Zenyatta, the undefeated champion 17.2 hand mare who finished her career with a perfect 14-for-14 record by beating males with her dramatic late charge in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was saluted at Santa Anita on opening day, Dec. 26th. I was lucky enough to be there that day.
Everyone knew Zenyatta was scheduled to appear after the sixth race, but few knew exactly when or from which direction she would come. As a prelude, the crowd was treated to one more viewing of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on the huge infield screen.
This video has become a familiar work. As Zenyatta was seen passing the 11th and final horse, with nothing but open ground in front of her, many in Saturday’s gathering accompanied Trevor Denman on the last five syllables of his now-famous call:
When the replay was over, and the crowd had quieted down, Denman instructed everyone to look to the quarter-pole. And suddenly there she was, just a dark shape at first, difficult to pick out on this overcast day — at least from the rail in deep stretch — until she’d come off the turn.
The cheering rolled up the grandstand as Zenyatta, ridden by long-time exercise rider Steve Willard, glided through the stretch, looking as fit and elegant as ever. Somewhere around this time, the sun came out.
Mike Smith then took a turn in the saddle, parading Zenyatta back and forth in front of the crowd before entering the winner’s circle. While another brief ceremony was taking place, Zenyatta struck the expert winning pose she’d perfected during 14 consecutive victories. Then, with Willard back aboard, she passed before the grandstand one last time and was gone.
Girl Power at the Breeders’ Cup: Zenyatta’s Brilliant Comeback Wows the Nation
What an incredible, brilliant race. Zenyatta…girl power indeed.
Zenyatta recorded a brilliant win in the $5.45 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, California on Nov. 7. I hope you saw it, either in person or on TV.
Zenyatta became the first female to take the coveted 1¼ mile (2000 metres) race, notching her 14th straight win in the process.
Settled in her customary position at the rear of the field under Mike Smith, Zenyatta was some 10 lengths off the lead in the back stretch and looked to have work to do entering the final turn. Having to come around horses, the striking dark bay mare came with a scintillating run down the home straight, flying home to win by a length from Gio Ponti, with Twice Over third.
Now five years old, Zenyatta’s 14 consecutive wins bettered the record of another great distaffer, Personal Ensign. Having capped a perfect season in 2008 with victory in the grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at the same course, this season she has added four further wins at the highest level.
Speaking after the race, her trainer said: ”Tears are coming to my eyes. I can’t believe it – what a great, great filly. She’s special. She came out on the wrong lead and took some time to get going but she’s all heart.
”There was a little bit of chaos at the start and she got upset and I was a little concerned. She was slow early and I didn’t necessarily want to be that far back. She came round and I still didn’t hit all the gears. She’s the horse of the decade. She’ll go down as one of the all-time greats.”
I couldn’t agree more. Horse of the Year? Some may argue against her, but not me.
Not if you saw that great race.