Ever since her last "farewell" ceremony, at Santa Anita, Zenyatta has had three published works at her home base, Hollywood Park. Each work has been the same distance, four furlongs, but each had gotten progressively quicker each time the six year old amazon stepped onto the track. John Shirreffs and Jerry Moss both remained adamant that there was no change in the mare's status, which was believe to be retired. However when Moss never was quoted saying Zenyatta was retired, Zenyatta still in California and not in Kentucky, no stallion picked out, and Zenyatta still working like a machine rumors began to circulate that maybe, just maybe the Queen of California was going to continue to race.
The nation watch and waited, expecting to see Moss announce that his champion would race at the Eclipse Awards Banquet. Well, it wasn't at the Eclipse Awards, but two days prior to the banquet it was announced that Zenyatta would stay in training in 2010. Not a fan in racing wasn't ecstatic to hear the news, Zenyatta fans would get to keep their hero for one more year, and those that clamored for a Rachel Alexandra vs Zenyatta were just as happy that for once, the best horse would not have to be settled on paper and opinions.
Now the world of racing is filled with speculation. "Where would she race next," "Would she run on dirt," "Would she run on the east coast"? I have heard some bounce around the idea that maybe the Mosses would take their unbeaten champion to Dubai, to take on the worlds best in the Dubai World Cup. To take a shot at a race that big would a tall task no doubt, but when the track is made of the synthetics that Zenyatta is so fond of, the distance is a perfect 10 furlongs, and the is configured with such wide sweeping turns and a never ending stretch, you can't help but think that winner would be Zenyatta. If she were to win she would eclipse the North American Earnings record, set by Curlin in 2008 and she would be come the first female in the history to win the race. There is just one problem, when we send our champions overseas, they almost never come back the same. Curlin is the most recent example, he ran twice in Dubai, demolishing the World Cup field. In his first race back in America the big horse showed no signs of regression, but as the year wore on Curlin began to tire, and by the time November came around he just wasn't the same horse.
Personally, my guess would be that Zenyatta stays within the limits of her own country, but comes east, to prove that she can indeed run in the East. I am hoping her first race back will be the Donn Handicap on February 6, which is just about three weeks off. Zenyatta is fit as a fiddle, shipping her to Gulfstream and giving her time to adjust to the track should not be a problem. The Donn would be a fantastic way to start the year off, she would show that she could handle the trip to the East and our competition.
There is another reason, however, that I am keen on the idea of Zenyatta starting in the Donn. At Gulfstream, Zenyatta will run into the speed ball Quality Road. Gulfstream is his track and the Donn is his distance. His victories over the Gulfstream strip include the Fountain of Youth, the Florida Derby, and most recently the Hal's Hope. His Florida Derby was his most impressive run. Here he beat the eventual Belmont runner-up, Dunkirk, while setting a new track record. By many he is considered the most talented of last year's three year olds and could have been the best had quarter cracks and gate issues not gotten in his way.
A race against Quality Road would reveal to the nation just how good Zenyatta really is against top quality east coast males, on the dirt. The race would be a fantastic way to get the year started. Either way she goes, whatever road she takes, this year will most certainly be a year to remember. It has been a very long time since America saw so many brilliant horses come back in the same year. It is a great way to end the old decade and welcome the new. I have no doubt that 2010 will be one of the best years racing has ever seen.