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Zenyatta Makes "Her"Story

Zenyatta, ridden by jockey Mike Smith, crossing the finish line at the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Photo courtesy Benoit Photography
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She did it. It took a shade over two minutes, 2:00.62 to be exact, but Zenyatta became the first mare or filly to win the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in an improbable come-from-behind fashion that was indeed a classic.

“It certainly takes an incredible, incredible mare to do it,” hall-of-fame jockey Mike Smith said. “And you know, her size and just her style of running and the length of her stride is incredible.”

“We’re over the moon,” owner Jerry Moss said. “We knew we wanted to do this for her to prove what we thought that she deserved this chance. She just performed so beautifully.”

Moss, it should be noted, is a co-founder of A&M Records and named Zenyatta after the 1980 Police album Zenyatta Mondatta.

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The Santa Anita crowd of 58,845 was behind Zenyatta all day holding up pink signs reading, “Girl Power! Go Zenyatta.”

Photo courtesy Benoit Photography

“The way the crowd took to her was just amazing,” Moss gushed. “They cheered for her, they clapped for her; they love her. What a wonderful relationship.”“I’ve never seen a crowd so captivated,” trainer extraordinaire Bob Baffert said. “It felt like a horse winning the third leg of the Triple Crown.”

The race started off with a bit of drama as Quality Road, racing from the 12th position, refused to get in the starting gate. With the first 11 horses locked in the gate, they tried scaring him with the sound of the whip and by blindfolding him to get him in the gate. All attempts were futile as he kept bucking violently scraping his hind leg which eventually forced him to be scratched from the race.

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The drama clearly affected Zenyatta a bit because she didn’t get any jump whatsoever out of the starting gate.

“She started getting a little agitated,” Smith said of the drama. “I was a little worried when the gates opened she wouldn't move period, and she didn't. So that was a huge, man, I thought oh, God, no, not today.

“She actually spotted a length or two leaving there. I had to get her out of there. I had to hit her out of there. I didn't know if she was going to stand or back out again. When she did come out she was in her left lead which isn't what you want to be in. You want to be in your rights on the straights and lefts on the turns. I let her go. Let her get back to the lead and she gathered herself up.”