It was her first race against males and her first time to run 1 1/4 miles, but Zenyatta would not be denied her 14th consecutive victory, as the first female in history to win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, today at Santa Anita Park.
“Horse of the Year? She’s the Horse of the Decade,” said jockey Mike Smith, when asked if this win would clinch the Horse of the Year title for the 5-year-old mare, who was up against the world’s toughest males, including 2009 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winners Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, and European G1 winner Rip Van Winkle.
Zenyatta’s was not the only “first” for the Classic. Quality Road became the first horse to be scratched at the gate, as a result of his fractious behavior. Following that fiasco, all horses were unloaded, then reloaded into the gates, causing some anxious moments for their connections, including Jerry and Ann Moss and John Shirreffs, Zenyatta’s owners and trainer.
Zenyatta, the 5-2 favorite, broke off lead, then gathered herself at the back of the field, as is her custom. She was eleven lengths off the lead, when Smith moved her in on the far turn to save ground and look for a hole. When the hole didn’t open, Smith swung her five horses wide to the outside and made his bid.
From that point, the leaders were locked in a time warp, as Zenyatta raced past to win by a length.
As Smith jogged her back up the track, post race and the crowd cheered, Zenyatta kept her ears pricked, as if to say, “No one enjoys this more than me.”