Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Decade to Remember: Classic Queen

"This....Is...Un-Be-Liev-ABLE!!!" The roar of the crowd now rose to a deafening volume as the thousands in the stands roared their approval to the beautiful, powerful, unbeaten Zenyatta. They had just witnessed history as the amazonian mare, yet again, made a mockery of the Breeders Cup Classic field, cruising under the line with her ears pricked forward, the first female Breeders Cup Classic winner.

She started her career with a six and a half furlong maiden race. Using her well known, dramatic, come from behind style for the first time, Zenyatta went on to win the race with ease. She would only compete once more during 2007, in an allowance race, before she would begin her meteoric rise to one of the best horses of the decade, and arguably, one of the best of all time.

In 2008 Zenyatta would extend her unbeaten streak to nine for nine, racing a total of seven times that year. She easily take grade one races like the Apple Blossom, Vanity, Clement Hirsch, and Ladies Secret, topping off her year in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. She vanquished the likes of Tough Tiz's Sis, Hysterical Lady, Unbridled Belle, Cocoa Beach, Music Note, and the 2007 Champion Older Female, Ginger Punch. She was involved in a passionate and heated debate for Horse of the Year against the defending champion Curlin, and though she lost out on the top award, she easily won the honor of Champion Older Female.

Entering 2009 the year looked as if it would belong to Zenyatta and Zenyatta alone. However during most of the year, super star 3yr old Rachel Alexandra, stole the show. Zenyatta, despite winning the Milady, Vanity, and Clement Hirsch, would remain in the shadow of her younger rival throughout most of the year. Zenyatta seemed to just stay hidden in her home state California, her owners content enough to keep a light schedule that looked to lead to a possible repeat win in the Ladies Classic. Then rumors began to run ramped, they were saying that, maybe, just maybe Zenyatta would take on the boys in the Breeders Cup Classic. The day that post positions were to be drawn, the world learned that Zenyatta would indeed put her unbeaten record on the line, and face some of the best males in the country in the Classic.

When the day arrived and the horses stood, lined up, behind the gate everything went from possible fairy tale, to worrisome, to horrific. Doubts entered the minds in the crowd as they saw the normally cool and professional Zenyatta rather reluctant to load. After some mild urging she stepped into the gate. For a few seconds it all looked like everything would be normal, until Quality Road, know for his gate antics, began to unravel. After a few cow kicks and bucks, the starters blindfolded the massive colt, in an attempt to disorientate him before loading him. The trick seemed to work, until Quality Road entered the gate. Sensing the enclosed space he went ballistic, bucking uncontrollably in the gate, and nearly breaking free from the hold of one determined handler. Of course after such an ordeal, the colt was scratched, and the field reloaded.

The bell sounded and the gates flew open, but as the rest of the field flew from the gate, Zenyatta missed the break almost completely. To make matters worse the the big mare had broken on the wrong lead, starting off the race in a terrible fashion. It did not take long for Mike Smith to correct her, and soon Zenyatta was back in stride, sauntering along at the back of the pack. For most of the race nothing seemed to change, but as they entered the far turn Zenyatta began to uncoil that massive stride, gobbling up the distance between her and the lead. By the time they hit the stretch, Zenyatta was in middle of the pack, but still had seven lengths to make up. Mike Smith, confidently took his mare to the outside, and from there it was over. In five strides, Zenyatta strolled up to take the lead, crossing the wire with her ears up, looking like she could go around again.

With that race Zenyatta validated her supporters beliefs in her greatness. With that race she put herself back on top of the world, unwilling to sit in the shadows any longer. She is great, she is the mighty Zenyatta.


  1. If that was indeed the Big Z's finale (?), she could not have picked a better swan song! The first female ever to win the Classic...maybe we will see the second this year.

  2. Boy do I remember that day...I was lucky enough to be there. The moment Zenyatta moved in to contention, all hell broke loose. I swear, it felt like Santa Anita was shaking. It was simply amazing.

  3. I never get tired of re-living the greatest moments from 2009. It's amazing how much happened in one year that will be counted among the greatest moments in the sports history. First female winner of the Classic and Woodward, second filly to win the Haskell, first filly/colt to win the Preakness from the #13 hole, first horse to retire perfect (surpassing Personal Ensign) 14-for-14 on the major racing scene since 1988.
    Incredible! Thanks for the great post.

  4. Oh my god, I'm so excited she's coming back this year!