Zenyatta-A Return to Perfection
Posted by Brian Appleton on January 17, 2010
Who hasn’t heard the news? The greatest older race mare of all time up to now is returning as a 6 year in what promises to be a fantastic year of achievement, opportunity and plain old fun. Personally, I feel spoiled right about now, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Mine that Bird, Summer Bird, Quality Road and Gio Ponti all coming back as older, mature, experienced runners. Throw in Curlin and I guarantee I’d think I was dead and had moved to heaven.
Is it just me, or does there seem to be a very promising precedent being set in Thoroughbred Horse Racing by some of its biggest owners? First Jess Jackson gives us Curlin for another year as a 4 year old in 2008, then announces early on in 2009 that Rachel Alexandra will also be pointed for another campaign of racing as a 4 year old. Then Summer Bird, Quality Road and Gio Ponti quickly followed suit. Now the bombshell; Zenyatta is coming back for a full campaign in 2010.
Zenyatta has continued a schedule of regular works since her historic Breeders’ Cup Classic victory, fueling speculation that she might be pointing for at least one more race in 2010. I got completely caught up in the excitement as did thousands of others at the possibility of Zenyatta racing for one more year, but in my heart I didn’t truly believe that this dream could come true. At the end of 2008 after Curlin’s Breeders’ Cup Classic defeat Jess Jackson refused to give a definite answer as to whether the champion would return to the races in 2009 or be retired to stud. Although it was strongly hinted that he would be retired, I couldn’t help getting carried away with thoughts of seeing the flashy son of Smart Strike run again. Curlin was retired in 2009 as most suspected, but I was still devastated. This time, there is no sadness, only shock, excitement and now that the news has had time to sink in, euphoria.
The question now is; where will Zenyatta make her overwhelmingly anticipated debut? Rumors, speculation and opinions are flying left and right as fast as Rachel and Zenyatta can run, as to where the great mare will debut. The truth is that we have no idea yet. The Mosses have stated that Zenyatta’s return to the races will be up to the discretion of trainer John Shirreffs to decide when and where she will be ready to emerge.
The possibility that Zenyatta could now meet her younger nemesis Rachel Alexandra is very much alive after being squashed with the announcement of her retirement following the Classic. In 2008 Zenyatta traveled to Oaklawn Park to defeat a stellar field of fillies and mares in the Apple Blossom Handicap for her first, and only, victory on dirt. Rachel Alexandra has also run at Oaklawn Park, her most recent victory there coming April 5th in the Fantasy Stakes. Before that she won the Martha Washington Stakes by 8 lengths against fellow 3 year old fillies on February 15th. With both horses having favorable victories over the Oaklawn dirt surface, the 2010 Apple Blossom seems a likely candidate to bring together these two racing phenoms. The Dubai World Cup has also been mentioned by several outlets as a possible start for Zenyatta, but the feeling here is that the Mosses will not want to send their mare that far from home and risk her missing months to recuperate upon her return to the states.
Wherever she shows up she will no doubt be greeted by legions of adoring
fans who are aching to see her in person. Owner Jerry Moss has stated that he wants to come east and run on dirt as well as participate in the Breeders’ Cup again, adding: “We’ll run against anybody, the gender is not a factor.” If she does come east, I will drop all to come see her run, and maybe drag some friends and family with me in the process.
Another thing to consider with Zenyatta’s return to racing is how long she can keep up her unbeaten string of races. Now 14 for 14, the big mare will likely scare most competition away no matter where she runs. The only thing that seems like it could possibly stand between her and completing the greatest undefeated career in the history of racing is Rachel Alexandra.
Up until now we the fans, have been desperately clinging to the Horse of the Year debate as the last contest between these two great horses. It was our one last time to compare the two greatest fillies of perhaps all time. Both living and racing in the same year leading to what has become one of the greatest years for horse racing in history. Horse of the Year will still be highly anticipated, but as of now, it takes a back burner to the real tale. The
story does not end here as we thought, it goes on due to the class of two owners, and who know what wonders are in-store for the fans this year. As of now, 2009 has become old news, simply a prelude for greater things to come. What say you?