19 Down, One Big One to Go for Zenyatta
Undefeated Zenyatta heads to Churchill Downs to defend her Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) crown riding a 19-race streak of perfection. For the third time in her career, she three-peated in a major grade I race when she used her patented late charge to score a half-length triumph over Switch in Oak Tree's $250,000 Lady's Secret Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) before 25,837 fans at Hollywood Park Oct. 2.
Racing closer than usual to a pedestrian pace for jockey Mike Smith, Zenyatta wound up her sweeping move rounding the final turn. She came under urging in the lane as Switch, who bounced to the lead at the head of the stretch, proved resolute in the drive. Trailing by nearly three lengths approaching mid-stretch, the 1-10 favorite Zenyatta kept coming, however, getting control in the final strides while inching away at the wire.
``She seems to know where the wire is at and she likes to make it a little dramatic,'' Smith said. ``It's just incredible.''
``She has so much heart,'' trainer John Shirreffs said. ``She digs down every time.''
Zenyatta, about six lengths off the pace when she commenced her bid, was cutting into the lead gradually as the two leaders drove toward the wire. But it was not until Smith asked her for more at mid-stretch that she really turned it on, getting up with room to spare.
Shirreffs pounded his rolled-up racing program against his chest after Zenyatta sailed across the finish line.
``I thought I was home free at the eighth pole,'' Quinonez said. ``I couldn't see Zenyatta coming because I was so into riding my horse. We lost, but it was exciting.''
Switch's trainer, John Sadler, was happy even in defeat.
``I've been tiptoeing around the barn all morning, saying, `I know we're going to give them a scare,' " Sadler said. ``To run second to the best horse in the world and one of the greats of all time is huge. I'm very, very excited.''
He added, ``I'm jazzed and I'm ready.''
The BC Classic would likely be the final race of her career.
``She's done some amazing things the last sixteenth of a mile,'' Shirreffs said. ``Her heart must be huge.''
The victory was worth $150,000 and boosted the dark bay/brown mare's career total to $6,404,580. She broke the female earnings record for horses that have raced in North America of $6,334,296 established by the great Ouija Board, who retired in 2006.
Shirreffs said he was touched by the outpouring of affection from the fans for Zenyatta.
``The fans really demonstrate how I feel inside,'' the low-key Shirreffs said. ``I can't really show those emotions, so I really enjoy them getting into it because that's exactly how I feel.''
Want more Zenyatta? Download this Free BloodHorse.com Report: A Day With Zenyatta: Behind The Scenes With The Super Mare And Her Team.
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