INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- It's on.
The first showdown between Zenyatta, the undefeated champion older female of 2008, and her stablemate Life Is Sweet, the impressive winner of three major stakes for older females at Santa Anita earlier this year, is set for Saturday's $150,000 Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Both were entered Wednesday, and trainer John Shirreffs confirmed they are intended starters.
"Zenyatta needs to start," he said. "She needs to get going. Life Is Sweet is doing so well that we need to run her."
Interestingly, the two brilliant females have not scared away the competition, at least not from the entries. The Grade 2 Milady, run over 1 1/16 miles, has drawn a field of nine. Zenyatta drew the outside post.
The matchup, a dream for racing fans, was not Shirreffs' intention this spring.
Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, was shipped to Churchill Downs for the Louisville Distaff Stakes on May 1, but did not start when rain led to a wet track. It would have been her first start since a win in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita last fall, the ninth victory of her career.
In past years, Shirreffs could have started Zenyatta in the Hawthorne Handicap here in early May, but the race was canceled well before the current season because of a purse cut.
"It's a circumstance that no one anticipated happening," Shirreffs said of the showdown.
Shirreffs said the trip to Kentucky has not affected Zenyatta since she returned May 5.
"She's working extremely well and her coat looks good," he said. "It had no effect on her at all."
The Milady will be Life Is Sweet's first start since a win in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita on March 14, the most prestigious win of her career. She races for breeders Pam and Marty Wygod and has won 5 of 10 starts.