Jerry and Ann Moss with Zenyatta.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Jerry and Ann Moss with Zenyatta.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Choosing Zenyatta's First Mating

How the decision was made to send the champion mare to Bernardini

Not surprisingly, given the fact they’ve become known as Team Zenyatta, the principals involved used a communal-type process when it came to figuring out the stallion to whom the 2010 Horse of the Year would be bred. 

Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs, racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, and bloodstock agent David Ingordo all had input into the decision to send the superstar mare to Bernardini  for her first go-around with motherhood.

“Dottie is the specialist on sire lines,” said her son, David. “I’ve learned a lot from her and although we do things in different ways, she is the bloodstock mating expert in our house. I’ve learned if she wants to do something, don’t argue with her.”

Dottie’s husband, John, has the advantage of having trained top-shelf horses now for several decades, learning the strengths and weaknesses of the progeny of many top-name stallions, and is an integral part of the process. He is also the world’s foremost expert on Zenyatta.

Bernardini moved to the head of the class for several reasons. He had physical characteristics that matched up well with Zenyatta, and the A.P. Indy bloodline works with the mare as well. In fact, Zenyatta’s half sister Balance had an A.P. Indy yearling sell for better than $4 million.  

“When you boil it all down,” said David Ingordo, “Bernardini fit her. He’s well-balanced. Also, the Bernardinis have looked very good at auction and they’ve been running well. He’s got two of the top 20 on the Triple Crown trail. I think To Honor and Serve could be very tough, and Stay Thirsty  probably will come on well when he gets back. The Bernardinis seem to be maturing early, and so if you want a Derby or Oaks horse, you would want something that’s ready to go.

“When Zenyatta left the farm we thought she could be the next Halfbridled—a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner and a champion at 2 because she was so far ahead of everyone else and doing it easily. But then she grew and had some minor setbacks that took time. Maybe her foals will come to hand a little earlier.”

Also pointing in Bernardini’s direction is the fact Shirreffs has in his barn a 2-year-old half sister to Zenyatta by Bernardini named Eblouissante that he is high on. Eblouissante was bred and is owned by Eric Kronfeld, who also bred Zenyatta in the name of his Maverick Productions.  

“Eblouissante is a really nice individual who is training well right now and looks like she could be special, and that helped (choose Bernardini) as well,” noted Ingordo. “It helps you know a little bit about his progeny so he’s not a totally unknown quantity.”

He added that Dottie comes up with a short list of two or three options for stallions, and gets input from Ingordo and Shirreffs before presenting her recommendations to the Mosses, who make the ultimate decision after consulting and asking the pertinent questions.

“Remember, this is one mating out of hopefully many to come,” said Ingordo. “I think we’re all pretty excited about it. We’re just hoping she gets a good foal. She’s done everything right so far and we hope that continues into motherhood.”