Thoroughbred fans love Zenyatta and that’s that. You might wonder why so many fans, even those who were holding losing tickets at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 6, 2010 when Kenyatta finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Class, continue to love this mare. The truth is it’s hard, whether you have followed Kenyatta for several years, several months or even several minutes not to get caught up in a mixed feeling of both awe and affection. This is one special horse.
For those who are thoroughbred fans and follow the sport year round, at live meets or glued to their computer or television, the story of Zenyatta began several years ago. Now six years old, Kenyatta hauled a jockey around in a professional race for the first time on Nov. 22, 1907 and recorded her first win. Apparently the experience took because from that day until 11/6/10 winning was all she did. And it didn’t take horse race fans long to establish a bond with Zenyatta.
Part of the attention she got was from her apparent “no losing” approach to her races. Race horse fans surely love a winner. But there was more to Zenyatta. She had style on and off the track. Fans noticed how Zenyatta seemed to enjoy letting others take the lead while she ambled along with a certain nonchalance. Then with lightening-like efficiency she would make her move responding to Jockey Mike Smith’s signal.
Off the track Zenyatta developed a reputation for being kind almost gentle to the humans who cared for her. She seemed to know she was special and responded to the special attention she received. Her trainer John Shirreffs, obviously enamored of this champion referred to her in a New York Times article in April as ” the coolest horse in the world”.
For those who have far less acquaintance of say a few months or just those few seconds of the Breeders Cup Classic of November 6, 2010, Zenyatta is nothing less than a major league show stopper. Most of us who happened by a television during the running of this race had the same incredible rush as we watched this much ballyhooed animal make what we thought was a dreadful beginning. Some must even have wondered is this animal injured, she is not even near the pack. Others felt badly for those who had sunk money into this horse.
But the more we watched the more we became infatuated. We realized that this horse was not injured. The jockey was making no move to get her to pick up her pace. Together they made a silhouette of indifference as the rest of the filed pounded around the track. Then it was like magic. Zenyatta found a whole other gear in engine and she was off like someone who remembered they had a pressing engagement on the other side of the track.
A pity that she could not quite out nose the winner. A very talented Blame won the race. But the horse of the day
was Zenyatta, who may just be the best race horse you’ll ever see.