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Zenyatta wins the Classic Santa Anita 7.11.09

Zenyatta: extended perfect record to 16 in the Apple Blossom on Friday

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker  

Zenyatta-mania grips the States after sweet sixteen

WORLD CLASS: an analysis of the best performances of last week according to Racing Post Ratings

TOP OF THE CLASS: Zenyatta 123+

Trainer: John Shirreffs (US)

Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap, 1m1f, April 9

ZENYATTA-MANIA has gripped the west coast of America and now it is spreading.

Dedicated fans arrived in their hundreds to cheer the great mare off the plane in Arkansas, hoisting placards like "Marry me, Zenyatta" and "Run like a girl".

The frenzy around the colossal six-year-old seems to be growing race by race and if marriage proposals are on the table this early in the campaign one can only imagine what the superstar can expect at the Breeders' Cup in November.

She is stealing hearts across the US and it is not only because of her flawless career record, nor just for the character she shows in playing up to the big occasion, prancing and bowing for the crowd, but it is also for what she represents as a female dominating in the predominantly male world of racing.

Oaklawn Park racegoers received the full Zenyatta treatment on Friday, as she dealt out one of the cosiest victories of her life in the Apple Blossom Invitational and then proceeded to skip and bow to her public in the grandstand, who reciprocated with an uplifting roar.

Such an occasion is a rarity in racing and connections were understandably swept away with the moment, with owner Jerry Moss reflecting: "It's really something overwhelming at times."

His horse, after twice failing to land Horse of the Year honours, has finally started to receive due credit for her incredible career - Zenyatta is fast becoming a national icon.

Having extended her perfect record to 16, her ever-doting fan base of ‘Zennies' were on hand to make the occasion allthe more memorable, giving her the rousing reception she fully deserved.

This Zenyatta-mania is not a one-way street, however. Far from it. While the fans may follow her avidly, taking pictures, posting videos on YouTube, waving banners, cheering for her and shouting requests for her to 'dance', Zenyatta always, without exception, repays them with the performance of a true star.

With such supreme ability she did not need to create a niche for herself as a showgirl,but it all comes as part of the queen-size package that is Zenyatta - and America loves it.

Regular rider Mike Smith believes she is better than ever this year and, of Friday's success, said: "She did it well, well within herself."

Four-and-a-quarter lengths was the official margin back to Taptam, but if Smith was to have pressed the button the distance could have been anything.

A winning RPR of 123+ features just below her previous figure from the Santa Margarita Invitational (124+), but it still represents a performance of the highest calibre.

It should be remembered that, with her hold-up style of racing, and with Smith eager never to push for a maximum output, her superstar status is likely to prove a much better guide to her greatness than any handicap figure ever could.

The giant daughter of Street Cry has only got one way of doing things, but it is mighty effective.

Her tried and tested wait-and-pounce routine may also be a contributing factor to her remarkable continuity, as she spends most of the race switched off in the rear, being called on for an effort only for a furlong or so in the straight, before being eased off again at the line.

Smith's insistence on preserving his mount may not win her any big handicap marks, but it could be the key to why she is still winning, and winning well.

Zenyatta's current sequence of 16 straight victories ranks her up with North American stars like Citation and Cigar, but an undefeated run that long takes her into the all-time legend category along with the likes of Ribot from the 20th century and Ormonde from the 19th.

Admittedly, there is a little-known New Mexican mare named Peppers Pride who clocked up 19 from 19 in her native state. But in the upper echelons of the sport, Zenyatta is now dancing with the racing gods and she presently sits just two wins behind the untouchable, unbeatable, unrivalled Eclipse from the 18th century.

After spending two years confined to her home state of California, Zenyatta is expected to travel more this term. As Moss puts it: "We want to let everybody see her, we're proud of her."

Trainer John Shirreffs went further, admitting: "One of the reasons she is racing this year is that we wanted to get people that haven't had a chance to see her race be able to see her."

A schedule is yet to be finalised for the 2010 Zenyatta tour, but trips to Belmont Park and Churchill Downs are being considered before a climax at the Breeders' Cup, also at Churchill Downs, which may be her final call.

Moss had said at the end of last season: "When she won the Breeders' Cup Classic, the retirement scenario seemed obvious. If you were writing a movie, that's how you'd end it."

She was, of course, unretired earlier this year, and her story has already got better, but, with seven months left to run, the ending, and even the middle, of her tale remains unwritten.

Willshe face Rachel Alexandra? Will she stay undefeated? Will she equal or even surpass Eclipse's record? Will she beat the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic for a second time - this time on conventional dirt? Will Zenyatta-mania take over the world?

There is a long way to go before those questions are answered, but her ever-growing fan base will savour every second of the ride.

Over in Ireland another of last season's big guns was in action, but the result was not nearly so pleasing, as Fame And Glory made a tame start to his four-year-old campaign in the Listed Alleged Stakes at the Curragh.

Sent off a 2-5 favourite on the strength of his 2009 form, which included an Irish Derby win and a second-placing in both the Epsom Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, the son of Montjeu could finish only third on Sunday. The effort earned him an RPR of 107+, which is his lowest since his two-year-old debut.

Johnny Murtagh eased him once he was beaten and he clearly needs further than this these days, while he is also fully expected to improve for the run, but this was a flat display nonetheless.

Starting him off over 1m2f may have been something of an experiment by connections, as there is every indication that he will be a better horse over further this season.

He managed to post a big figure over an intermediate trip behind Sea The Stars at Leopardstown in August last year, but the blinding pace helped him that day and when he returned to 1m2f for the Champion Stakes at Newmarket in October he ran his worst race of the season, finishing sixth.

In the Irish Derby he looked like he would stay a good bit further than 1m4f if required and staying trips remain an option for connections later in the season, although a race like the Coronation Cup would seem a more obvious (and more fashionable) short-term target.

Fame And Glory's pedigreealso suggests he will need at least 1m4f this term, as his sire has a record of almost exclusively producing 1m4f horses, and his dam (by Shirley Heights) has rarely produced a speedy type.

1. Quality Road (US) Donn Handicap 128 D
2. Kinsale King (US)
Golden Shaheen 124 A

Zenyatta (US) Santa Margarita Invitational 124 A
4. Danleigh (AUS)
George Ryder 123 T
  Espoir City (JAP) February Stakes 123 D
  Spanish Moon (GB) Sheema Classic 123 T
8. Bob Black Jack (US)
San Carlos Handicap 122 A
  Collection (HK)
Hong Kong Gold Cup 122 T
  Gloria De Campeao (FR) Dubai World Cup 122 A
  Lizard's Desire (SA)
Dubai World Cup 122 A
  Musir (SA)
UAE Derby 122 A
  Presious Passion (US) Mac Diarmida Stakes 122 T
  Presvis (GB)
Jebel Hatta 122 T
  Rocket Man (SIN) Golden Shaheen 122 A
  Sacred Kingdom (HK)
Centenary Sprint Cup 122 T

D = dirt; A = all-weather; T= turf

1. Quality Road (US)  
Donn Handicap 128
2. Espoir City (JAP) February Stakes 123
3. Musket Man (US) Carter Handicap 120
4. Eskenderaya (US) Fountain Of Youth 119
5. Battle Plan (US) New Orleans Stakes 118
  General Quarters (US) New Orleans Stakes 118
  Lookin At Lucky (US) Rebel Stakes 118
  Warrior's Reward (US) Carter Handicap 118
10. Furioso (JAP)
Kawasaki Kinen 117
  Noble's Promise (US) Rebel Stakes 117
  Vermilion (JAP) Kawasaki Kinen 117


1. Kinsale King (US)
Golden Shaheen 124

Zenyatta (US) Santa Margarita Invitational 124
3. Bob Black Jack (US) San Carlos Handicap 122
  Gloria De Campeao (FR)
Dubai World Cup 122
  Lizard's Desire (SA)
Dubai World Cup
  Musir (SA) UAE Derby 122
  Rocket Man (SIN) Golden Shaheen 122
8. Allybar (UAE)
Dubai World Cup
  Misremembered (US) Santa Anita Handicap 121
  Neko Bay (US) Santa Anita Handicap 121


1. Danleigh (AUS) George Ryder 123
  Spanish Moon (GB) Sheema Classic 123
3. Collection (HK) Hong Kong Gold Cup 122
  Presious Passion (US)
Mac Diarmida Stakes 122
  Presvis (GB) Jebel Hatta 122
  Sacred Kingdom (HK) Centenary Sprint Cup 122
7. Al Shemali (UAE)
Dubai Duty Free 121
  Typhoon Tracy(AUS) Orr/ Futurity
  Viva Pataca (HK) 
Centenary Vase
10. Buena Vista (JAP)
Sheema Classic 120
  Cavalryman (UAE) Sheema Classic 120
  Dar Re Mi (GB)
Sheema Classic 120
  Dream Journey (JAP)
Kyoto Kinen 120
  Egyptian Ra (HK) G3 Challenge Cup Handicap
  Fellowship (HK)
Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup 120
  Happy Zero (HK) 
Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup 120
  Heart Of Dreams (AUS) Orr Stakes 120
  Joy And Fun (HK) 
Al Quoz Sprint 120
  La Rocket (AUS)
St George Stakes 120
  Mr Medici (HK) 
Premier Plate 120
  Sirmione (AUS)
Orr Stakes 120
  Starspangledbanner (AUS) 
Newmarket Handicap 120
  Turffontein (AUS)
William Reid/Newmarket Handicap 120
  Ultra Fantasy (HK)
Centenary Sprint Cup 120
  Wanted (AUS) Newmarket Handicap


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