Gotta Match - By Lenny Shulman

(Originally published in the February 5, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)    

 Zenyatta has been celebrated not only for her exploits from starting gate to wire, but for the anthropomorphic traits we attribute to her. Her pawing at the ground before a race to intimidate her foes; her dancing around the paddock to show her readiness for battle; and her softer side, the gentleness with which she receives visitors and well-wishers no matter their age, size, or circumstance.

Now comes the news that Zenyatta will pay her first prom visit to Bernardini, by every account one of the most promising and well-pedigreed young stallions in the world. The experts have had their way in matching up the happy couple after studying their physicals, pedigrees, and precociousness for many, many hours, and I am certain they have done their homework well. I am here to add my two cents: Beyond all the nicking and measuring and studying, these two great kids match up superbly personality-wise as well.

Bernardini displayed enough talent to be named champion 3-year-old male in 2006, out-polling the popular, ill-fated Barbaro. Still, we may never have seen his best. He was one of those horses, even at 2 and before he ever won a race, that his connections would brag on; so good they didn’t want to speak his name or jinx what they knew they were seeing. Around trainer Tom Albertrani’s barn, though, there was no doubt what this horse could become.

Bernardini didn’t really enter the public consciousness until that fateful Preakness (gr. I) day, when he broke from the gate a virtual unknown, despite having won the Withers Stakes (gr. III). Even his brilliant run in the Preakness was relegated to sidebar status as the eyes of the world trained instead on the fallen warrior Barbaro. Weeks later, as the racing universe arrived in New York for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the decision was made by his connections to skip that race, and, thus, while lesser contestants trained for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, Bernardini watched them from his stall in Barn 10 on the Belmont backstretch.

That is where I got to know him.

Albertrani and his staff were extraordinarily gracious to my colleague Steve Haskin and myself, allowing us not only to go see the Preakness winner, but to spend as much time as we wanted at his stall. And if it was to their chagrin that those visits grew to about an hour each day, they never showed it.

Full disclosure: I am a self-admitted A.P. Indy stalker. As Zenyatta did for so many, he was the one that lit my fire as to what wondrous animals these Thoroughbreds are, and I have taken a, let’s say unusual, interest in him since he began tearing up the racetrack. Photos of him hang in my home and at my office. A Moneigh he “painted” graces my wall. So Bernardini, his first offspring to win a Triple Crown race, was certainly a prime candidate for my affections.

Certain horses just hit you in a mysterious way. Watching me at Bernardini’s door interacting with him, Steve said it was like I was playing with one of my Labradors. We petted on him...and petted on him some more. I kept up a monologue, calling him “Champ” like I was Bundini Brown talking to the great Ali. When he’d thrust his muzzle up, it was playful, never threatening. If he grew weary of us, he never said so, never retreated to the back of the stall. Having writing duties, we’d be the ones to cut the session off; he was still game to keep the visit going.

Bernardini is a plain brown wrapper, yet stunning. To see him simply walking, your vision freezes on him. You knew he was different, and you at once realized he was one of the ones that would stay forever in your mind’s eye.

Two months later I stood on the roof above the press box at Saratoga, binoculars pressed against my eye sockets, to watch his Travers (gr. I). The binoculars didn’t do much good—my hands were shaking like Don Knotts seeing a ghost. He put aside any reason for nerves, winning by a pole. At the barn the next morning he was a touch more full of himself, like “Did you see what I just did?”

We saw. And now, with his first crop having shown tremendous promise last year, comes his date with the equally personable Zenyatta. eHarmony couldn’t have planned a better match.


Leave a Comment:


What a fantastic match! They are both gorgeous and loaded with personality. It will be interesting to see if her first foal is a colt or filly and if the Mosses and trainer Sheriffs start training at 2 years rather than 3 years plus as we saw with Zenyatta.

01 Feb 2011 12:23 PM

I think he is quite handsome!

01 Feb 2011 12:37 PM
Robert you, I am an avid fan of A.P. Indy.  I could have sworn Zenyatta was headed to his court this year.  My 2nd choice was Bernardini and my 3rd choice was Giants Causeway.  I am glad she is going to a stallion who could go a distance of ground.  Now that stud #1 has been chosen, I begin to think if A.P. Indy will even be considered, even for future foals.  He is an older stallion at 22, but not so old that he won't be breeding in 2 or 3 years.  The rumors of his fertility getting bad are false.  I wonder if Zenyatta's now 2 year old 1/2 sister by Bernardini showing tremendous signs of being a super race horse had anything to do with the stud choice.  Still, I would have gone to A.P. Indy first due to his age and the fact that Balance threw a 4.2 million dollar sale baby.  He will be at the races this year and could go a long way to having A.P. Indy be the "man" for 2012.

01 Feb 2011 12:54 PM
Judith A Baxter

Bernadini is 'marrying up' by being paired with Zenyatta. The stallions conncetions can talk all they wnat about their stallions' qualities, but I have no doubt that the 'class' and quality  of this foal and Zenyatta's future offspring will be due to Zenyatta. We can only wait and see how the foals turn out. As Mike Smith said 'No one is worthy of her'.  

01 Feb 2011 1:08 PM
Karen in Indiana

Bernardini wasn't one of the horses I'd paid much attention to until the announcement he would be Zenyatta's first. After watching the video of him on this website, I can see what it is you fell for. He's perfect - there's nothing I could see about him physically that could be changed to make him fit together better. And you can see that he has a wonderful personality. He is prancing like he KNOWS he's special and he knows that you know it, too. Can't wait to see what they produce, but am tempering my expectations to somewhat realistic levels.

01 Feb 2011 1:23 PM


A.P. Indy would be a great match for Zenyatta but in the world of comparing horses to humans (which we can't help doing with Zenyatta's anthropomorphic traits)it seems that Zenny would be happier with a younger stud her own age rather than an "older man".  Who knows...maybe she likes older, more experienced males?  In that case, A.P Indy could be her man (Stallion) next time around ! I just watched the video of Bernardini on the Bloodhorse website and he is a very handsome, beautfully conformed, somewhat sassy young stallion. Should be a sizzling mating between the two.

01 Feb 2011 1:50 PM


01 Feb 2011 1:58 PM
Julie L.

This is a very good match. My first choice was Bernardini's daddy but his son is a very worthy mate for the great Zenyatta.

01 Feb 2011 3:22 PM
needler in Virginia

LOVE Bernardini's nice, straight hind legs; the shoulder isn't as good as Zenyatta's, but BOTH their motors look just fine, thanks very much! Should be a nice, solid mix with talent for the classic distances. I always prefer a distance horse, and Zenyatta seems to that in spades; she certainly can't be called a sprinter! Both seem determined competitors, and both seem to have loads of heart (I wonder if Zenyatta's heart has ever been seen on an ultrasound?? I'd LOVE to see THAT!); both also seem to have a personality......that doesn't mean squat in a racehorse, but considering the attention the young 'un will be getting, it never hurts.

On paper and on film, this looks like a classic match with all sorts of potential. I only hope the world doesn't come apart when Zenyatta doesn't re-create herself....the odds of THAT particular genetic miracle are somewhere between slim and none..... however, this pairing just might be the one that makes everyone step back and say "WELL, OF COURSE, we should have seen it all along!!" We always hope, right?

Thanks for a grand analysis, Lenny; he REALLY IS a stunner, isn't he??? There's something about that horse that makes you look again and again and again........... it's a damn shame we didn't see him run longer, more's the pity. NOW, if these two can get a slow-maturing, long running baby with personality to burn and that look of eagles...........

Best to the Zenyatta AND Bernardini connections!  Cheers and safe trips to all.

01 Feb 2011 3:35 PM

Thanks, Lenny, for sharing that.  He's impressive.

01 Feb 2011 4:21 PM

Lenny, I visited A.P. last year and  What a sweetheart he was, taking pats and mints from tiny kids as graciously as could be. I, too, just fell in love right then with his gentle spirit.  Now that I know he stamped that grace onto Bernardini, I'm thrilled with the match to Zenyatta, the epitome of class.  Thanks for the article.

01 Feb 2011 5:03 PM

great read!..i was also surprised that the mosses went outside lanes end. that being said, "berni" is a great choice.

if i may, does anyone know the name of the Balance foal AND zennys half sisters names?..any info on either would be awesome..thanks!!

01 Feb 2011 5:42 PM

What a beautiful post. AP Indy is my adored favorite and I take pride in any son of his. I just couldn't love Bernardini anymore; when I saw him in the post-parade for the Withers, I thought he was one of the most magnificent horses I've ever seen. In the video recently posted on the Blood Horse, it's obvious that Bernardini still has it. He reminds me a great deal of a lankier, lighter version of his great grandsire, the one and only Slew.  I definitely want to visit him one day..........

I still have not gotten over the Sheikh retiring this horse before we got to really see him at his be at his best. At least he's off to a very good start as a sire..............

01 Feb 2011 6:15 PM
Fritz the Cat

Bernardini really stamps his offspring with precocious talent,both he and Zenyatta are hot blooded Alphas who make the perfect couple.

01 Feb 2011 6:45 PM

Thank you, Lenny, for giving us more inside information on Bernardini from the perspective of one who was smitten with him.  Having never heard of him until he won the Preakness in which Barbaro was injured, and having fallen completely in love with Barbaro, I guess I just didn't get to know much about him.  The next thing I knew, he was being retired, so I'm glad you have filled in the blanks.  His young ones have started off very well and the video Bloodhorse put together was wonderful, so I'm very excited about the possibilities for the upcoming foal.  Thank you!

01 Feb 2011 6:56 PM
Kristen Ohler

Thank you Robert for your comments.  You saved me much typing.  I could have written that entire piece myself.   AP Indy, Bernardini and Giant's Causeway in that order.  I agree with you 100 percent!!!  The much anticipated 4.2 million 2 year old I believe you're refering to, is a colt by AP Indy-Balance and he is in training, can't remember the trainer.  His name is Mr. Besilu.  Since we're on the AP Indy subject, there is another potential star in the making, not sure if a colt or filly, a 2 year old out of Madcap Escapade named Divine Escapade. Is in training.  She cost "only $900,000" as a yearling. Much to look forward to in 2011

01 Feb 2011 7:31 PM

This Bernarbaby is going to have alot to live up to. Everything Big Z does is just golden though, so I have no doubt that will carry over to her babies. Can't wait!!!

01 Feb 2011 7:38 PM

I have also been a long time A.P. Indy fan and hoped she would be going to him. I'm wondering if part of the reason they are not going to him could be his declining fertility rate.

I started to notice this last year when I read that some of the mares that were bred to him early were later bred to other stallions.

I went back and checked, and unfortunately his fertility rate has been dropping steadily in the last couple of years - darn, darn and darn...

01 Feb 2011 8:02 PM
Ida Lee

I saw the video of Bernardini and OMG he is drop-dead gorgeous. I'm sure Zenyatta will go gaga over her "fiance" when she meets him. Cannot wait to see their babies!!

01 Feb 2011 8:17 PM

Another A.P. Indy stalker weighing in.....I loved Bernardini on the race track, but had to be reminded of how phenomenal his races were by watching The Blood-Horse video. I also was hoping Z would go to API first, but can't at all say I'm disappointed by Bernardini. He is beautiful, his video showed spirit and personality, and I loved hearing about your Belmont visit.

01 Feb 2011 8:25 PM

Lenny - what a nice blog! It's good to have your first-person impressions of Bernardini, this tells me more about the Horse than all the pedigree/nick analysis under the sun.  And what a great video of Zen's "date" on the front page!  

Thanks, Lenny - and thanks, Bloodhorse!

01 Feb 2011 9:02 PM
Paula Higgins

First Mr. Shulman, you are one very funny man! Loved this piece, it made me laugh. ITA with everything you wrote. I am a Bernadini fan and think this was an inspired choice. He is also drop dead gorgeous. Cannot wait to see their foal.

01 Feb 2011 9:03 PM
Kristen Ohler

Forgot to mention I'm also an AP Indy stalker.  Loved seeing Rags to

Riches beating Curlin in the Belmont. Indy and Storm Cat my fav's.  Now Bernardini and Bluegrass Cat plus many others will take these great bloodlines further

01 Feb 2011 10:40 PM

@Kurt, the AP Indy-Balance colt is Mr. Besilu, named for his new owner's stable.

Zenyatta's half siblings are:

*Wheres Bailey, 2002, by Aljabr

*Balance, 2003, by Thunder Gulch

*Treasure Trail, 2006, by Pulpit

*Souper Spectacular, 2007, by Giant's Causeway

*Eblouissante, 2009, by Bernardini

*Filly, 2010, by Henrythenavigator

Wheres Bailey and Balance are both stakes winners. Balance is a winner of four G1s. Treasure Trail did not do well on the track, with a record of 4-0-0-0. Souper Spectacular, Z's only half brother, has been winning since switching to turf. Eblouissante is a 2-year-old in training at John Shirreff's barn. John is reported to be very high on her.

01 Feb 2011 10:42 PM

Bernardini is gorgeous and a bit more refined looking than his sire, as well as a little more refined in appearance than Zenyatta herself.

He had tactical speed and his conformation works well with hers, so I'm looking forward to next year when we'll see the first Zen baby.

02 Feb 2011 12:37 AM

It`s a great match, but I have to say, I still wanna see Afleet Alex and Zenyatta get together at least once for a foal. Back on track, Zenyatta and Bernardini will no doubt produce a great foal. The combination of their conformation, race records, and personalities should do wonders!

02 Feb 2011 12:52 AM

I, of course, fell in love with Bernardini's grandsire, Seattle Slew.  He was my choice to win the Preakness that year.  Bernardini seems to have inherited the precociousness and the speed of Slew, without dragging along the fiery temperment.  He was always my first choice for Zen because....he's perfect....and much younger and more fertile than his daddy.  Slew started an empire.  It would seem Bernardini is destined to do the same.

Great Blog, Lenny.  Now...when is the bridal shower and the stag party?  I think we all want to go.

02 Feb 2011 8:40 AM

I am equally smitten with A.P. Indy and have been for years.  Can you find a better pedigree???!  Like many I thought Z would go to him or Giant's Causeway (another favorite!) but I do like the Bernardini pick.  He has a little something extra from his dam....she brings that Quiet American influence which I like alot. So, on paper, this looks like a match made in heaven.  Let's hope for the best!

02 Feb 2011 9:48 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

Enjoyed your article.  Thanks.

02 Feb 2011 10:15 AM

I had picked Mineshaft for Zen, thinking she would be bred to one of the farm stallions, I liked him even over API, so I think they picked a great match for her.

The only thing I don't like about Bernardini is he's tied in below the knee more than I'd like to see, but so much else going for him...

I had a hard time enjoying Bernardini because Barbaro was the horse I had been crazy about waaay before he became famous, so I would always wonder "what if"...Bernardini has a fantastic pedigree and I think it's a great match....

02 Feb 2011 11:53 AM
Love 'em all

This really 'sparked' my interest and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

The B & Z match sounds like a winner.  What a classy, classy pair!

Always thought the classy Bernardini folks kept him out of the Belmont to show respect to Barbaro.  

Congrats to all parties.

02 Feb 2011 12:16 PM

Bernardini is one gorgeous horse but I thought hustling him off to the shed after only one season was a huge downer. It isn't fair to dislike the horse because of the owner's decision but I do. I had my fingers crossed for A.P.Indy. I am very glad that this foal will have the blood of Seattle Slew and Secretariat running through it's veins. I do know that the chances of Zenyatta being the broodmare that Personal Ensign and Miesque were are slim. She is more likely to follow the path of Genuine Risk.

02 Feb 2011 12:19 PM

I always look forward to any post by you or Steve, particularly when connected with Zenyatta or A P Indy and now Bernardini. Thank you for allowing us to get to know Bernardini better.

02 Feb 2011 12:40 PM
Linda M

Great report Lenny.  My all time favorite was the mighty Slew, and have followed his kids forever.  I had seen him race many many times, and of course saw AP as well.  So, what better blood lines and confirmation can we have, both between Z and B?  THE PERFECT MATCH.  Can't wait to see the baby.  Does anybody know when they will be bred?

02 Feb 2011 1:01 PM
Mary M. Meek

@Kurt -- Balance's colt by A.P. Indy was the sales topper at Keeneland in September at $4.2 million.  He is a two-year-old now and has been named Mr. Besilu.  Balance has a Street Cry (Zenyatta's sire) yearling colt and is in foal to Street Cry again for a 2011 foal.

02 Feb 2011 3:50 PM

I figured that the reason they went with Bernardini is that its a proven nick (AP Indy over Mr. Prospector line mare) but the inbbreeding to Mr. Prospector is limited to a 5s x 4d.  Other than that, Bernardini is a total outcross for Zenyatta.

On paper, it seems like a perfect match...his speed with her stamina (through her damsire, Kris S).

02 Feb 2011 4:02 PM
Linda Craig

Very endearing, thank you Lenny

02 Feb 2011 4:13 PM
Tiz Very Tough

Great! Zen should go to A.P. Indy after her Bernardini foal, and Raitch should go to Tiznow after she goes to Curlin.

02 Feb 2011 6:36 PM

One of my favorite pictures is of A.P. Indy cavorting in the snow. Simply breath taking.

Thanks for the article.


03 Feb 2011 7:51 AM

He looks like his grandpa, Seattle Slew.  Can't get much better than that.

03 Feb 2011 11:44 AM

I was hoping they wouldn't even send Zenyatta to Kentucky.

I'm hopeful she will be sent to a Euro Stallion ideally, Sea the Stars.

While we were 'ooing and ahhing' Rachel and Zenyatta. STS put together the best season in European Racing History. He one at a mile and 1 1/2. He will produce and I think they should go to him for the best stamina and durability available in a stallion. He also wasn't a 17+ size horse. I think his size will couple well with Zenyatta.

03 Feb 2011 3:04 PM
needler in Virginia

Tiz Very Tough........Tiznow has been pensioned, so there's probably NO chance Rachel will be visiting HIS breeding shed.....more's the pity. I could see Zenyatta with Tiznow quite easily, but then I was hoping she could have stayed closer to home, anyway.

All that said, Bernardini certainly seems to complement Zenyatta, and that's about all anyone can expect when it comes to breeding! It's easier to handicap the Kentucky Derby two years in advance than it is to figure out what you're gonna get in just eleven months!

Cheers and safe trips to everyone.

03 Feb 2011 4:53 PM
Abigail A

....and he dances too!!!!

03 Feb 2011 5:07 PM
mike rullo

a.p.indy is the greatest of all time.

my favorite horse.

03 Feb 2011 5:17 PM
Blood-Horse Staff

needler in Virginia - Tiznow has not been pensioned. Perhaps you were thinking of his sire Cee's Tizzy, who was pensioned.

03 Feb 2011 5:27 PM

There's a good column on the DRF site today about Zenyatta's 2-yr-old half-sister by Bernardini. I think it pretty well explains why the Mosses chose him. I think it's a great choice myself.

03 Feb 2011 6:01 PM
needler in Virginia

Blood-Horse Staff.....You're absolutely right, and thank you for waking me up! I think my brain has frozen this week. Based on that information, and because I've CLEARLY lost my mind, Zenyatta SHOULD be going to Tiznow.....Cee's Tizzy would have been better, but I guess we all can live with Bernardini. Like that's not a good idea.........

Cheers and safe trips to those who are more in touch than I!!!

03 Feb 2011 6:18 PM

Great article Lenny and insight into Bernardini's personality.  Wow, you and Steve visiting him, it seems Bernardini really liked you guys too!  I would rather they had picked Afleet Alex, but I am ok with Bernardini too.  I think he and Alex are going to be two top sires in the near future, both surpassing their heritage lines or transcending them.  I am glad to hear Bernardini has a similar personality to Zenyatta, great match.  Poor Bernardini, his greatness wasn't fully realized I don't think and whatever we saw of it was overshadowed by Barbaro's breakdown and eventual death.  I remember not paying all that much attention to Bernardini, although acknowledging him, and checking the New Bolton Center website daily for Barbaro updates faithfully until his death.  I had a feeling the suitor would be one of "Darley's Darlings."  That's ok by me, even Hard Spun is a good match to me, same personality and size is good.  Alex is on the smaller side.  Wow, Bernardini and Zenyatta, the foal?  Zendini the Great!!!!!!!!  I hope Zenyatta is happy with their choice as well.

03 Feb 2011 7:55 PM

After seeing Bernardini at CD in the BCC, he is one of the best young studs around. He has the stance, strut and speed. He makes running look effortless.  his conformation is exceptional and I understand has a good personality.

03 Feb 2011 7:58 PM
Mike Relva

Mr. Shulman

Great work. I think it's a very good match.

03 Feb 2011 10:40 PM

Very humorous blog Lennie, enjoyed it immensley. I would have preferred Big Z to go to Giant's Causeway, thought he was the best fit for her. Why go to the son (Bernardini) when you can get the dad (A.P. Indy). Breeding horses is a crap shoot at best and I suppose time will tell whether this was a good choice or not......

04 Feb 2011 3:21 AM

Lord grant me's going to be a long, long year:) This is a match made in Heaven!

04 Feb 2011 10:11 AM

How many hands is Bernardini again? Sorry personal question.

04 Feb 2011 12:05 PM

Tammi... count me in on that prayer too.  Ugghhh.... I don't like to wait but, patience!!!  lol

Ann, Bernie is 16.2 hands.  

04 Feb 2011 4:12 PM

I personally think they are a fabulous match. Bernardini unfortunately didn't get to race past his 3yr old year, but I bet he could have been a major force. I think his conformation will compliment Zenyatta very well.

04 Feb 2011 6:46 PM


According to Darley USA website, our pretty boy Bernardini is

16.1 1/2 hands.

04 Feb 2011 7:00 PM
Kristen Ohler

Bernardini stands 16.1 1/2 hands

04 Feb 2011 9:06 PM

Loved Bernadini the first time I saw him.  Such a good looking horse as well as a great racer.  Zenyatta and Berndini should produce some very good foals.

05 Feb 2011 12:30 AM

Hi Lenny,

Thank you for another great article!  You and Steve are the best!

I'm high on Bernardini, have been even before the Preakness.  I had a 'feeling' that day that he would be the winner despite the naysayers.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Barbaro, but I felt in my bones it was going to be Bernardini anyway.  I saw him at Saratoga and Belmont -he was just fabulous.

I'm so happy he was chosen for Zenyatta's first mating.  While I had not seen A.P.Indy race, I have always liked him primarily, because he carries Secretariat' blood through his daughter Weekend Surprise.  Always the credit for great foals go to Seattle Slew or Northern Dancer for exceptional foals, however, it is always overlooked that those horses were mated to Secretariat's daughters and in my book he blood is just as potent in those matings!

I watched the video clip of Bernardini and he seems to have a few dance steps himself.  He is in a plain brown wrapper, as you said, but he is most beautiful and has his own charisma.  I would suggest the name Baryshnikov if a colt is born - after all what would you name the son of two dancers?  If a filly, Exquis - french for exquisite.

I hope the foal is healthy and  a credit to its heritage with a very healthy successful life and career.  It would be nice if they mated Zen with him more than once.

Thanks again for a wonderful article.  I love the laughs and info of 'And Their Off'.


05 Feb 2011 8:00 PM
Tracy Campion

A fun read - eagerly anticipating a baby Zendini or Bernyatta ; )

06 Feb 2011 11:17 AM

Mike Relva its the best match. although i would like to see the old man ap indy. the talented tiz now or sea the stars get a turn at big z. go go team z.

07 Feb 2011 11:53 PM


 'THE ONE' for me was Seattle Slew, who I followed from the '76 Champagne and got to see in person in the '78 Woodward.  I've followed his babies, grandbabies and great-grandbabies from day 1.  He's truly the gift that keeps on giving.

  As for Bernardini, he's done his granddaddy proud and hopefully will continue to do so for many years to come.

08 Feb 2011 10:09 AM
Gabriel Leme

As promising as Bernardini seems to be as a young sire and undoubtedly a tremendous match for Zenyatta, I would still love to see her embark on an overseas journey to meet up with European "super horse" GALILEO.

Regarding Seattle Slew, he owes his survival to this day solely through A.P. Indy and his sons. Although Seattle Slew was better in the racetrack, A.P. Indy proves year after year to be a monster in the breeding shed.

10 Feb 2011 8:07 PM

I still think that Zenyatta should be paired with Midnight Lute one day .... both 17+ hands .....

13 Feb 2011 10:56 PM

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