Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Breeders' Cup Flashback: Zenyatta

It’s quite predictable that I would choose Zenyatta for my first Breeders’ Cup Flashback. She’s my favorite racehorse of all time and blew me away with all three of her Breeders’ Cup performances.
Zenyatta’s incredible Breeders’ Cup journey began in 2008, when as a four-year-old, the daughter of Street Cry was entered in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI). It was the first year the race was called the Ladies’ Classic rather than the Distaff.

Photo: Terri Cage
Zenyatta was coming into the race with an undefeated record of eight wins. In her previous race, Zenyatta had easily defeated Hystericalady, who many actually picked over Zenyatta. Under Mike Smith, the half-sister to three-time grade one winner, Balance, effortlessly handed Hystericalady a defeat.

Zenyatta was the short-priced favorite in the Ladies’ Classic. Breaking from post position one, Mike Smith rode Zenyatta to a breathtaking win over Cocoa Beach. With an impressive final time of 1:46.85 for a mile and one-eighth, Zenyatta ran the final eighth of a mile in 11.73. The win secured her the Eclipse Award for older female.
As the 2009 Breeders’ Cup approached, the hype surrounded Zenyatta. People wondered if she would be entered in the Ladies’ Classic to defend her title or in the Classic to take on the males. Her connections chose the Classic.
It was a good choice. Zenyatta swept past the males in late stretch to defeat Gio Ponti by a length. It was an extraordinary performance, “one we’ll never forget.” The race gave me chills, leaving me breathless and screeching with joy. As soon as Zenyatta stuck her nose in front of Gio Ponti’s and galloped powerfully toward the wire, the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic became my favorite race of all time.
The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic had even more hype. It would be Zenyatta’s last race and the remarkable mare was looking to eclipse the consecutive wins record. If she won that year’s Classic, she would retire with twenty wins in twenty starts. Unfortunately, as I watched from under the Twin Spires, Zenyatta fell just half a head short to Blame.
However, her performance in the 2010 Classic was just as impressive as the 2009 Classic. Many even consider it to be more impressive. It didn’t take away from her greatness; it only solidified it.
Zenyatta ran with determination that made the ground shake. She ran with her heart and everything within her, striving to do her best. Zenyatta, though she won nineteen times in a row, didn’t run to win, but rather for the sheer joy of running. She didn’t just attract fans because of her thrilling victories, but because of her appealing personality. It’s not every day a horse like this comes along. It’s not even every year a horse like this comes along. So rejoice in what Zenyatta gave us. Zenyatta is one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

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