Jerry and Ann Moss’ Zenyatta likely will be the heavy favorite in the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) Oct. 24 at Santa Anita Park. She is undefeated in her career, with an eight-race win steak heading into the World Championships.
And Jerry Moss is starting to feel the pressure.
“We’ve obviously been pointing to this race the whole year, hoping she would be good enough to make it, and along the way, she won every race she ever entered, so we’re thrilled,” Moss said. “It’s going to be very enjoyable to see her run in the Breeders’ Cup because she always tries so hard even though she makes it looks easy. It’s also going to be a little nerve-racking because we really would love to win this race.”
The Mosses purchased Zenyatta for the somewhat modest price of $60,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale. The horses that sold in the same session that she did averaged $178,216.
“David Ingordo is our main guy there, and he has a great team of people,” Jerry Moss said. “They look at almost every horse in the sale, and then Annie and I end look at everything David wants us to look at with John Shirreffs, our trainer, and Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, our racing manager.
“This horse (Zenyatta) came out pretty nice on the (sale catalog) page, and we went to see her. She was a very imposing filly, and we liked her immediately. John likes big, long-striding fillies, and that is what we thought she could be. Unfortunately — or fortunately for us, I guess — she had a skin rash that spread from her neck to her withers. It wasn’t terribly attractive, and I remember asking John how long it would take for that to get better. He said, ‘Oh, about two weeks,’ so we decided to go after her. We were prepared to go higher for her, but as luck and fate would have it, $60,000 is where the bidding stopped.”
Zenyatta, who didn’t race as a 2-year-old, made her career debut late in 2007. She broke her maiden by three lengths in a 6 1/2-furlong race at Hollywood Park in November, and then she scored by 3 1/2 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile allowance event in December at the same track.
|Zenyatta Slide Show|
“I think the key to her success has been the job that John Shirreffs has done with her,” Jerry Moss said. “She’s a very big horse — she stands over 17 hands — and John was very patient. He kept her with him at Hollywood Park for about year and a half before she ran for the first time, and he was very fastidious with her in her training routine. She kept coming up with small problems which set her back from time to time, but he was convinced she was something special.”
Zenyatta began her 2008 campaign with a 1 3/4-length victory in the El Encino Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita in January. The 4-year-old daughter of Street Crydidn’t race again until April, when she tackled the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park and triumphed by 4 1/2 lengths over a field that included 2007’s champion older female, Ginger Punch.
“She had a bit of a layoff because we had to slow down on her for a while after the El Encino,” Moss said, “and she also had a new jockey because David Flores had a mount he was excited about in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). He chose to get off Zenyatta, so that’s how we got Mike Smith. The Apple Blossom, to us, was her most thrilling race, because she ran against a champion, and she ran so powerfully and won rather impressively. It was her first grade I race and only the fourth race of her career, so we were knocked out, needless to say.”
Zenyatta continued to impress, piling up four more wins before being entered in the Breeders Cup. She ran twice at Hollywood, taking the Milady (gr. II) and Vanity (gr. I) Handicaps. At Del Mar, she scored in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. II), and then she cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory over grade I winner Hystericalady in the Sept. 27 Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I) during Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting, showing a liking for the track’s new Pro-Ride synthetic surface.
“We’re feeling pretty good about her right now,” Moss said. “Her last two races have been very powerful, and it seems like she is in top form. She’s training very well, and she seemed to enjoy the sun and the sea air during her time at Del Mar. So, I think she’s coming into this race (the Ladies Classic) — please God — as good as any horse could come into a race. We’re feeling optimistic, but yet we know it’s a horse race and anything can happen. Even as good as she is, she’s going to need some luck to be victorious.”
The Mosses haven’t decided whether they will race Zenyatta next year or retire her.
“The whole point in our plan was to get to this race and hopefully win this race,” Jerry Moss said. “We want to achieve our initial objective and then go on from there. I would eventually like to breed Zenyatta and keep her as a broodmare because I think she would be unbelievable. She would pass along some of her great heart and her ability to win races. She’s out of a Kris S. mar and is by Street Cry, which is a great combination of gene pools. I’ve been in this game seriously for about 30 years, and all I can say, is you don’t have many like this one. When you do have one like this, you’ve got to enjoy every race and thank God every time she goes to the racetrack.”
Zenyatta has earned $1,064,580.