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Breeders' Cup Preview
Zenyatta's fans greet her as she comes onto the track before the Classic
The $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) is the richest horse race in the western hemisphere. A field of 13 older horses went to post in this 1 1/4 mile trip over the all-weather Pro-Ride main track. 5-year-old mare Zenyatta, winner of last year's Ladies' Classic and undefeated in 13 career starts, was sent off as the 5-2 favorite in her first start against males, exiting a win in the Lady's Secret last time out. In to challenge the John Shirreffs trainee included 7-2 second choice Rip Van Winkle, in from England where he won the Sussex and the Queen Elizabeth II, and 7-1 third choice Summer Bird, winner of the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Originally a full field of 14 went to post but after breaking through the starting gate during loading, Quality Road was scratched by the attending veterinarian when lacerations were found on his front legs.
Zenyatta on the far outside rallies down the stretch to catch Gio Ponti who is leading on the inside.
Jockey Richard Migliore sent 39-1 Regal Ransom to the lead and he set fractions of 24.16, 47.88, 1:11.88, and 1:36.16 while being stalked by Rip Van Winkle a length behind and 11-1 Colonel John a length behind him. Regular rider Mike Smith kept Zenyatta near the back of the field early as expected, as far back as 15 lengths off the pace. Entering the stretch, jockey Ramon Dominguez 12-1 Gio Ponti moved up to challenge as the pacesetters tired, taking over the lead by a head over Colonel John at the 1/8 pole. Zenyatta, who was still 9th, 6 1/4 lengths back at the 1/4 pole, came out for room and when asked by Smith, accelerated past the rest of the field to catch Gio Ponti inside the 1/16 pole to win by 1 length in 2:00.62 over the fast track. It was another 1/14 lengths back to late-running 9-1 Twice Over third, while Summer Bird was another 3/4 lengths back in fourth.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 4 Zenyatta Smith 7.60 5.60 3.80 7 Gio Ponti Dominguez 9.20 6.60 5 Twice Over Queally 7.00 Winning Time: 2:00.62 $1 Exacta 4-7 43.70 $1 Trifecta 4-7-5 596.20 $1 Superfecta 4-7-5-3 3,417.00 $2 Pick Six 6-7-11-2-2/4-4/12 4,822.40Results chart
Right: Owners Jerry Ann Moss, jockey Mike Smith, and trainer John Shirreffs and his wife Dottie celebrate with the Classic trophies. Shirreffs said, "As you're watching the race progress, you're just waiting to see certain things happen. So when she got outside and changed her leads and started making that big move where she dropped her head, I just got so excited. Then as she crossed the finish line in front, it was just an unbelievably emotional experience to have her do this. This is a Championship Series of races. And you've seen her perform now. So I just hope that the press appreciates what they have seen."
Left: Mike Smith and trainer John Shirreffs celebrate Zenyatta's win in the Classic.
Right: Owners Jerry and Ann Moss give Zenyatta a pat as she heads into the winner's circle. Ann Moss said, "She's a great, great gift. And every moment is just a pleasure. We've been in thrill since Giacomo, and this is even more. And it's just wonderful to have so many fans and that so many enjoy her, and that she's so feminine, too. She's just dancing and strutting and enjoying her beautiful majestic self, and that's a gift." Co-owner Jerry Moss added, "(Horse of the Year) is not really up to us. We just brought the horse here. We beat whoever showed up, frankly. She ran her race and she won. The social significance is apparent, you know. Women are as good as men. That's it. If not better on occasion. Go for it. Take it."
Left: Zenyatta in the post parade.
Right: Zenyatta lopes along in last, 15 1/2 lengths behind leader Regal Ransom. Her jockey Mike Smith said, "When the gates opened she wouldn't move. So that was a huge. I thought oh, God, no, not today. She actually spotted a length or two. I had to hit her to get her out of there. When she did come out she was on her left lead. Which isn't what you want to be in. You want to be on your rights on the straights and lefts on the turns. I let her go. Let her get back to the lead and she gathered herself up."
Zenyatta heads out of the winner's circle and back to the barn. Mike Smith continued, "At the 1/2 mile pole I thought oh, God, they're stacked up. There's no way I'm going to get around all these horses. About that time a horse eased out and pushed everyone out. And it was just like the parting of the sea. It just opened up down in there. Then she kicked on. And the crowd started screaming. She thought maybe I should stop and pose again. She started pricking her ears and looking at the crowd, and I got after her a little bit, and she went on. And she still went, believe it or not, well within herself. She was pricking her ears and galloped out. She didn't even take a breath after the race was over. It's just incredible."
Left: Second place finisher Gio Ponti returns after the race. His jockey Ramon Dominguez said, "He ran so awesome. He split horses like a champion inside the 1/16-pole and just took off when he got clear. (Zenyatta) is just an extremely nice filly and I am so pleased and so happy with the way my horse ran. He did everything good. It's not like the race set up for him and he got lucky. Every step of the way I knew I had that much horse, and he just did everything like a very nice horse." His trainer Christophe Clement added, "The horse ran a great race but he couldn't beat the winner. She's a freak. What can I say? She's a freak. I'm thrilled with his race. This proved it was the right decision to run in the Classic and not the Turf. This is a very good horse. I will talk with the owner to see what he wants to do in the future, but I hope to have the horse back in the barn and hope to try again next year."
Right: Third place finisher Twice Over in the post parade. His jockey Tom Queally said, "On the whole it was fantastic. He ran well and obviously the filly (Filly & Mare Turf winner Midday) ran a blinder yesterday and won, so this trip has been more than worthwhile. We ran a cracker. My horse probably didn't handle the home turn too cute, but I don't think we would have beaten Zenyatta in a million years and hats off to her. She's an exceptional, exceptional filly." Trainer Henry Cecil added, "He ran a great race but was beaten by a very good animal. He probably ran the best race of his life."
Fans mob the paddock area hoping to catch a glimps of Zenyatta. At this point, she is still in the saddling enclosure and can't even be seen yet. With the win in the Classic, she became the first horse to win two different Breeders' Cup races as well as the first female to win the Classic, improving her undefeated career to 14 wins in 14 starts with earnings of $5,474,580. Plans are for her to retire now as she has nothing left to prove.
In addition to the Zenyatta signs TVG gave away, many fans brought their own signs. The two ladies on the far left were in the winner's circle, and the other two were beside the winner's circle.
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