run about four jumps and then she shut it down," Smith said. "The big dance is coming up next and that's all she needed to do today."
Zenyatta won a day after the owner of Rachel Alexandra said the star filly who beat the boys in the Preakness was done racing for the year, ensuring they won't meet in a Breeders' Cup showdown.
Zenyatta pawed the ground with her right hoof in the winner's circle before Smith jumped off and planted a kiss on her flank. Actress Bo Derek, a member of the California Horse Racing Board, presented the trophy.
"Queen Zenyatta" was one of the signs that greeted her in the winner's circle after her fourth win this year, all coming on the synthetic surfaces at each of Southern California's three major tracks.
"It's so much fun to see all her fans," co-owner Ann Moss said. "She enjoys herself. It's just really grand."
Lethal Heat returned $7.40 and $4.20, while Cocoa Beach returned $3 to show. Zenyatta's stablemate, Life Is Sweet, was fourth in the seven-horse field.
Zenyatta won the Lady's Secret a year ago before going on to win the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
Winning Saturday guarantees Zenyatta a berth in this year's Ladies' Classic on Nov. 6 at Santa Anita, but it's possible owners Jerry and Ann Moss will decide to run her against the boys in the $5 million BC Classic a day later.
Jerry Moss said Zenyatta would be pre-entered in both races.
"The horse is going to make the decision," he said. "We want her to do well and be safe and be happy, but we also want to see how much she's got in her tank."
Smith made it clear where he stands on the choice of her next race.
"She can run with anyone, anytime, anywhere," he said. "She has an amazing turn of foot, one that I've never seen before. I just have so much confidence in her. Today she had 10 gears and she only had to use four of them. She really loves this track."
Personal Ensign beat the boys in the 1988 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, then ended her career by defeating Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors by a nose in the BC Distaff that year.
"To be in the same ledger as she is, it's just awesome," Jerry Moss said.
Kentucky Derby champion Mine That Bird played second fiddle to Zenyatta. He is winless in four starts since his stunning 50-1 upset on the first Saturday in May.
Britain-bred Gitano Hernando won the 1 1-8-mile Goodwood by a neck, earning an automatic berth in the BC Classic.
Ridden by Kieren Fallon, Gitano Hernando covered the distance in 1:48.39 and paid $38, $14.40 and $9.40. The winner arrived from Europe with a 2-for-2 record on synthetic surfaces.
Trainer Chip Woolley Jr. thought the distance might have been too short for Mine That Bird's liking. He hadn't raced since finishing third in the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 1.
"If we could have went another eighth of a mile it would have been a different story," he said. "I'm kind of disappointed. The horse shows up every time and runs the best he can run. The 10 weeks probably wasn't doing us any favors. It's a long time off."
Wagering favorite Colonel John, the 2008 Santa Anita Derby winner, returned $4.40 and $3.20, while Richard's Kid, the Pacific Classic winner, was another three-quarters of a length back in third and paid $4.40 to show.
Mine That Bird again failed to fire on Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface in his second start on it. The 3-year-old gelding was last among 12 horses in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile nearly a year ago, giving no hint of what was to come at Churchill Downs in May.
"He was struggling over the track a little bit," jockey Calvin Borel said. "I do know one thing. He's a lot better horse on the dirt. When you ask him here, he goes to struggling instead of just running."
The Derby is Mine That Bird's only win in seven starts this year.
Woolley said his horse's finish didn't dim his enthusiasm for possibly starting Mine That Bird in the BC Classic.
"Not at all," he said.
Also Saturday, Magical Fantasy took the lead in mid-stretch and went on to win the $300,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes by a half-length.
Ridden by Alex Solis, the 4-year-old chestnut filly was timed in 1:59.59 for 1 1/4 miles on the turf. She earned a berth in the $2 million BC Filly & Turf.
Sent off at 6-5 odds in the field of eight, she paid $4.40, $2.20 and $2.10.
Britain-bred Visit returned $3.80 and $2.80, while New Zealand-bred Black Mamba paid $3 to show. Lemon Chiffon was fourth.
In the $150,000 Oak Tree Mile, Cowboy Cal held off Global Hunter to win by three-quarters of a length.
Cowboy Cal ran the distance on the turf in 1:33.12 and paid $5.20, $3 and $2.40. The victory ensured a spot in the BC Mile for Cowboy Cal, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Garrett Gomez.