The burning question on everyone’s mind is whether one or both, or neither of racing’s divas will be taking their final bows in the winner’s circle and conclude their amazing careers in storybook fashion.
As we are all aware by now, Zenyatta is looking to close out her career with an unprecedented 20-for-20 record, become the first horse to win the Breeders Cup three times, in two different races, and become the only horse in addition to Tiznow to win back-to-back Classics.
The French-trained Goldikova will attempt to make history by winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile three times, and in succession. The only two to win back-to-back runnings are Miesque and Lure. Da Hoss also won two runnings of the Mile but not in succession.
As a sidelight to the femme fatale three ring circus, another filly, Midday, will attempt to win back-to-back runnings of the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), while two other females, Forever Together and Informed Decision, will be trying for repeat Breeders’ Cup victories – in the Filly & Mare Turf and Filly & Mare Sprint, respectively.
But all eyes will be on the center ring, where first Goldikova and then Zenyatta will perform.
We’re very excited about coming back to Churchill,” said Goldikova’s trainer Freddy Head, who rode Miesque to victory in the 1988 Mile at Churchill Downs. “She’s very happy, and she’s been doing well since her last race (a victory over the boys in the group I Prix de la Foret at Longchanp). She couldn’t be in better shape. She’s better now than I’ve ever had her.”
Goldikova has won four of her five starts this year, also knocking off males in the Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) and Prix d’Ispahan (Fr-I).
“She was very impressive last time at Longchamp, and she got a great ride from Olivier Peslier,” Head said. “She had to lead because there wasn’t enough pace, and she let another horse go by, then came at the end to win, defeating a good field, including Paco Boy.”
Head has a great deal of respect for Zenyatta, but feels Goldikova has faced tougher competition over the course of her career.
“Zenyatta is a fantastic mare,” he said. “I saw her last year at Santa Anita and she’s extraordinary. If she wins for the third time it’s going to be something very special. But Goldikova also is very special mare. She’s been running against the best milers in
Bob Baffert, who will send out Lookin At Lucky against Zenyatta in the Classic, is a big admirer of both mares.
“If Goldikova wins this race for the third time, she’s amazing," he said. "She’s been overshadowed by Zenyatta and has gotten a little lost, but she has to placed right up there with her.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Zenyatta run in her races here in
Head said he’s not concerned about the condition of the Churchill turf course, even though Goldikova prefers firm going.
“We always thought she was a better horse on a fast surface,” said. “That’s why her last run was very exceptional because she showed the soft ground at Longchamp didn’t stop her. I dont think Churchill
Head acknowledges how tough a race the Mile is to win. “Paco Boy is a helluva horse, and so is Gio Ponti (who has first preference in the Classic),” he said. “The Mile is always hard to win and we’ll need a bit of luck. But if all goes well she will do her best. It’s going to be a fascinating race.
“What is so extraordinary about her is that she is still the same horse at home even after all these years. No matter what horse you put her with, she still wins her gallops by 10 lengths. All she wants is to run…run, run, run. She’s kept that freshness that most horses her age start to lose and get more lazy. That’s something she doesn’t do. She does her best every time.”
As for Zenyatta, trainer John Shirreffs said she looks great and is traveling very well, and is scheduled to breeze at
Shirreffs said of the legacy she will leave, “She’s changed the perception of how fans engage with racehorses. They really get behind her and she plays to the crowd. She’s brought a lot of people into racing who now enjoy the sport, even though they never really knew much about racing.”
Shirreffs still is amazed how Zenyatta has remained unbeaten for so long, especially with her running style.
“The unique thing about her is that she comes from last,” he said. “How she does it I have no idea because she’s at the mercy of the pace and she either has to go wide or has to cut a corner or has to get a break or make a break. So far, she’s done whatever is necessary to win.
“At age 6, she looks terrific. Her races haven’t taken anything out of her. Her coat is good, her weight is good, and her attitude is perfect. She’s just handling everything very well. She handles noise and crowds and she seems to get a kick out of it, so I don’t anticipate any problems at all.”