The talented 4-year-old filly is undefeated in eight career races. She scored an impressive victory over Santa Anita Park’s new Pro-Ride racing surface in her last outing. And she’s the Thoroughbred version of a skyscraper, standing “just a shade over 17 hands,” according to her trainer, John Shirreffs.
A daughter of Street Cry, Zenyatta is taller than the strapping Midnight Lute , a 5-year-old horse who won an Eclipse Award after capturing last year’s TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).
And Shirreffs has the proof, thanks to Midnight Lute’s trainer, Bob Baffert.
“Someone told him she was bigger than Midnight Lute, and he came over to my barn, as he said, to bust the myth,” Shirreffs said. “She was out on the wash rack, and he said, ‘Do you mind if I measure her?’ I said, ‘No, go ahead. I’m kind of curious myself.’ ”
Zenyatta also stands tall among her female peers. She comes into the Ladies’ Classic, which was formerly known as the Distaff, off a 3½-length triumph over 2007 Humana Distaff (gr. I) winner Hystericalady in the Sept. 27 Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I). The winner blew by her rival in the stretch even though jockey Garrett Gomez, who was aboard Hystericalady, was able to slow down the fractions on the lead to :48.32 for the first half-mile and 1:11.45 for six furlongs.
The Santa Anita surface, over which the Breeders’ Cup World Championships events will be raced, “was a very big concern,” Shirreffs said. “In general, I don’t like synthetic tracks, but she (Zenyatta) handled it fine. She has a wonderful stride; she could run on asphalt. The big key for her is that she’s very talented, and she’s unique in her ability because she can deal with anything.”
Zenyatta, owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, also defeated champion Ginger Punch, who won last year’s Emirates Airline Distaff, in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) in April. Zenyatta was 4½ lengths in front of Brownie Points at the wire while Ginger Punch finished third.
“I think that was Zenyatta’s best race,” Shirreffs said, “because she had never been tested at a grade I level before. She came from so far back and just ran magnificently. She got better and better as the race went on.”
Following the Apple Blossom, Ginger Punch rebounded and reeled off consecutive victories in the Louisville Stakes (gr. II), Ogden Phipps (gr. I) and Go for Wand (gr. I) Handicaps, and Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I). But the Stronach Stables homebred faltered in the Sept. 27 Beldame Stakes (gr. I), finishing second. Her trainer, Hall-of-Famer Bobby Frankel, blamed the Awesome Again mare’s defeat on her No. 1 post position, saying it forced her to run on the lead, which isn’t her favorite way to race.
In addition to facing old foes, Zenyatta will take on some new challengers in the Ladies’ Classic, including Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s homebred Carriage Trail. Even though she was bearing out in the stretch, the 5-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway shattered the track record for 1 1⁄8 miles in the Oct. 5 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. Her time over the Polytrack, while scoring her first grade I victory, was 1:46.77.
Godolphin Racing’s Cocoa Beach, who began her racing career in her native Chile, where she was a champion, has won two consecutive races, the Beldame and Love Sign Stakes in New York, since coming to this country from Dubai. Music Note, who also carries the Godolphin colors, cruised to an 81⁄2-length win in the Sept. 13 Gazelle Stakes (gr. I). A 3-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy, she raced behind the pace before unleashing her long stride approaching the three-eighths pole and gliding to her fifth victory in seven career races.