Top Mare Zenyatta Arrives at Churchill Downs

Top Mare Zenyatta Arrives at Churchill Downs
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Zenyatta arrives at Churchill Downs.

Accompanied by a police escort, a van carrying Zenyatta rolled into the stable area of Churchill Downs and stopped at Barn 41 at 12:07 p.m. ET Tuesday, Nov. 2.

A cheer erupted from a hoard of media as Zenyatta stepped of the shiny, silver vehicle with red trim. She was circled for photos a couple times, during which she gazed at the crowd with curious, pricked ears.

Zenyatta At Churchill
ZenyattaCDArrivalMore Photos of Zenyatta's Arrival.

Shortly after arriving with the assistance of an entourage that included a helicopter tracking the van, Zenyatta grazed outside the barn for about 10 minutes.

A 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta will be seeking to end her career undefeated when she makes her 20th career start in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).

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Since winning the 2009 Classic, Zenyatta has won all five of her 2010 starts, all in grade I stakes. In addition to seeking her 20th win, Zenyatta will be looking to increase her $6.4 million bankroll in the $5 million Classic.

“I think the trip went well…she left (from California) a little before 4 a.m. and arrived in great shape...Mario Espinoza, her groom, traveled with her," said Sherriffs. "Coming into the Breeders’ Cup undefeated at 19-0 is a dream. We had it a long time ago, and it’s amazing that we’re here like this. I think she means a lot of things to different people in the sport.

“When we were flying out, I thought, ‘This is the last flight we’ll have with her,’ but I try not to focus on that; I want to focus on the race this weekend. The race is coming up great, she’s doing well, and it’s going to be a really exciting Saturday.”

“It’s amazing to see her here at Churchill; I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” added jockey Mike Smith, who has piloted Zenyatta in 16 of her 19 victories and will be aboard in this year's Classic.

“It’s finally here, and she’s ready, and we’re ready, so let’s go have some fun,” Smith continued as he watched Zenyatta do her infamous sidestep dance while looking for a new grazing spot on the sun-splashed lawn. “She’s the ultimate entertainer; she should get entertainer of the year every year,” he said with a laugh. “She knows what you guys want. She knows you want to see her pose and dance, so she just does it every time. No one tells her to; she just does it all by herself.

“She’s just done so much for me and for so many people around the world. You wouldn’t believe the letters I get every day from 6-year-old girls to 80-year-old men. It’s just who she is; it’s hard to explain. John Sherriffs said it the best a long time ago. She’s an experience; you have to see it to believe it.

“I know how important this (Classic) is…I’d give anything I’ve done in my career for this; I’d give it all up just for this one race.”

The Mosses, who were also present for Zenyatta’s arrival, said they were thankful for such a hospitable arrival for their star horse.

“Everything she does is magic, magic, magic,” said Ann Moss. “She’s like that—it’s like she’s from the stars. She’s so kind and spectacular from every aspect, and she’s so kind to everybody; you can kiss her nose.”

“To have her here at the Classic again with all the history at Churchill is amazing; she just wasn’t ready to quit yet,” said Jerry Moss, who briefly retired Zenyatta late last year following her victory in the 2009 Classic at Santa Anita Park, but then decided to bring her back into training. “She was dancing around the barn and convinced us that she could do it again, so here she is.”

Also aboard the Tex Sutton charter flight from California were 10 other horses that are scheduled to compete in the Breeders’ Cup, including Preakness (gr. I) winner Lookin At Lucky  , who will face Zenyatta in the Classic. Others included A Z Warrior and Gabby's Golden Gal for trainer Bob Baffert; Champ Pegasus and Crown of Thorns   for Richard Mandella; Awesome Gem and Tropic Storm for Craig Dollase; Unzip Me for Martin Jones; Jaycito for Mike Mitchell; and J P's Gusto   for David Hofmans.

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