Two days before Zenyatta puts her undefeated 19-race win streak on the line in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), trainer John Shirreffs said he has no concerns that the 6-year-old mare will give her best effort.
"I think we’re well prepared," Shirreffs said during a Nov. 4 teleconference. "Zenyatta is doing great. It is just going to be a lot of fun."
During the week leading up to the two-day World Championships at Churchill Downs, critics and trainers of other horses entered in the Classic have pointed out that Zenyatta’s ability to sustain her win streak could be most at risk Nov. 6. They point out the race will be only her third over a conventional dirt track--17 of her wins have been on a synthetic surface--and that her patented come from behind running style could result in kickback of dirt that would disrupt her run.
Shirreffs said Zenyatta’s two victories in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park showed that the daughter of Street Cry could handle that surface with success. As far as kickback from dirt, Shirreffs said he did not see it as a potential factor in the Classic because Zenyatta is far behind the last horse in the field before she takes off.
"Zenyatta enjoys a dirt surface," Shirreffs said. "She handles the track very well. The surface will have no effect on her and how she runs her race."
In addition to being confident of Zenyatta’s chances in the $5 million Classic, Shirreffs is also handling the attention surrounding the mare with calm. He also said he is not thinking about the reaction from fans if Zenyatta does not win the Classic.
"Sometimes if you try and hold something too closely it’s not always a good thing, but that’s not the case with Zenyatta," Shirreffs said. "We’re thankful for all she’s given us, but if some people are disappointed [if Zenyatta loses], that’s unfortunate."
Also during the press conference, Jerry Moss, who owns Zenyatta with his wife, Ann, said the mare’s connections were not thinking about what lies ahead for Zenyatta after Nov. 6.
"I’ll think about the future when that comes up; we’ve always been race-to-race people," Moss. "That’s the way we are. There’s no sadness, it’s just joy to be associated with a horse like this. To see the way she affects people is just a joy. Whatever happens … we’re going to happy about her for the rest of our lives."