It wasn't quite the definitive answer the racing world has been awaiting.
But when the pre-entries for the 2009 Breeders' Cup World Championships were announced Wednesday, the connections of Zenyatta made their boldest statement yet about whether their undefeated champion mare will finally line up against male rivals.
As expected, the 5-year-old Zenyatta was among the 166 horses pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup. She was listed for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic and the $2 million Ladies' Classic.
Although Zenyatta is the defending race winner in the Ladies' Classic and would be the heavy favorite should she attempt to defend that triumph, the daughter of Street Cry was entered in the 11/4-mile Classic against males as her first preference.
While a showdown with superfilly Rachel Alexandra — who is sitting out the Breeders' Cup — seems unlikely to ever happen, defeating males would fill one of the few voids in Zenyatta's career after racking up seven Grade I wins against her own sex.
However, during a national teleconference Wednesday, trainer John Shirreffs stopped just short of fully committing his star to the Classic.
"Myself and (owners Jerry and Ann Moss) all discussed it and thought there was no reason not to pre-enter in the Classic," Shirreffs said. "She has a (6-furlong) work coming up on Saturday, and a decision will come shortly after that.
"There is definitely leaning toward the Classic," Shirreffs continued. "I just know, for Zenyatta to run in the Classic, you want to think your horse is peaking and, if she is peaking toward Saturday, that's probably what we'll do."
Should Zenyatta get the Classic go-ahead, she will face far and away the toughest field of her career.
In addition to Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Summer Bird, multiple Grade I winners Gio Ponti and Einstein along with Coolmore's European standouts Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman were among the overflow 16 pre-entries for the Classic. Although Mastercraftsman's first preference is the Dirt Mile.
"It's not definite that he goes for the Dirt Mile, but we had to make a preference for him, and we chose the mile," trainer Aidan O'Brien said of Mastercraftsman. "So if all is well with Rip, then there is a big chance that (Mastercraftsman) will run in the shorter race."
A maximum of 14 starters is allowed in each of the 14 Breeders' Cup races, with the exception of the Juvenile Turf, Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Dirt Mile, which are limited to 12 starters.
European-based horses stole the show last year, winning five Breeders' Cup races and running one-two in the Classic with Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator.
Not surprisingly, 37 horses from Europe were pre-entered — up from the 31 a year ago — including defending Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldi kova and Conduit, defending winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf.
"They have come over here in numbers, and that is not surprising given the degree of success we had last year," said Alastair Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau. "Still, we should be under no illusion of how tough it will be to repeat that. The overall quality of the fields is outstanding."
Leading the European charge last year was Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. Horses owned by him or in partnership with his wife, Princess Haya, won three races, including the Classic with Raven's Pass.
Sheikh Mohammed's Go dolphin Stables leads all owners with 15 horses pre-entered this year, 14 of which are trained by Saeed bin Surror.
Godolphin's champion Midshipman, winner of the Juvenile last year, is one of a record 10 defending or former Breeders' Cup winners to be pre-entered. He is slated to start in the Dirt Mile.
The other defending Breeders' Cup winners are Zenyatta, Ventura (Filly and Mare Sprint), Forever Together (Filly and Mare Turf), Maram (Juvenile Fillies Turf), Muhannak (Marathon), Desert Code (Turf Sprint), Goldikova (Mile) and Conduit (Turf). Red Rocks won the Turf in 2006.
While they are often two of the more competitive Breeders' Cup races, the Ladies' Classic and the $3 million Turf are slated to have the smallest fields this season.
Nine horses have been pre-entered in each, although Summer Bird's inclusion on the list of Turf entrants was merely precautionary, trainer Tim Ice said.
"The turf race was just an afterthought that we wanted to look at since we do get a second choice," Ice said. "But I would say he's about 99.9 percent for the Classic."