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Have you heard???


November 8, 2009     E-mail this page to a friend!

A triumphant Mike Smith hails the crowd after winning the Breeders' Cup Classic aboard Zenyatta
(photo by Robert Cooke, Jr., courtesy of NTRA and Breeders' Cup)
By Karen Svea Johnson

Maybe you haven’t heard yet—maybe you have just returned from hunting high in the hills, or awakened just this morning from a long coma, or emerged from a cave.

Zenyatta beat the boys.

In the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, super-mare Zenyatta, with Mike Smith up, took on eleven challengers after the scratch of the gate-refusing Quality Road. She emerged from the event undefeated, her career record now 14-0, after a one-length victory over the talented field of males.

Gio Ponti, with Ramon Dominguez aboard, was second under the wire, with Twice Over, under Thomas Queally, behind that pair.

Los Angeles Times sportswriter Bill Dwyer offered a great snapshot of pre-race excitement in today’s Sports front-page story. “Zenyatta has the star quality that anoints her one for the ages. Before the race, she walked out of the saddling area and stopped dead at the entrance to the paddock walking ring. Her ears perked up. Her public was there and she knew it. They wanted a close-up. So she posed, patiently, as cameras clicked and mothers hugged daughters in excitement.”

The battle-of-the-sexes aspect of the race created added excitement, and inspired Zenyatta supporters to bring signs declaring “Maneater!” and “Girl Power!” Less gender-specific support was evident, too. TVG distributed large, pink signs with “Go Zenyatta” emblazoned in turquoise.

The shape of the race was “typical Zenyatta.” She broke unhurriedly and settled into last place. Three-fourths of a mile into the race she was still at the back of the pack, having moved only to eleventh. At the top of the stretch, she had moved up to sixth, and was within four lengths of the leader. Mike Smith steered her expertly in the final quarter mile, finding a hole shortly after leaving the turn. The pair then came thundering past the hard-running leaders.

The crowd of 58,845 roared as their superstar found the finish line first. Cheers, tears, hugs, and hopes for the future of racing animated the crowd, virtually all on their feet for the heroine’s return to the winner’s circle. Track announcer Trevor Denman summed up the moment: “Ladies and gentlemen, the undefeated, and incomparable, Zenyatta.”