Zenyatta stays perfect with Classic win

ARCADIA, Calif. -- In a spectacular performance that had fans alternately cheering and then crying tears of joy, the great, unbeaten racemare Zenyatta ran into the record books on Saturday by beating males for the first time, scoring her 14th straight victory and putting herself squarely in the debate for Horse of the Year with a breathtaking, last-to-first rush in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Zenyatta ($7.60), the favorite, broke slowly, and was in front of only one horse, Mine That Bird, going down the backstretch. But she kicked in swiftly midway on the far turn, split horses at the quarter pole, and collared Gio Ponti with a sixteenth of a mile to go before drawing away to win by one length.

Gio Ponti finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Twice Over, with Summer Bird fourth.

Richard's Kid was fifth and was followed, in order, by Awesome Gem, Regal Ransom, Mine That Bird, Rip Van Winkle, Einstein, and Girolamo.

Quality Road was scratched after scraping a hind leg while acting up in the starting gate before the race.

Zenyatta completed 1 1/4 miles on Pro-Ride in 2:00.62.

John Shirreffs, the trainer of Zenyatta, watched the race from along the outer rail near the sixteenth pole. Tears were coming to his eyes soon after Zenyatta crossed the wire.

"I can't believe it. She is a great, great filly," he said. "She is all heart. The way the crowd took to her was just amazing. They cheered for her, they clapped for her. They love her. What a wonderful relationship."

The crowd was clearly in Zenyatta's corner from the time she arrived in the paddock, cheering wildly as she went around the walking ring, and as she paraded down the track in the post parade. But they saved their biggest cheers for after the race, when Zenyatta came back to the winner's circle.

"Today was really emotional and a wonderful experience," Shirreffs said at a postrace press conference.

Shirreffs won the Ladies' Classic on Friday with Life Is Sweet to complete a weekend that should put him in contention for an Eclipse Award as champion trainer.

"Life Is Sweet is the princess, and Zenyatta is the queen in my barn," he said.

Mike Smith rode Zenyatta. He said she came out of the gate awkwardly and was on her left lead early, but then switched over.

Smith, Shirreffs, and owners Jerry and Ann Moss were typically classy in their support for Zenyatta as Horse of the Year, talking her up while refusing to denigrate the great 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra, who was kept out of the Breeders' Cup by majority owner Jess Jackson.

"I wish they would have brought her here to prove to the racing world what Zenyatta is really about," Smith said. "I'm not going to say I'd have beaten her, because that's one person's opinion. I'd have given anything to run against her."

"This is a championship series of races," Shirreffs said, referring to the Breeders' Cup.

"She's our Horse of the Year," Jerry Moss said during a postrace interview that was broadcast over the public address system. "And she's the Horse of the Year of these people here, I think."

The crowd, yet again, went wild.


Santa Anita Park, Saturday, November 7