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Champion Older Female: Zenyatta

Wonder mare won all five starts including Breeders' Cup Classic win over the bo

Months of drama and intrigue surrounded the naming of Horse of the Year for 2009. No such doubt existed about who would win the Eclipse Award for Older Female. Not when the reigning queen of the division finished off a third perfect season by becoming the first female to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).

You could ink in the name Zenyatta for the crown following her awe-inspiring last-to-first move down Santa Anita’s stretch in the Classic last November. Certainly anyone watching her that day would rank her performance among the most memorable of the last several decades.

Zenyatta’s 2009 campaign was a classic example of identifying a distant goal, and then working backward to achieve it. Much of the credit goes to trainer John Shirreffs and his wife, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, who serves as racing manager for Zenyatta’s owners, Jerry and Ann Moss. Although Zenyatta’s campaign wasn’t an overly ambitious one leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, it was mapped out with an eye always on the big prize, despite the temptation to break off from the trail and engage an unexpected phenom, Rachel Alexandra.

The decision to stay at home was more than validated when the daughter of Street Cry—Vertigineux, by Kris S., raced into the record books Nov. 7.


As her stature rose, it equaled Zenyatta’s statuesque physical presence. Standing 17-hands tall, Zenyatta was impossible to miss before or during a race. When she jogged down the Churchill Downs stretch one morning Derby week preparing for the Louisville Distaff Breeders’ Cup (gr. II), a race she ultimately would not run in, trainer Bob Baffert stood at the rail and said, “There goes the moose. She’s unbelievable.”

Zenyatta was bred in Kentucky by Eric Kronfeld’s Maverick Production and raised by Don Robinson at his Winter Quarter Farm just outside Lexington.

Zenyatta finished her season running against a strong international field of males in the Classic. Ridden expertly by Mike Smith, Zenyatta passed all 11 of her challengers, including eight in the last quarter mile, to achieve not only her second Eclipse Award, but immortality.


First-place vote totals: Zenyatta, 231; Icon Project, 1.