BC Pedigree Profile: Zenyatta

BC Pedigree Profile: Zenyatta
Photo: Benoit
Vertigineux's first three foals have all been stakes winners, including Zenyatta who won the El Encino.

As a Kris S. half-sister to three stakes winners, much was expected of Vertigineux at the track. A $120,000 RNA at the 1996 Keeneland September yearling sale, Vertigineux raced for her breeder, Eric Kronfeld, in the name of Maverick Productions, Ltd. She did show promise, winning a 10 furlong turf maiden at Belmont Park on her first start as a 4-year-old, and then returning to take an allowance race at the same course and distance. Tried in stakes on her only two subsequent outings, Vertigineux failed to live up to her bright start by earning black type. Fourth, but beaten only a length, in a turf stakes at Delaware, she ended her career with an unplaced effort in the Glen Falls Handicap (gr. III) at Saratoga.

As a broodmare, however, Vertigineux has satisfied the highest possible expectations, although it’s taken a little while for that fulfillment to be realized. After going barren in her first year at stud, she visited the Storm Cathorse Aljabr. The foal from that mating, a filly named Where’s Bailey, realized just $4,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September sale, but proved herself to be one of the best runners for her sire with a win in the Remington Park Oaks. A year after Where’s Bailey, Vertigineux produced a Thunder Gulch filly. This one did catch the eyes of the buyers at the September sales, realizing $260,000. At that she proved a bargain; Balance, has earned over $1 million, with five stakes wins including the Santa Anita Oaks, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, and Las Virgenes Stakes (all gr. I).

Balance had yet to make her first start when her yearling half-sister by Street Cry(IRE) was offered at the 2005 Keeneland September sale, which probably explains why it cost only $60,000 to acquire her (compared to a 2005 yearling average of over $100,000 for the sire). Purchased by Jerry Moss — co-founder of A & M records — and his wife Ann, the filly was named "Zenyatta" after the third album produced by The Police (Zenyattà Mondatta, apparently a nonsense name made up to reflect the African heritage of the group’s reggae-flavored music). Incidentally, the Mosses also struck gold with another Police-related horse, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo, who is named for a son of The Police lead singer Sting.

Zenyatta didn’t make her debut until Nov. 22 of her 3-year-old campaign, when she appeared in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden at Hollywood Park. Although hardly bred for sprinting, Zenyatta found enough late to score in good style. Back for an 8 1/2-furlong allowance race at the same track, she won impressively by 3 1/2 lengths. On Jan. 23, Zenyatta faced her first black type test, in the El Encino Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. Despite facing grade I winners Tough Tiz’s Sis and Romance Is Diane, Zenyatta started as favorite, and outfinished that pair to tally by 1 3/4 lengths. In doing so she gave Vertigineux the outstanding achievement of having produced three stakes winners with her first three foals.

Although Vertigineux was a grass runner, she has proved very versatile as a producer in terms of surface. Where’s Bailey won her stakes on grass; Balance has recorded all of her victories on dirt; and Zenyatta has so far campaigned almost exclusively on artificial surfaces (she had one race at Oaklawn Park). There is a definite turf aspect to the female line, but that may be because most of the other starters for Vertigineux’s dam, For the Flag, were sired by European-raced horses, and made their names "across the pond." For the Flag’s Robellino daughter, Restrained — a daughter of Vertigineux’s grandsire, Roberto — was a listed winner and group-placed in France, and is dam and granddam of black type winners in that country. For the Flag’s other stakes winners were the brothers Blash and National Service, both by Master Willie (GB), one a black type scorer in the French provinces, the other in Germany. On the Staff, a sister to Blash and National Service, never won a black type event, but was second in the Cheveley Park Stud Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-II). Vertigineux’s granddam is the very well-bred In the Offing, a daughter of Hoist the Flag and the stakes-winning Tom Fool mare Mrs. Peterkin. In the Offing was only a minor winner, but she produced the Vineland Handicap (gr. III) victress, Helenska, and was also third dam of Canadian champion turf mare Sweetest Thing (whose dam was by a son of Roberto out of a daughter of In the Offing, and so bred on very similar lines to Vertigineux). In addition to In the Offing, Mrs. Peterkin produced three black type winners, among them Sweet Alliance, heroine of the Kentucky Oaks (at the time grade II) and subsequently dam of the Irish Sweeps Derby (Ire-I) winner Shareef Dancer.

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Vertigineux can be credited as being a remarkable producer; Zenyatta’s sire, Street Cry (IRE) deserves similar accolades. The leading freshman sire of 2006, he now has 13 stakes winners from his first crop of 88 named foals (15% stakes winners to foals), Zenyatta joining Street Sense, winner of the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, and Travers Stakes (all gr. I); Majestic Roi, victress in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Eng-I); and group and graded scorers Street Sounds, Summer Doldrums, Street Magician, Per Incanto, and Big Timer. Street Cry’s second crop, which has just turned 3, includes Cry and Catch Me, heroine of the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I); the grade III Grey Breeders’ Cup Stakes winner Globetrotter; and Tomcito, who won Peru’s Derby Nacional (Per-I) last November despite being a Northern Hemisphere 2-year-old competing against Southern Hemisphere 3-year-olds.

Zenyatta earns an A++ TrueNicks rating on the basis of the Street Cry/Hail to Reason cross, which has also produced Cry and Catch Me. This is a version of the Mr. Prospector/Roberto cross that brings together the very similarly-bred Gold Digger (dam of Mr. Prospector) and Bramalea (dam of Roberto). Both these excellent mares were by Nashua, and Gold Digger’s granddam, Miss Dogwood, was by Bull Dog out of a Blue Larkspur mare, whereas Bramalea’s dam, Rarelea, was by a son of Bull Dog out of a Blue Larkspur mare.

The cross with Mr. Prospector’s line through Machiavellian has had an above opportunity strike rate, with Zenyatta being joined by Italian group winner St Paul House (GB) and Italian listed winner Golden Titus (IRE) (by Machiavellian’s son, Titus Livius (FR), out of a Silver Hawk mare). Mr. Prospector-line stallions with mares by Zenyatta’s broodmare sire, Kris S., has been a hit-and-miss cross, with a strike rate that is below opportunity, but which has produced grade I winners Student Council (by Kingmambo) and Balance (by Thunder Gulch), and graded scorers Zenyatta, Give Praise (by Pioneering), and Leelanau (by Carson City). This inconsistency might be due to the fact that Kris S. was an extremely big horse, suggesting that his daughters may need careful physical matching. It’s notable that several of the Mr. Prospector-line sires of graded winners out of Kris S. mares are towards the smaller and more compact end of the spectrum. Looking at Zenyatta’s whole pedigree, in addition to a double of Hail to Reason – Machiavellian’s dam is by a son of Hail to Reason, making him something of a reverse cross to Roberto – there is also a double of Hoist the Flag. That horse, and particularly his sire, Tom Rolfe, have some important background pedigree similarities to Hail to Reason, and they are often seen in company in the pedigrees of good runners.

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