The Art of Zen

(To all those Zenyatta enthusiasts who cringe at the mere mention of a certain other filly’s name, rest assure that name will not appear anywhere in this blog. She will have her own blog in the near future).

Why, you might ask, am I writing yet another blog on Zenyatta? Well, the answer to that question is actually the subject matter. Writers and racing fans cannot get enough of Zenyatta and have melded into a single entity – writers have become fans, to the point where they get giddy over having their picture taken with her, and fans cannot stop writing about her, whether it is on blogs, message boards, Facebook, signs, and even in diaries.

The Zenyatta craze has reached a point where it transcends any previous relationship writers and fans have had with horses. That is because Zenyatta, with her diva-like presence and prima ballerina moves, transcends the Thoroughbred racehorse as we know it.

The scribes of the past certainly had their rooting interests, such as Kelso, Secretariat, Forego, and John Henry, but they were mostly hardcore newspaper writers and didn’t often get an opportunity to reach into their heart and soul and pour out their emotions. Going even farther back, fans in Seabiscuit’s day could only admire their heroes from afar, with only a minute percentage of them actually getting to see them in person. The best they could hope for was catching a glimpse of them in newsreels at their local movie theater. Then came television and the “Gray Ghost,” Native Dancer. It wasn’t until an 11-year-old girl named Heather Noble started the Kelso Fan Club in the early 1960s that young fans had an outlet to express their feelings about a horse or simply bond with other fans.

That obviously has changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet. The Zenyatta phenomenon is difficult to define, because it goes beyond racetrack performance or statistics or even her imposing presence. Yes, she exemplifies perfection and her uncanny showmanship and ability to take on human traits are something no one has ever seen before in a Thoroughbred. But, most importantly, she has been able to find a portal into our childhood. In her, we see The Black Stallion, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, Trigger, and even Mr. Ed (would you be really that shocked to learn that she talks to John Shirreffs?).

Although horses are a part of our fabric, most of us go on to other endeavors and acquire new interests and passions. But the feelings we have for the equine heroes of our youth never die. They just remain dormant until that one special horse comes along and rekindles them. Whether we are 16 or 40 or 70, we all become children once again.

D.H. Lawrence wrote: “Far back, far back in our dark soul the horse prances…The horse, the horse!”

As I mentioned in our last “And They’re Off” video, it has reached a point where going to the track to see Zenyatta run is like going to see the Harlem Globetrotters. You don’t care that they play the lowly Washington Generals, and no one ever remembers or cares about the score. You’re there to see them put on a show and entertain the fans with their antics and amazing skills. Well, who has more showmanship than Zenyatta? Who has antics like Zenyatta? Who can match Zenyatta’s skills? Perhaps one day she can parade to the post to the strains of “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

I have spent several mornings and afternoons with Zenyatta at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita, and it’s something you don’t forget. She has a trainer who knows every strand of hair on her enormous frame and who rarely takes his eyes off her, whether at the barn or on the closed-circuit camera he has hooked up to his computer at home. He videotapes her for the family collection and for Youtube as one would their child. His wife, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, who is the racing manager for owners Jerry and Ann Moss, has stated on numerous occasions that to be around Zenyatta is to experience Zenyatta.

Talking to Terry Wallace, Oaklawn’s director of media relations and track announcer, following Zenyatta’s memorable visit to Oaklawn Park, I could sense a childlike exuberance as he discussed The Big Mare’s stay in Hot Springs, beginning with her much-anticipated arrival at the airport and the 200-300 fans waiting for her holding homemade signs.

And there were the special moments on the backstretch, as fans and media members gathered around Zenyatta like the proverbial rock star.

“As Zenyatta nibbled on grass, many of the reporters came over to get a closer look at her, and our track photographer, Jeff Coady, took pictures of them so they could have a memory of it,” Wallace said. “He later distributed copies to a lot of them, either via e-mail or giving them hard copies. She just took it all in, and it didn’t bother her at all that people were coming over and touching her.”

One veteran writer had his photo taken squatting next to Zenyatta and now uses it as his computer wallpaper.

But no one was affected more by being in the presence of Zenyatta than Wallace’s girlfriend, Marty Walker, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

“When everyone was getting in the middle of things, I said, ‘Marty, you might as well, too; this is your favorite horse and this is your chance,’” Wallace said. “She stepped up and put her hand on Zenyatta’s neck and got her picture taken with her. She’s just as proud as can be to have that picture. It’s her prized possession and she already has it hanging in the living room. I don’t think she ever imagined the day when she could actually touch Zenyatta.

“Last week was a non-chemo week for her, so she was able to be out there, and it came at just the right time while she’s going through all this. She looks at the picture of her touching Zenyatta and it’s an inspiration for her to keep on going. It’s very moving to see. In Marty’s case, it was the perfect match of an animal and human being coming together at just the right time and how much good one can do for the other. This put a real smile on her face.”

Dozens of videos appeared on Youtube before and after the Apple Blossom of Zenyatta strutting, prancing, dancing, and bowing…in other words, just being Zenyatta. One video of her returning after the race sounded as if it was recorded in the balcony of the Ed Sullivan Theater the night The Beatles debuted in America.

They scream, they cheer, they ogle, and in the end, they smile. No one knows how many pages are left to be written in the saga of Zenyatta or what will be inscribed on those pages. She was snatched out of retirement and brought back to the stage for the main purpose of becoming a nationwide star, touring the country and allowing old fans and potential new fans to admire her up close.

Perhaps the most fitting words to describe Zenyatta come from the Peter, Paul, and Mary/Joan Baez song “Stewball.”

“And a-way up yonder,
Ahead of them all,
Came a-dancin’ and a-prancin’
My noble Stewball.”


Leave a Comment:


Steve, many look at Zenyatta and see a wonderful horse.  The few like me that are a bit reserved want to see her take the next step and beat the boys on dirt.  We would all like to cheer her on but there are still a few of us that feel her path has been aided by a surface few can run on.  If she accomplishes half on dirt what she has on plastic it will be a love fest.

17 Apr 2010 6:22 PM

Very well said,  For the most elegant mare on earth,  She is the star of every show, she brings her own personality and charisma with her, Never in my life do I feel we will ever see history played out before us with such a special horse as Zenyatta.......She makes her own history and she owns it.

She leaves her hoofprints in your heart, she leaves herself instilled with you forever...........There will never be another , more famous mare than the queen herself,  ZENYATTA

17 Apr 2010 6:29 PM

Beautiful. I hope one day I can also see the great Queen up close... she's an inspiration to many. As long as her giant strides are cantering down the stretch, she will be capturing the hearts of new fans, young and old alike.  

17 Apr 2010 6:35 PM

on the whole she talking to john shireffs. all horses talk it's up to us to hear what they have to say and we have the hardest time listening since they do most of their talking in silent but clear and preise signals from something as tossing up their head in fear to the slightest tail movement to the nearly unseen tremble of a lip or nostril

17 Apr 2010 6:36 PM

Yes!  This is what I wanted and expected after the Apple Blossom win. Thank You, Thank you, thank you. I can relax now and take it all in knowing her praises are being sung across the land. Comme il faut!

17 Apr 2010 6:38 PM
Steve Haskin

Draynay, this is not about the merits of Zenyatta and how good she is, it's about how she affects people and why. It's about the individual, not whether she's one of the great or whether she's better than Rachel Alexandra. It's a different twist, so I hope readers will look at it as such.

17 Apr 2010 6:45 PM

Beautiful writeup, Steve.  Love the title, too - it's perfect!

Best wishes to Marty.  May she enjoy that picture with Zenny for many, many years to come.

17 Apr 2010 6:50 PM

Absolutely beautiful, Steve! You brought me to tears! For all of you out there who have yet to experience Zenyatta, you must! She is like no other and to be in her presence is to experience greatness. There never was and never will be another racehorse with her personality, charisma and ability. To see her, to witness her turn of foot is breathtaking! She moves with the grace of the finest dancer and struts with the knowledge that she is the queen of the turf. Ruffian was my all time favorite but now a big beautiful dancing mare has taken that spot in my heart.

Dance on Queen Z and heartfelt thanx to the Mosses, Sheriffs, and Mike Smith for keeping her in training for the rest of the world to witness her perfection!!!!!

Long live the Queen!!!

17 Apr 2010 6:57 PM

I won't lie and say I'm not a fan of Rachel Alexandra and I wasn't 100% for her HotY award (she did have the better year in my opinion, and I guess plenty of others). However...Zenyatta is a personality that no one who has seen her could forget.  I have seen her twice (at the Breeders Cup and at Oaklawn just a week ago).  Both times my face was smiling as big as can be, my eyes held a few tears and my camera was going a million clicks a minute.  She is truly a gift that we should all appreciate and enjoy while we have her.  The fact that she hasn't "done" as much is not important to me.  She is something else and I will remember her until I die (or get dementia so badly I can't remember my mom's name, much less a horse).  At this point I could care less if Rachel and Zenyatta meet.  In fact I'd rather them not.  I do believe that RA at her peak would probably beat Zenyatta, and I don't want to see Zenyatta beaten.  I wouldn't be so worried about Zenyatta beating Rachel since RA has been beaten a number of times and her legacy isn't bound up in the idea of perfection.  I hope both mares have great years this year and I hope they can get RA back into good form (I'm afraid the break they gave her was too long and took her too much out of it). I'd love to see Zenyatta take down the Pepper's Pride record, however if the Stephen Foster is the next goal they might have an issue getting to 20 since that is a ways away.  Good luck ladies.  I love you both.

17 Apr 2010 6:59 PM
Gary Lynn

Nice piece Mr. Steve. Asking drayneigh to emote is a mute point.

17 Apr 2010 7:00 PM

Thanx Steve for setting Draynay straight! He seems to have nothing but negative comments to spit out and it's getting old. Zenyatta is Zenyatta and nothing you say, Draynay, will ever change that! She has stamped a place in our hearts and not even you can erase that! We love her for her!! Get over yourself and enjoy the gift that is Zenyatta!!

Long live the QUEEN!!!

17 Apr 2010 7:05 PM
Zips Secret

Great story Steve and well said.  I was a child when Secretariat raced and I am thrilled that there is another that can stir people like he did.  My daughter is one of her biggest fans and has always been sad that she never saw Secretariat in person.  We went to Kentucky to visit the farms and her only request was Clairborne Farms to see where Secretariat lived most of his life and to see where he was buried.  But she has seen Zenyatta in person.  I think it's great and if she never raced again she has given that thrill to a lot of people old and young.

17 Apr 2010 7:06 PM

Steve I enjoyed your story of Zenyatta so much. As Everyday I go to the computer to see if there is anything about her new on. I have fell in love with this beautiful mare. She lights up my life at this dark time. My sister is in a hospice and it is just a matter of time for her. We used to watch racing together and I have missed her so much during the preps for TC races. Her favorite jockey is Calvin Borel sometime she remembers things about the races and some she don't but I keep telling her about it all anyway hoping some of the info gets thru.Thanks again for this lovely story about this once in a life time horse that I pray I will get to see one day.

17 Apr 2010 7:07 PM
Zips Secret

Oh and this comment is for Draynay, can you just quit being a "hater", just enjoy her and Rachel for what they have done for the sport and the enjoyment they bring both on and off the track.  If I was moderating this I doubt I'd even post your comments, seems like they are done to rile people up.

17 Apr 2010 7:08 PM

Mr Haskin,

You mentioned that other horse in your comment above that is a violation!!Just kidding!!

17 Apr 2010 7:10 PM

sodapopkid, you couldn't have said it any better :)

17 Apr 2010 7:14 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Great article.  I was fortunate enough to have seen Zenyatta in person last weekend in the Apple Blossom.  I'd bought my tickets in hopes of seeing the "other filly" too, but had no intentions of cancelling my trip when she was withdrawn.  I wanted to see Zenyatta in person.  I wanted to see the dancing and pawing that I'd so many times seen on TV.  She was wonderful. There's no other mare that I can think of with her personality.  She's wonderful and she knows that she is.  The great thing is, she's willing to share her personality with her fans. Anyone that has the opportunity to ever see her in person should take advantage of it and go.  You'll never regret, it I assure you.  She is history in the making.

17 Apr 2010 7:14 PM
Love this

Draynay, I say this as the most ardent of Rachel "radicals". I this as someone who is more in love with her after the New Orleans Ladies than before - YOU Missed the Point. The Point was to celebrate Zenyatta. This incredibly special talented mare. Nothing more. If you truly love this sport, you want the Dancing Queen to meet up with the Fleet Footed filly who loves nothing more in life than to check how fast her legs can fly. I love happy horses, and that's why I love Zenyatta.

17 Apr 2010 7:14 PM

Celebrity racehorse ...thats Big Z for you.  She knows how to turn on the thrills for her fans and she never fails. Her meandering stretch runs and post race fancy footworks are things of beauty.  Go Zenyatta go ...wonderful mare.  It would be great if she could be HOTY this year (the whole world will be rooting for her) and she has it in her BUT there must be no retreat back into conservatism this year on the part of her connections because Esky and 'His Royal Highness' Quality Road are not going to play gentlemen/ ladies first ...if you please.  As for Rachel Alexandra she has a mountain to climb right now, losing a lot of ground in the battle for the hearts of the fans to "Queen Zen" as well as in the "class dept" due to the perception that she is hiding from Big Z.  Anyway, just one jaw-dropping performance from her will be enough to get the romance and intoxication going again, not to mention the demand for the battle of the ages.  Right now its Zenyatta time.

17 Apr 2010 7:21 PM
John T

No one is doubting that there has

been great fillies and mares that have graced this sport down through

the years,but when you start talking about Zenyatta there is one magic word ''Unbeaten'' And that is after 16 races.She has many

doubters because most of her races have been on a synthetic surface.The Apple Blossom is no ordinary race so when she did tie

Citation and Cigar I was so happy it was on original dirt.Unless some

outstanding 3 year old or more than one emerges before the Breeders Cup Classic she certainly

looks the one for that race right now.But no matter what happens from now on she has earned her place among the greats.

17 Apr 2010 7:24 PM

So who is she more like....

Sinatra, Elvis, Streisand or.....

Who, would you say ???

17 Apr 2010 7:24 PM


"...a portal to our childhood."

That sums it up.  She takes us back to those halcyon days when life was pure and cares were very far away.

Thanks for capturing in words a bit of what makes her shine far above what the "Draynaysayers" can ever hope to see.

Wonderful, wonderful, piece.  

Once in a lifetime mare.

17 Apr 2010 7:25 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Well said Steve, and that is what makes her The Greatest. The Queen. Her showmanship, her connection with her barn and the fans. We sing to her, she sings to us, she dances and we dance, she bows to us and we bow to her. "Yes, your majesty." We love her. She ran one of the greatest races of all time in the Breeder's Cup Classic 2010. A few times in the race I said, "She's not going to make it. Oh well. it doesn't look like she's going to be able to do it this time." (Of course I wondered many times in many races if she would get there in time.) Then zoom, she did it. I was jumping up and down, screaming, then near tears. She has unbelievable confidence. She has compassion. When John Shirreffs is trying to sleep, and trying to get her to sleep, all she cares about is if he has enough hay to sleep on. For she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellow, for she's a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny. Which nobody can deny.

17 Apr 2010 7:25 PM
johnny d

Another excellent article Steve.

17 Apr 2010 7:27 PM

The only horse I can think of to compare in terms of personality and the effect that it had on people is Exterminator, and one has to go way back for that one. He was big, he was a closer, he was one of the smart ones who ran just fast enough to win. By all accounts he seemed to love people. It's said that when placed at the starting line-up (in the days before gates)if the horse next to him wouldn't calm down and stand still, Exterminator would lean into him til the other horse stood still. Other stories of his antics can be found, he is worth googling.

17 Apr 2010 7:29 PM


Here is a video from the local news channel from Hots Springs upon the arrival of Zenyatta for the Apple Blossom.

Check out the lady that was emotionally affected by the mere appearance of Zenyatta.

It's the fever I'll tell you. The Zenyatta Intoxication Love Affair Fever.

17 Apr 2010 7:29 PM

She is for sure a pretty awesome horse.  I can't think of any other in the last 15 years, save RA, who has brought such attention to the sport.  We need more stars like her!  Whether or not she runs against colts, on real dirt, or on the turf for that matter, we are all lucky to have experienced her for what she has already done.

17 Apr 2010 7:30 PM


That was a nice piece on Zenyatta.  She really is something special.  I had the pleasure of attending the past two Breeders' Cup events at Santa Anita, but both times could only get out there for a quick trip and couldn't attend Ladies' Day.

In 2008 I was hoping to see Big Brown vs. Curlin in the Classic and was dissappointed that neither one of them really showed up. It was fun seeing Goldikova and Midnight Lute run huge that day, but the 2008 event pales in comparison.

My trip in 2009 will always be a cherished memory.  Being there to see Zenyatta win the Breeders' Cup Classic was amazing and the reaction in the stands was so incredibly different from the reaction to Raven's Pass' impressive win the year before was stark.  People love Zenyatta and she deserves it.  Even though the Mosses own her, she is America's horse now.

17 Apr 2010 7:31 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

How could Zenyatta's story not be a movie someday? "The Impossible Zenyatta" The theme song could be See Ya Later Alligator, or The Impossible Dream. I'm still waiting for someone, anyone to explain to me how a horse could be 16-0 coming from so far back every time. And I'm not really interested in hearing anymore poly track nonsense, or even small field nonsense. It was easy for her at Oaklawn, easier than Pro Ride, and The Breeder's Cup was a large field against many of the best in the world. Even Quality Road, a really talented horse, refused to run against her. "Zenyatta is in here, no way I'm running. I don't like losing to a girl and looking like a fool."

17 Apr 2010 7:34 PM

What an excellent blog-thank you so much!  For those of us who have been around racing a very long time, there have been few horses like Z. No, she hasn't won a Triple Crown like Secretariat or a Derby like Smarty Jones. But with her, it is more than that. She just has a presence about her that reaches out to all race fans-like Seabiscuit years ago. God bless her connections!  Wins on a track(over whatever surface Draynay) aren't all that make a horse like Z great. In all my years,I have  honestly never seen a horse that had such heart & displayed such intelligence.  I do believe that Z talks to her connections & what is even better-they listen. My young daughter talks about Zenyatta like she is the fabled Black Stallion from the novels. In today's troubled times, I couldn't think of a better hero for my daughter to have than this beautiful horse & her connections.  

17 Apr 2010 7:36 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, while most of us are not having to deal with anything even approaching Marty's illness (my best wishes to you Marty for a speedy recovery), Zenyatta brings something to all of us who love her. I look at her Breeders Cup race every day, check John Shirreffs on Youtube (jonshfs05)for his latest videso of her, and google "Zenyatta" in the news also every day. Yup, I'm obsessed with her. I admit it. She makes me very happy and adds to my quality of life. I am so grateful to Jerry and Ann Moss, and John Shirreffs and Dottie Ingorado, for keeping her going one more year. The downside of this is that I am going into complete withdrawal once they retire her. She is like a mood elevating drug LOL. I just love this personality girl. She is very special and very unique. She seems to have a level of consciousness that other horses do not. Maybe I am "projecting" onto her, but that's my gut feeling. They say the great ones know they are great. I think that is true.

17 Apr 2010 7:37 PM
Lou in TX

Wonderful article Steve. I am an FOB but my favorite mare is Zenyatta.  I have pictures of her on my wall, right along with Barbaro, Nicanor and Lentenor. She definitely is one of a kind. I, to, act like a gitty child when I see her dance and prance her way into my heart. She is definirely QUEEN ZENYATTA!! Please write all the articles you want about this fabulous horse. No one will ever get tired of reading about her.

If or when you find out where she is going to race next, would you please let us know. Thank you.

17 Apr 2010 7:40 PM

Thank you, Steve. Your well choosen words brought tears of joy to my eyes. What a remarkable gift we have been given.  

17 Apr 2010 7:40 PM

Thank you Steve for this "other view" into Zenyatta.  It is clear she knows her fans adore her. She is what racing needs right now - something positive.  Wouldn't it be grand if we could get a Triple Crown winner this year as well.  As for Draynay, I saw her run on the dirt and she'd didn't have any difficulty handling the surface, her jockey never asked her for more than what was needed to win.  

17 Apr 2010 7:41 PM

Steve- another great article.  As much as I loved Peter,Paul, and Mary's music, I had forgotten about the Stewball song.  You came up with a great song for a regal champion!!  I wonder if Stewball could dance?

17 Apr 2010 7:43 PM
NY Fan


Perhaps this comment is best omitted because I don't want Z's fans to come after me with a pitchfork for asking about Rachel but I do hope you go through with writing a blog dedicated to her. The last time you did a Zenyatta blog and said you would follow with one about Rachel, you didn't.  It was disappointing because it is always a pleasure to read a piece about a horse you appreciate by a writer you admire as a fan of the sport's history.

When you do write it, maybe if you go back to the beginning you'll be able to recapture that feeling of wonder wrt Rachel that you and many others seem to have lost since her transfer from Mr. Wiggins to Asmussen.  At least through the end of last year, from gate to wire, she was the same horse.  Maybe the warm fuzzy feelings were gone (no one can compete with Mr. Wiggins and little Rachel for warm fuzzy feelings), but what she did on the track continued to astound.  

There are some of us, maybe not a lot, that feel the same way about Rachel that a lot of you feel about Zenyatta and we need journalists like you to talk about her and not as a sideshow/sidebar/ punchline.  

I first took note of her on the First Year Sire Blog. I was a fan of MDO from his racing days so I paid attention to his early runners.  Then I saw that someone inexplicably voted for her for Champion 2 year old Filly (talk about foresight).  Then there were the stories about the filly at Churchill with the funny face who bore watching. From the time she resurfaced in the Marth Washington to the victory in the Woodward, it was the most astonishing and exciting run in my years as a racing fan.  In both the Preakness and Woodward, I was sure she was going to lose.  I was there in person for the Mother Goose and watching her running alone down the stretch was beautiful.  She might as well have been alone, on the track, in the morning.  Physically, she was a sleek elegant machine, the perfect racehorse out of an equestrian portrait.

I know if you do write about her, Zenyatta fans (and some of your colleagues) will derisively question why you're wasting space on a washed-up never-was-very good has-been, but I don't believe that and I don't think you do either.  They asked everything of her last year and she delivered.

She's the defending horse of the year, she had a mysterious winter, she appeared to struggle in training early this year, she had bizarre equipment changes, alterations in her work out program, appeared fat and out of shape, had a long on heart, short on fitness comeback and hopefully, with her latest work, has shown that there might be something left in the tank after all.  How is that not a story worth investigating.  Yet almost no one except for you did any real analysis beyond, "eh, maybe she wasn't very good after all".  

If she rediscovers the absolute joy with which she appeared to run for most of last year, I can't wait to see what this year brings. Those of us who are not writers by trade need people like you to help us put into words what horses like Rachel make us feel.  Please do the blog.  It would be nice to read about her again.

17 Apr 2010 7:46 PM

How about this video from The New York Times "Zenyatta - The Perfect Racehorse"

17 Apr 2010 7:50 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you, Steve, you hit that one out of the park. I've tried and tried to figure out why this horse touches me so and you explained it very clearly. She is awesome and you are too! So now I don't have to wonder anymore, I can just print out this column and hand it to my sons when they roll their eyes at me as I go overboard the umpteenth time to them about Zenyatta.

17 Apr 2010 7:50 PM

Or this story from Claire Novak about falling in love with Zenyatta.

17 Apr 2010 7:53 PM

Thank you for expressing what so many of us feel for Zenyatta! If she were to never win another race, I'd love her always. I never get tired of watching her prance, bow her head or paw the ground. She looks graceful in spite of her size. Yes, I love Rachel Alexandra also (there's enough room in my heart for both!), but the two are so different and should be appreciated for their differences. Rachel Alexandra exudes raw power, Zenyatta exudes confidence and a showy class. Rachel bursts from the gate like a rocket (one can almost see the comet tail) , Zenyatta is almost languid starting from the gate, building momentum slowly, keeping her audience in suspense until the very end and comes home in a blaze of glory with her ears pricked and looking as if the outcome was never in doubt. I, for one, feel privileged to see both mares. Let's hope they stay healthy and on top of their game. They will leave us all too soon.

17 Apr 2010 8:01 PM
Karen in Indiana

CRob87, Rita Hayworth. Although I think it was Christophe Clement who said Marilyn Monroe.

17 Apr 2010 8:02 PM
Big Brown's Buddy

Let's not forget the story seen here on Bloodhorse - Zenyatta and the autistic young boy. Like most autistic children,this 5 yr. old boy was in his own little world.  but a visit to Zenyatta changed that. Shirreffs says that Zenyatta let this child poke at her (because he didn't know how to pat her),and didn't twitch an ear when the boy shrieked his happiness.  And dad says that his son has started to become more animated and verbal since his visit - just mention horses or Zenyatta, and the child lights up and expresses his exitement over meeting Zen.  A big accomplishment for someone with autism.

As a teacher working with autistic teens, this story touched my heart.  First,that John Shirreffs would let this child touch Zen the way he did - most people would be afraid he'd hurt the horse, or upset her with his shrieks and send her dancing away.  Second, that Zenyatta took it all in stride,not even blinking at the noise or the pokes.  I'm sure a lot of other horses would have.

It takes a special animal to connect with a person with autism.  I've always known The Zen Meister was special - but this just ramped that up a notch.

And of course, there's nothing like the thrill of watching her come from 12 or more lengths back to take the lead and win by a length or more.... and still have power left after crossing the finish!

I hope someday we're lining up to see The Zenyatta Movie.

Thanks for this, Steve! Says it all about our girl!

17 Apr 2010 8:08 PM

Thank you Mr. Haskin for your lovely post and astute observations about why Zenyatta has struck such an emotional chord.  Indeed, she makes me feel like a child again and I appreciate your insight about the portal to childhood horses. How well I remember those steeds of yore! Yes, Zen has touched those emotions and I really can't believe how much I feel for her.  She has captured my heart as few horses have and none for a long while.  I enjoyed your Lawrence quote and it prompts me to paraphrase some words of Walt Morey that capture some of how I feel for Zenyatta--"The sight of that mare did something to me I've never quite been able to explain.  She was more than tremendous strength and speed and beauty of motion.  She set me dreaming."      

17 Apr 2010 8:15 PM

Zenyatta is magnificent.She always looks like she is enjoying herself and is a happy soul.Maybe us humans could learn from her to just take what life gives you and run with it oh and come in first always...important Zen tip!

17 Apr 2010 8:20 PM

I love Haskin's way with words.  He says for us what we all wish we knew how to say.  Zenyatta is a national treasure!

17 Apr 2010 8:26 PM

She may have been born in Kentucky but she's all Hollywood. I'm grateful to have seen her in person twice - the 2008 Lady's Secret and the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic. She oozes class and elegance like no other horse I've ever laid eyes upon - well, maybe like Man O'War, and like him you just can't get to the bottom of her. It really feels like she can run on and on forever. She really is the perfect racehorse - mentally and physically sound, all that muscle and speed and heart on that giant frame, the dark elegance of the Black, the utter love for her life. She loves what she does, loping along and then inhaling the others on her way to victory after victory. What's so frightening is how effortlessly she does it when she shouldn't be able to. She is impervious to the setup of the race; by now it's like she knows exactly when to go and how to go about it so all Mike really has to do is hang on.  

I am one of the very few of my age who still dreams of horses, and I am grateful that I never gave it up. I always wanted to see a Cigar, a Personal Ensign, a Secretariat, a Citation, a Man O'War in my lifetime and here she is, the Dancing Queen, our Big Z.

17 Apr 2010 8:27 PM

Mr. Haskins,   Today on TVG, I heard Todd Shrupp talking about an auction they were having before the Lexington coolwell race,  and said they were auctioning off Zen's halter and RA,  Todd was quoted to saying that Calvin Borel bidded $1,600 on zenyatta's halter and at the time , her halter's bid was up to $ 3,ooo ,can you find out any information on this, and if this really happened , I would like to know the winning bids on them.........Please clarify me if I heard something different.

17 Apr 2010 8:31 PM
kelso fan

Thanks so much, Steve!  You captured the essence of Zenyatta so well and what makes people so joyous just to be around her.

17 Apr 2010 8:32 PM

I can pretty much tell you that I have never seen her equal yet ... this October I will travel to Kentucky for the first time ever and the thought to hope of being able to see Zenyatta run.... the odds of being able to meet her up close may be a little way off but to actually stand under the same sky as her, to see her where it is not on an Internet replay or television.... being from North of the border and further West of some of the premier Canadian race tracks, horses of Zenyatta's magnitude are never seen and the drive to see her only makes me push that much harder to be able to go to Kentucky and see the Classic in person.... there will never be another her and if people focus on what she has not done like a few have, they will miss out on a great thing. The Mosses really did not have to bring her back this year.... fact if she were owned by any body else, I wonder if she would have even come back at four or five? I cannot think of another horse of her class who has come back to race at the age of six who were not geldings in more recent years; of course other than Einstein or I am thinking as far back as Skip Away who was six when he retired. Did you see that they're considering Sea The Stars for a possible mate for her? That would be amazing.

No, there will never be another like her. Even if her dam was bred back to Street Cry so many times, her equal will never be seen. I actually was not sure what to think when I saw her dance moves for the first time... as no other I am sure has ever done that.... and to see how much she loves what she does, how she does like to soak up all the attention from fans, media, and everybody around her. She knows she's loved. Her ears are perked when she runs and she has this certain look... she's apparently very physical too... watching any workout footages or walking arenas where she's in company with stable mates, it almost looks as though she tries to muscle everyone around... she has no fear to go to the rail or through traffic that most half her size would rather not go. Here's to hoping that I see her if only from a distance and to be able to have a picture from my own camera of her to cherish as Zenyatta is a gift from the heavens above. "You are a great champion. When you ran, the ground shook, the sky opened and mere mortals parted. Part of the way to victory..." you know the rest. I am so grateful to be in the same lifetime as Zenyatta. Horses from the past Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, Personal Ensign, Native Dancer, Alysheba, Dance Smartly, Damascus, John Henry, Easy Goer, Dr. Fager, Forego, Inside Information, Kelso, Majestic Prince, Mom's Command, Nashua, Northern Dancer, Riva Ridge, Round Table, Ruffian, Seattle Slew, Swaps, Ta Wee, etc. that came well before me. I appreciate Zenyatta.

17 Apr 2010 8:35 PM

Beautiful words, Steve!  You have so eloquently stated what is in my own heart and I have a hard time believing that I have fallen so hard for this incredible mare.  We made the drive to Hot Springs and while we were in a location in the infield where we couldn't see much of the race, we did see and feel the presence of Zenyatta and quite honestly, I am still glowing from it.  When I first glimpsed her through the dogwood blossoms, prancing in the walking ring, my heart jumped to my throat and tears came to my eyes.  Yes, she moves people in a very deep, emotional way and I think you hit the nail on the head in describing her as bringing back all those old cherished childhood dreams of horses fostered by the classic books we read.  Inside this old lady is still the little girl who never outgrew her love of horses and Zenyatta is the epitome of horses of our youthful yearnings.  One of the neatest things about the Oaklawn experience is that it was the whole town caught up in Zenyatta and it was remarkable!  In the restaurants, at the hotel, at the airport when we took the helicopter tour - everyone was talking about Zenyatta.  Thank you for giving us another venue to discuss how much she means to us.  Thank you to the Mosses and the Shirreffs for sharing Zenyatta with us for another season of racing.  Best wishes to Marty for a complete recovery.

17 Apr 2010 8:39 PM


Even though this blog is for Zenyatta stories alone, let's not treat someone like Draynay as if they have some kind of leprosy.

He is not the enemy, he is the "mission field".

Respond without the name calling, sarcasim, and denigrating because of a difference of opinion.

17 Apr 2010 8:41 PM
Rachel O


I couldn't agree with you more about Zenyatta's ability to make people happy. I had to endure a lot of hearbreak this last year, along with major surgery, and Zen has been a great healer to me. There are really no words to express what she has meant to me.

I have seen her race twice last year, and both times were thrilling to the core--the Clement Hirsch and the BCC. For some miraculous reason I got to talk to Gary Sevens, Ann Moss, Chip Woolley, and Lafitt Pincay on my frequent trips back and forth to the paddock and the stands on November 7. I'll never forget that day.

Mike Smith is onto something when he says she's heaven-sent. Somehow she is here to take the sting out of the bad situations many people find themselves in right now. I wish more people knew about her. I certainly spread the word around to friends who have never given a thought about horse-racing.

I never knew a horse could be so powerful or stir such powerful love feelings in me or in so many people. And I am very thankful!

Thank you, Steve.

17 Apr 2010 8:48 PM

All I have to say is: I love Zenyatta. She is my favorite racehorse ever.

17 Apr 2010 8:59 PM

Zenyatta is a unique mare. Her dance moves, her sweet disposition, I can see why so many people love her so much. Admittedly, she has never been my favorite horse(neither has Rachel Alexandra, if that's what you're thinking), but I have much respect for her accomplishments and the way she has touched so many people. We may see another mare of similar talent sometime in our lives, but we will never find one more charismatic.

17 Apr 2010 8:59 PM

Thank God we can say the skeptics don't abound when it comes to the wonder horse Zenyatta. She has a mystic, other worldly way about her & she can't help but put a smile on your face.  There's something intrinsically good about that.  She has started a fire in a lot of hearts & what little amount of Zenyatta bashing remains can't put that out.

17 Apr 2010 8:59 PM

I am happy that I got to see Zenyatta at the Apple Blossom this year... she was awesome!! She's a real superstar - a real beauty!  (she knows it too!)... She's very entertaining to watch, with her prancing and dancing, and seems to be very happy and in the moment; I also enjoyed watching the Moss's and Sheriffs enjoying the whole scene... Of course, she is a true champion and a professional on the racetrack... the Oaklawn crowd loved her, clapping and cheering for the Queen - I was right there with them! ... She is a very affecting presence - Mike Smith is the luckiest son-of-a-gun to get to ride such a magnificent mare...

17 Apr 2010 9:04 PM
Mike Relva


Great read as usual. Thanks for another read that always reminds me of poetry in motion.

17 Apr 2010 9:24 PM

Steve that was beautifully written. I was at Oaklawn to see Zen run in the Apple Blossom. The night before I lost my 27 yr. old TB mare. She had been with me 22 years. Seeing Zen run made that lose not so terrible. She does bring back childhood memories. To quote The Black Stallion " The Black is coming up like a house on fire! He's all power - all beauty." She does put an image to  the story. She does make you smile just because, and to see her make it 16 was just awesome. I saw Citation before he died, and even though I was young it was a lasting impression, and to be a part of Zen matching his record was awesome. The only one that I wish I could have seen was Man O' War. She definitely has this ability to woe us and it has been a wonderful boon for racing.  I have Fred Stone's print of her in my dining room. Long live the Queen!

17 Apr 2010 9:40 PM

Everyone's got the fever.

The Zenyatta Intoxication Love Affair Fever.

17 Apr 2010 9:55 PM

Very nice article.  To all those people that say she hasn't "done" enough.

Zenyatta has defeated all who cared to line up in the starting gate to race against her.  It is not Zenyatta's fault nor should it be a on her history that some chose not to meet her.

For me I am just glad that I will one day people able to tell about this awesome filly/mare, I had the privilege to watch run....the length of that stride as she gobbles up the open dirt between her and the other horses, the Zenaytta Dance.  This is a nice piece of history to remember and I am glad I get to watch and thank all Zenaytta's connections for affording me this opportunity!


17 Apr 2010 10:08 PM
Paula Higgins

Rachel O, I hope you have a much better year this year. I think we can agree that Zenyatta has given us all a great deal of joy. I  wish to thank Jerry Moss, Ann Moss, John Shirreffs, Dottie Ingorado for their patience, dedication, and committment to Zenyatta and the sport itself. Also to Michael Ingorado who found her and suggested that Jerry Moss buy her. A huge thank you to Ann Moss for telling her husband she wanted a filly. You go Ann!!

Steve, I don't know if Jerry and Ann Moss ever see these blogs but maybe you could suggest to John Shirreffs that they take a look. So they can all see what a wonderful thing they have wrought.

17 Apr 2010 10:16 PM

Zenyatta makes me think of all the big, beautiful, classically bred horses that pranced through childhood stories--both the ones I wrote and the ones I read--a spectacular conformation you don't see often, especially on a mare. She's not just another pretty face, either. She's got the stamina and grit to prove her build has stood up to her years racing. And that delightful charisma...she has the elegance of a dressage horse and the showmanship of Benny Goodman (lol).

17 Apr 2010 10:19 PM
christy tate

zenyatta is definitely one of a kind. ont think weve seen her best yet. and while i also kinda like rachel alexandra, after the apple blossom, i think zenyatta shouldve been horse of the year.

17 Apr 2010 10:45 PM

Thank you Steve! She is the Queen.

17 Apr 2010 10:53 PM

Another awesome article Steve!  Thank you so much for writing about Zenyatta and capturing the "essence" of her so eloquently. She's most definitely a "Queen!"  I look forward to the rest of her 2010 racing campaign that will ultimately end with her defending her title in this year's BC.  To all other bloggers, I loved reading everyone else's comments about her. It's great to know that there are a lot of Zen fans out there who enjoy watching & experiencing her as much as I do!  I hope to be able to see her perform in person before she retires!  Thanks to the Mosses and the whole Zen team for allowing us to see her compete one more year!!!

17 Apr 2010 11:09 PM

You did it again Steve. I welled up as soon as you mentioned the horses of our childhood and how Zenyatta reminds us of a special time that never really gets repeated when we grow up. Except of course when we see Zenyatta.

17 Apr 2010 11:13 PM

Steve, very moving article.  Like Marty I am a breast cancer survivor and a horse nut!! The great horses know they are special.  I have watched John Henry, Cigar, Personal Ensign, Alysheba, Easy Goer and they all knew they were something exceptional. Zenyatta is a once in a lifetime mare, she knows she is

the top one. As a show horse owner, the exceptional ones know it whether they are racing or showing. And we humans are just along for a great ride!!My horses make me want to get up each day. God bless them especialy Big Z.

17 Apr 2010 11:14 PM
Matthew W

Draynay doesn't get it--if Zenyatta runs third to Rachel/Quality Road---most eyes would be upon Zenyatta---AFTER the race--she transcends's the experience of Zenyatta--the before/after/during and everything else--and she hasn't ever let anyone down yet---I have never seen anything like it--I'm not saying she could beat 'Bid, cuz she probably couldn't-- then again, she never needed any excuses, either! A Godsend, Steve, both Zenyatta--and your writing about her--three years, and now she's making her East Coads Roadie--to everyone out there--go see her!

17 Apr 2010 11:23 PM
needler in Virginia

This will be one tough act to follow, Steve! As usual, you make your point with style and grace. Thanks!!

As for Zenyatta, here goes: there really has never been anything like her and what she represents to racing. After the tragedies, the horrors, the "early" retirements to the breeding shed JUST when we were falling in love, SHE comes along and not only stays around......sound, strong, glowing  with charisma, and so imposing..... but also seems to love her job more each day. Her presence is an iron-clad guarantee to fill the stands (no small accomplishment these days); her arrival at airports brings out new fans, along with their moms and dads. The mention of her name makes most people smile, her connections are classy and well-spoken and elegant and amazingly generous with their horse AND their time. She is the complete package that racing has needed for so long. She represents everything we have wished for and everything that is possible. She and her connections are carving their own singular niche in racing history of which we may never again see the like. And we are so damn lucky to be allowed to watch!!!

Isn't it interesting that she came along when racing could not afford any more crappy stories or heartbreaks? I raise a glass to her, and her connections, and thank them all for what they are doing for racing. Even if you are a HUGE RA fan, you have to admit that Zenyatta's mere presence is a huge boost for racing....if you can call ANYTHING about her "mere"!

So here's to Zenyatta ................ long may she wave!

Cheers and safe trips.

17 Apr 2010 11:33 PM

I was so glad when I got to see her "farewell" at Santa Anita. I was right up against the rail, yelling as loud as my voice would allow. She had this amazing presence I will never forget. Out of all the famous racehorses (Rock Hard Ten, Lava Man, etc.) Horses I have seen in person, her presence was the one that raised the hairs on my arm. The crowds reaction behind us was something unimaginable. I love this mare, and I always will.

17 Apr 2010 11:34 PM

Very nice post Steve, it was a joy to read.  It is amazing the personality that animals show and usually it is only those closest to the animal that are able to experience that which makes them different.  Zenyatta is such a great performer (or entertainer) and she knows that everyone in the stands are there to see her.  

I had always admired race horses from afar and only three years ago became deeply entrenched in the sport diving head first to learn everything possible about it.  I have watched documentaries on Secretariat and they say that he too walked as if he knew he was the best and that he was there to put on a show.  

I have always had an infatuation with watching athletes at the top of their ability perform in their sport.  From Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, to Tiger Woods, from Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, to Wayne Gretzky, or even Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, I LOVE watching athletes who perform their trade better than all others they compete against.  

Each of them have those that I mentioned have their fans and those who love to doubt them, or even root against them, or make statements calling out things that may try to suade others to doubt their talents.  Lebron James has been critisized for not winning a title, and yet he is only 25, John Stockton and Karl Malone were also picked apart for never winning a championship.  

There has to be something said in Zenyatta's favor in which every time she has raced, she showed up and performed.  I am sure that not every time she was in top shape, or feeling like she was ready to set the new track record, but she has always found it in herself to win.

For your fantastic story about how a horse can make people feel good just by her presence either in person, on the TV, or streaming on the internet, to have the first comment by a doubter is a travesty.  I understand that people always want to see more proof before they can be proven wrong, but being ignorant in the meantime warrants no respect.  When she does take the next step and face male horses on natural dirt, there will still be the doubters that will ask her to win in Europe on grass, or complain that she didn't face Secretariat in his prime.  

I like jabbing, poking fun, talking trash with Dray on other blogs, but I can't stand such one-sided subjectivity and ignorance of greatness.  You don't have to like Zenyatta any more than the $5,000 claimer that someone may follow during the Summer here at Canterbury.  I just ask that her doubters stop dismissing the fact that she affects people on many different levels because of the simple fact that regardless of her competition, she shows up, entertains, gives 100% effort, and thanks the crowd for paying admission to see her performance.

(I will now step off of my soap box)

17 Apr 2010 11:35 PM
Barbara W

I, too, was at the Oaklawn to experience Zenyatta, and I will never forget it. There have been great horses before, even undefeated horses, but none to my knowledge have won with so much energy left over. And absolutely none, no matter how engaging, have done it with her style and flair.

I read that many,many horses were invited to the Oaklawn, but only 4 showed up.

In today's paper, there was an article that stated that the viewing audience is up 37% over last year's telecast of the "Road to the Roses". Zenyatta has caught the imagination of everyday Americans just trying to get by in these perilous times. She is indeed one for the ages.

Thank you for this beautiful column.

17 Apr 2010 11:59 PM
Love This

NYC Fan, regarding RA, we don't need to call in the FBI just yet. And I do agree this needs a separate topic if the conversation can possibly be civil.  I agree that her "time off" was shoddy. Who gives a horse "time off" by shuttling her from track to track?

But as to her fitness level and the "new" equipment. Steve Assmusen all but admitted that was a mistake after her last work. I don't think we'll be seeing that bridle again, round goes to Rachel. The rest is a tale of the tape and how long she has been in training.

Rachel Alexandra    

  04/12/2010     CD      6F      1:12.00      Dirt      Fast     B      

  04/05/2010     CD      5F     1:00.20     Dirt     Fast     B    

  03/29/2010     FG      5F     1:03.20     Dirt     Fast     B    

  03/22/2010     FG      4F     :50.40     Dirt     Fast     B    

  03/08/2010     FG      4F     :49.00     Dirt     Fast     B    

  03/02/2010     FG      6F     1:13.60     Dirt     Fast     B    

  02/24/2010     FG      6F     1:14.00     Dirt     Fast     B    

  02/18/2010     FG      5F     1:00.20     Dirt     Fast     B    

  02/12/2010     FG      5F     1:03.80     Dirt     Slop     B    

  02/06/2010     FG      4F     :50.60     Dirt     Fast     B    

  01/31/2010     FG      4F     :52.00     Dirt     Fast

That's 11 works, it translates to 2 1/2 months of serious training off a five month "layoff".I'm not concerned with her just yet. Contrast with Zenyatta who multi-tasked extremely well, combining maintaining fitness with public appearances.   Though I do find it odd that Quality Road isn't starting again till the Met Mile.

That's my take on it anyway, and I'm looking for a pre-oaks Rachel 2009 model work on Monday.

Pure Zenyatta fans feel free to ignore my post not about our resident Dancing with the Stars contestant.

18 Apr 2010 12:06 AM
Copper Mel

Last summer at Del Mar in the Clement Hirsch, my favorite horse, Lethal Heat, carrying my money, opened a lead into the stretch and looked like she could win.  I was surprised that I didn't really want her to; I wasn't ready for the Zenyatta story to end that day.  But, I was bugged that I lost my place bet.

18 Apr 2010 12:11 AM

Thanks for a great article Steve - you captured perfectly the feelings we Zenyatta fans have for her.  She is truly something special!  My sister-in-law and I drove 7 hours to Oaklawn just to see Zenyatta and it was amazing -  a Bucket List moment for both of us.  As for beating the boys on dirt, I have no doubt Zenyatta  can do it.  I look forward to it.  Zenyatta is better on the dirt, that is evident to anyone who has watched her races.  Some people will never respect Zenyatta no matter what she does they will always have an excuse for the other horses.  The notion that she has been aided by a surface few can run on should serve to prove her greatness not question it.  As they frequently say in horse racing, she could run on broken glass.      

18 Apr 2010 12:24 AM

What an awesome story.  You did a great job, and I think it is nice you are dedicating one editorial completely to Rachel also.  I am a Zen fan, but Rachel brought chills to my spine last year too.  Thank you.  

18 Apr 2010 12:30 AM
Big Red

The big "Z" is one for the history books, and she brings so much to the sport. To me, personally, I'm not as wrapped up in her, yet, as I was with Secretariat, or Seattle Slew, or even Smarty Jones. Zenyetta is a California phenom, but horses like Secretariat, in his brief career, set track and world records, ran all over the country on grass and dirt, and forged their name as legends. Honestly, Rachael had the more amazing year last year than Zenyatta. I'm much more attached to Rachael.

18 Apr 2010 12:30 AM
Mike S

My admiration and adoration for this brilliant mare is to the point that she is rivaling COUGAR II and SPECTACULAR BID as my #1 and #2 favorite racehorses of all time. She's definitely my favorite female horse of all time, even though I loved SUSAN'S GIRL, TIZNA, LA ZANZARA and FLAWLESSLY. Every time I see ZENYATTA it's a magical, spiritual experience, and if she continues doing what she does she just might get my #1 favorite horse of all time spot. She is magnificent.

18 Apr 2010 12:36 AM

I can't wait until Zenyatta comes to the east coast. I can only equate this expectation to when my father took me to see the San francisco Giants playing in my hometown Philadelphia having the opportunity to see Willie Mays live playing baseball.How Zenyatta prances to the crowd is like Willie swinging the bat on deck. I can't think of a horse that has caught my emotions more other than the tragedies that always leaves us unsettled. Zenyatta is all about the joy, love, and the happiness I find in this sport.

18 Apr 2010 12:48 AM

I have been reading this book titled She Flies Without Wings, How Horses Touch a Woman's Soul by Mary D. Midkiff... there are a few quotations that when I see them, I cannot help but think of Zenyatta....

"After god fulfilled his word, he addressed the newly created mare as follows: 'I have made thee without an equal; the goods of this world shall be placed between the eyes; elsewhere I will make thee happy and preferred above all beasts of the field. For tenderness shall everywhere be in the heart of the master; good alike for the chase and retreat, though shalt fly though wingless..." I see Zenyatta every time I hear that. Of course there are a couple others to share..

"moved like a dancer, which is not surprising; a horse is a beautiful animal, but it perhaps most remarkable because it moves as if it always hears music...." And finally....

"There are two things for which animals are to be envisioned; they know nothing of future evils or of what people say about them."

I can pretty much say that I am one of those who when I watch each of her races, she is the only one that I see. There might as well only be her in the race, for I never really notice much else but her. That article that the Blood Horse had before the Apple Blossom ....

To have it where a horse like her who can impact the lives of everyone around her, including the boy in the article is something to behold. That in itself is priceless... something all the millions cannot ever replace. Love Zenyatta very much.

18 Apr 2010 2:05 AM
The Deacon

Earlier tonight Steve I replayed the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic (for the 10th time) and got chills again. Then lo and behold I open up Bloodhorse and get to read a blog from one of the most gifted writers of our time. Zenyatta does transcend time, she is a throw back to the glory days of racing. She is Seabiscuit, Native Dancer, Kelso, Secretariat, and perhaps Ruffian all in one. Win or lose it is an honor to watch her run. Her style, her grace, and her awesome power.  Folks, we may never see the likes of her ever again.  The race track is her concert and we buy tickets to watch her perform. She is the rock star of racing. There is an old saying that goes "people may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel", and this is in a nutshell the "Zenyatta Experience". It is merely, how she makes us feel.

Thank you Steve for your eloquence.........

18 Apr 2010 2:36 AM

Horse fans know Zenyatta ...  and the what she has done.

But the average joe, the casual sportsfan?

Horse racing needed to market her last year and this year -  the general public would have gravitated to something like this.

Ruffian got some pub amongst general sports fans -  and so did John Henry, Cigar and a few others.

What does it take for the "industry" to give her the 'push' that would really be a shot in the arm to Horse Racing?

She's the goods ...

that Breeder's Cup Classic is gaining steam as one of those "I saw that race and what that horse did" historical relevance.

18 Apr 2010 3:07 AM

I live 400 miles from Los Angeles and if Zenyatta is racing in SoCal, IM THERE, I don't care if I miss work.  I'm saving up for a trip to Kentucky for the BC.  If all goes right, it would be the race of our lifetime part 2, of course, last year's BC Classic was part 1.  Big Zen, thanks for coming into our lives, it has been a spectacular ride!

18 Apr 2010 5:53 AM
Laura P

Wonderful piece, Steve; thanks! You hit the nail on the head with what Zen evokes in us: a child-like wonder at an awesome and endearing creature, so different and yet so like (or so we anthropomorphize her) us.  Your D.H. Lawrence quote is so fitting: “Far back, far back in our dark soul the horse prances.... The horse, the horse!”

18 Apr 2010 6:45 AM

Great piece.  I think it captured some of the magic that is Zenyatta.  In these dark times we have a hero that can't be tainted by scandal and that gives us so much joy.  Thank you Moss's, and thank you DANCING QUEEN.

18 Apr 2010 7:43 AM

Steve:  Simply said..very beautiful about/for a very beautiful "forever-Queen".  Thanks so much to you, Team Zenyatta, and to the Queen,herself.  Best wishes to all and to Marty..just like Zen, never give up!

18 Apr 2010 7:48 AM

We had to drive from Texas to be at the Apple Blossom.  I will never forget it, NEVER.  The place was packed, the air electric, people crowding, pushing, when the Queen came onto the track a collective yell went up like a war hoop.  Yes she strutted and danced and amazed people with her antics, she stayed calm and composed in the dungeon of a paddock, although very loud and very much noise.  Then in her usual way, coming from behind, she roared like a rocket, yes ON DIRT, and won more hearts and thrilled old fans, and all was right with our world.  She IS perfection and does NOT disappoint.

18 Apr 2010 8:03 AM

FOZ(Fans of Zenyatta), If you havent' already, and I expect most of you have,  The cutest video of her is the interview with Larry Zapeye, it is called 'Zenyatta Interview',  She looks like she knows exactly what Larry is saying to her,  the way she answers him shaking her head 'yes and no'  She is the cutest thing,  and FOZ, watch all of John Sherriffs videos of her he uploads often, because if you miss one , You have missed alot.......and us FOZ's , we don't want to miss a thing with her...........

18 Apr 2010 8:03 AM

Long live the Beautiful, magnificent and Perfect Queen Zenyatta!  She has made me look forward to each & every day.  She has given me hope when I thought there was nothing left.  Watching her makes me feel so alive.  It doesn't get any better than Zenyatta-she's a once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten-run forever free you big beauty!

LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

18 Apr 2010 8:42 AM

Speaking of ladies, how `bout an article on the upcoming Ky Oaks?  Most of the talk has been on the derby with Esky this and Lucky that, but not much has been written on the filly race.  I was thinking of wheeling Blind Luck in the 2 day double, but am not sure who is really being pointed to the race.  Throw us a bone if you can.  Thanks.

18 Apr 2010 9:04 AM

Beautifully said. I believe that Miss Z came along at a time in our lives when this world needed something of pure beauty.

18 Apr 2010 9:17 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Queen Zenyatta is one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world. AND she lets them eat cake.

18 Apr 2010 9:21 AM

Excellent article mr. Haskin.I wish the very best to Marty.Zenyatta is doing more for racing than the rest of us together.

18 Apr 2010 9:23 AM

NY Fan – did you not see Steve’s note at the beginning of the blog – “the other filly” will have her blog in the near future!   (I have seen her, she is very special)

Dr. Drunkinbum & Mike Relva– enjoy your comments here & on Jason’s blog

Gailg – very well said, great descriptions of both R & Z

Maryann727, Tracy, Paula Higgins, Fritzel, Justine, TXhorsefan, RachelO –ditto

ZJ – may you get to see her!

To those of you who do not get it –Medaglia d’Oro was one of my favs – saw him race numerous times. What does MdO have to do with Zen?  He was such a physical specimen – in the paddock he would nearly take your breath away.  My cousin & I would refer to him as a god!  (small g)  

2 days before Ladies’ Day BC 2008 – my cousin & I saw Midnight Lute schooling – same reaction – he was a god !   Then soon after that, along comes  Zenyatta to school. I do not have Steve’s gift. I do not have the words to describe her. To see her up close & observe her for some time, not on the track- Overwhelming!  

If Zenyatta was out standing in a field & you didn’t know she was a racemare, you would stop & look at her.  She is such a commanding physical presence.

She doesn’t even need to be on the track. She is an awe inspiring horse.

Secretariat’s physical perfection, presence, performance & personality can not be comprehended or summed up by his race record. Those who judge him by statistics, can not comprehend the essence of Secretariat.  Likewise Zenyatta.

Steve has so eloquently written of Zen in this blog.

“No one knows how many pages are left to be written in the saga of Zenyatta or what will be inscribed on those pages.”  

She is transcendent.

18 Apr 2010 9:25 AM

I get it, I get it. To be honest I can't wait to see her run at Churchill I will be there like many others to take pictures and enjoy her prerace dance. She has done a lot for West Coast racing but the sport needs a national hero not just a local hero.  She is now 6 years old and still has not raced east of the Mississippi. As much as her and her connections have done they could do so much more by racing her at Belmont, Churchill or Saratoga.  She is a racing treasure that should be shared with the all of racing not just the West Coast.

18 Apr 2010 9:31 AM

Kelso used to get so much fan mail he had a very large mail box at the farm to hold it all! Little girls from his fan club used to come to his races wearing yellow socks and gray skirts,(the color of his silks).

Zenyatta reminds me of those days. A bad day for Kelso made for a bad

mood inside the grandstand at Belmont Park.

I do not care if the two mares meet because it will settle nothing. If she beats RA her defenders will say Mr. Jackson ruined her, and if she loses they will say she can't run on dirt. She proved all she needed to prove at Breeders Cup and if she never runs another race nobody can take that win away from her. The only mare to win the classic with the best of the best running against her. If she breaks the consecutive win record she will hold all the really hard stats, and when you consider she has done it all coming from behind, it makes it all the more remarkable. RA makes it possible for fans that love an underdog to love Zenyatta because she has never been horse of the year. Kind of like Paul Newman never winning an Oscar. She may even be more famous over time for the titles that were denied her.

When she has her morning discussions with John, she will pick up the phone and tell him to call Steve and tell him it does not matter to her at all. Just don't forget the ankle rub after her bath.

18 Apr 2010 9:43 AM

Great article and tribute to the bonding between horse and human.

18 Apr 2010 9:44 AM

TWO horses have touched the public over the past decades unlike any others.  Barbaro and Zenyatta.  They both transcended the sport.  Barbaro could have been the greatest horsde we have ever seen.  Zenyatta may very well be that horse.  To those who still cry Rachel Alexandra,m shame on you.  Zenyattta is in a differrent league.

18 Apr 2010 10:02 AM

Steve, your article is as flawless and graceful as Zen herself.  Thank you.  Most winning thoroughbreds are quite high-strung, fiery and fractious.  You couldn't stand next to them without the risk of getting bitten. But Zen seems to understand her place in the sun, and the adoration of her fans.  In fact, she appears to thrive on it. Thank you for your words, and the Moss's for their dedication not only to Zen, but to the racing community itself.  

18 Apr 2010 10:09 AM

PS..Dray...I might add not only is Zenyatta a national treasure, she is an international star because the Breeders' Cup races were televised globally...(and she was at Churchill last year.)  I live on the East coast..she's still a star...coast to coast..nothing local about her.

18 Apr 2010 10:14 AM

Mr. Haskin,

Beautiful article. However, I do have to agree with Drayney. We need "a national hero not just a local hero." I would love to see her take on the boys on the dirt, away from the comforts of home.

I was going through some old racing memorabilia that I have collected over the years and I came across an article written about a real superstar.  This is taken out of the Sept 23, 1996 issue of Sports Illustrated:

"Cigar may just be the only athlete left that a common man can appreciate. He is humble and quiet. He does his job with excellence and grace, and then he goes home. No whining (though some whinnying). No demands. There is not a touch of scandal about him. No drugs. No alcohol. He has no agent. He has no endorsements. He does not appear as a genie in a movie, does not tell us what underwear to buy, does not wear golden shoes to make himself noticed.

And he's resilient. Last Saturday, in his first start since his 16-race winning streak ended at the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug 10, he went out and, in typically workhorselike fashion, started a new streak, winning the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park by four lengths. When the race was over, he didn't prance or high-hoof, he didn't leap into the seats, he didn't dis his opponents.

Other superstars are ultimately disappointments. The tall men of basketball use tax accountants instead of their hearts to tell them what to do next. Baseball stars wing hardballs at photographers' heads and turn churlish at the slightest request for an autograph. Even the wondrous Cal Ripkin Jr. breaks a record and then sells commemorative coins.

With Cigar, there's no conniving. He meets the best opponents. No promoter with electric-shock hair feeds him a steady diet of easy victories. No manager lets him take a seat in the dugout to preserve his average when certain hard-throwing lefthanders take the mound. There is a big race in Dubai in the Arab Emirates? Fine. He's on the plane. No demands for a first-class ticket. He simply goes.

His time in public is a celebration. He hears the cheers but is not changed by them. He's no different now as a champion on the dirt than when he was struggling to win on the turf. He treats everyone the same.

He has staged no fake retirements. He has been involved in no holdouts. He has never dyed his mane purple. He has one tattoo, but it is a subtle one on the inside of his lip, a string of identification numbers required by racing regulations. He has made no rap videos. He plans no career in broadcasting when he retires.

He does not live in a mulimillion-dollar palace. He does not own a fleet of foreign automobiles. He has no maid or chef or home entertainment center. His life is basic. His sport is everything to him.

Get him on that Wheaties box. He is the last great champion, maybe the last we ever will see. Thank you, Cigar."

Let's see the Mosses and John Sheriffs make Zenyatta into the GREAT champion that we all know she can be. Summer time at Saratoga is always beautiful.

18 Apr 2010 10:26 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Thank you. I appreciate it. I'm glad you mentioned Secretariat. Zenyatta has a following of worshippers similar to The Great Secretariat.Queen Zenyatta is in the midst of a fabulous journey, and we are so incredibly lucky to be a part of it. I feel sorry for those that aren't experiencing it, or wish to degrade her magnificient accomplishments. This is one of the great accomplishments, and personalities in the history of racing. We are so lucky to be living it rather than just reading about it. Zenyatta is such a larger than life personality that I think she could host her own Late Night Talk Show.

18 Apr 2010 10:30 AM

Mr. Haskin,

Wonderful piece on Zenyatta. You captured her with words. She isn't just a phenomenal race horse, she is a phenomenal personality too. She is the one you can't take your eyes off of. Horse racing sorely needs a horse like Zenyatta and owners like the Mosses. Reminds me of Penny Tweedy Chenery - she was always so gracious to the fans. Sounds crazy, but people who don't like certain owners will root against their horses sometimes. Lets enjoy Zenyatta while we have her. I have never seen a Thoroughbred with her skills and personality and I don't believe I ever will again. Thanks for writing such a great article about her - she more than deserves it.

18 Apr 2010 11:10 AM

Way to go Steve, very insightful.You have acknowledged the Queen of Racing with a perception and clarity that she deserves.Indeed,she "transcends"

horse racing as we know it. A super word for a super horse.We eagerly await the 17th dance.

18 Apr 2010 11:22 AM
Linda in Texas

Draynay, i don't care if Zenyatta dances on nails, jumps the rails, spills her pails or eats snails.

She is precious. She is as much a Holly go Lightly figure as i have ever seen.

Never observed a personality in a horse come through so strongly. Never. I look hard as i can trying to find  personalities and quirks that are different in all of them, many do have them, but not like Zenyatta.

You are hell bent to pound your negativity into something that truly is sent from a place i (ain't) never been. You refuse to accept the fact that the lady is a phenom.

Was Oaklawn dirt? Or did they resurface it just for Zenyatta?

Take your blinders off and live and love and be happy you are  able to get up everyday and take a little nourishment Draynay. Afterall, how could so many people be so wrong in their feelings for her??

She is the idle of many. Deal with it. What more can she do, other than race the boys like you are suggesting to solidify her place in history? And for all the happiness she exudes, i couldn't give a big flip if she doesn't ever race the boys.

Thanks Steve. You have a wonderful heart along with your knowledge and i know that is what brings us to appreciate you and read your words.

If i could, i would buy Zenyatta diamond studded platinum horseshoes for all 4 hooves! Dance and Prance on Zenyatta you are mystical to watch!

18 Apr 2010 11:44 AM

here's to Zenyatta - horse of the decade!!  Somewhere in California is a woman who "introduced" me to Zenyatta after the 2008 Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic and I want to say THANK YOU, wherever you are!! We were standing outside of the receiving barn after the race and I hadn't heard of Queen Z until then.  Now I'm a major groupie!!  Seeing her in the 2009 Breeder's Cup was so thrilling as she made her classic run at the boys from the top of the stretch.  To quote Trevor Denman "this. . .. is... . . able!!!!!!!!!  I traveled from Seattle for the Apple Blossom and met a whole new, wonderful group of Queen Z fans!!  Thanks to the Mosses - what a gracious couple!  Long live Queen Z!  

18 Apr 2010 11:49 AM
Zips Secret

I might be a little selfish but I would love to see Zenyatta run again in California, but I am wondering if Jess will ever let us on the West Coast see Rachel.  When Zenyatta goes east it would be nice if Rachel came west.  Just a thought.

18 Apr 2010 11:50 AM

I've been a big Zenyatta fan since her maiden win, when I proclaimed (much to the dismay of many!) her the next Personal Ensign. In fall of 2008, I went to the barn after her Lady's Secret win, and was allowed to feed her carrots. This was prior to Zenyatta-mania, but I was thrilled beyond words. I had a feeling at that time I was feeding one of the greatest thoroughbreds in my lifetime, at least.  Every time I took one of the oversized carrots out of the bag and paused to crack it in half (a giant horse deserves giant carrots!) she nudged me on the arm with her muzzle as if to say, "Hurry up, I'm hungry, I just ran a hard race!"  I had a good laugh and gave her a pet on the nose for good measure. Since then, I've called her horse racing's "Gentle Giant."  For non-fans, it may not be a big deal, but for me it was an experience I'll never forget.

18 Apr 2010 12:05 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for a beautiful piece on our Zenyatta. By now, (God knows I've already expressed my feelings at length) everybody here knows what she means to me...

I particularly enjoyed reading the comments of fans who have seen her in person for the first time. They know now, what the big todo is all about. Glad you got the experience and hope more and more people get to see for themselves what is the true meaning of the word PRESENCE.

One more comment and then I'm off to Santa Anita again. This is closing day at my favorite track and yesterday & today will be the last time I get to enjoy it until next October...(boo!hoo!)

No, Draynay is not a leper, he's the fly in the ointment, the rock in one's shoe and the price we pay for freedom of speech.

And I'm off!!!

18 Apr 2010 12:16 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Terms coined after The One, The Only Zenyatta: ZEN MASTER, YATTA, YATTA, YATTA (Mocking someone who is talking boring nonsense), ZEROS (people who degrade her accomplishments).  I just read an article from the year 2020. It said that Zenyatta has now won Dancing With The Stars 8 years in a row. How far will that streak go?

18 Apr 2010 12:25 PM

Great title for my very favorite subject:  Zenyatta, the people's horse.

Wonderful, as usual, and we thank you for putting into words our thoughts and feelings for this great mare.

Cheers to all ... and long live Zenyatta.    

18 Apr 2010 12:32 PM

A very well-written post, full of eye-poppingly vivid descriptions of Zenyatta's beauty, of her presence and of the atmosphere surrounding her career.

Fortunately for those riding the weekly Zenyatta train ( there a Derby this year?), to date, these flowery journo-poems have been sufficient to launch her straight to the top: when it comes to racehorse talent, when in doubt, call it pretty.  

After all, take away the fawning and lyrical tributes, and what's left? They are those until-recently-important things like feats on racetracks and place - without the hype and CA glitz - in the very, very long history of a remarkable sport.  

It's ironic: we too often think that overhyping a star (in this case, to a curious point of exhaustion) will save a faltering game.  Seems to me we shouldn't be so quick to hop on short-lived bandwagons, and rather fill our eyes with the many, many stars of the sport...even those (especially those?) that run without the benefit of a media machine that, understandably, seems to inhale writers daily. [I do admit having a bit of a "say it ain't so, Steve!" moment when I read this piece...]

I look forward to future blogs, Steve.  As always, all the best.

18 Apr 2010 12:45 PM
Bill Rink

Steve, That was a really nice article and I think it's great so many people have fallen in love with Zenyatta, she is indeed very special. I remember watching last year's BCC, and thinking, on that day in that setting there's probably never been a horse capable of beating her. Now a different race in a different place, that's something elese, but the connection she had with the fans that day gave her insurmountable confidence. To me thats the beauty of horse racing, I love to see horses make that connection. Thats the evidence that what we're doing is right. All the stress and strain of raceing has been leveled in those moments and the burden of constraint removed. I think John Shirreffs must be a great trainner, and Zenayatta is a very fortunate horse to be in the situtation she is in, and we are very fortunate to be able to witness it. Horses must have an incredibly fine tuned ability to discern intention. It is obvious that Zenyatta has extreme athletic talent. And being such a large horse, perhaps the cushioning effect of the artificial track surface has helped. I believe what has happened so far is that all the elements for success have been managed extremely well. Above all, we horse racing fans can count our lucky stars that Zenyatta loves to run around an oval, and that she loves the people cheering and showing their love for her as well.

18 Apr 2010 12:50 PM
Paula Higgins

Daunice, wonderful post and thank you.

DRAYNAY, I KNEW YOU GOT IT!!!! You are a smart man. You know greatness when you see it.

For the poster who said Barbaro and Zenyatta transcend(ed) the sport, you are so right. Great observation.

I also agree with the poster that said Secretariat and Zenyatta share a phenomenal presence. Add Man O' War to that list (probably the greatest physical presence of all). They have this incredible physical presentation and demeanor that knocks your socks off. Zenyatta is also warm and fuzzy, a very nice girl in the bargain. Must be her feminine side LOL. Ann Moss has made that observation I believe. I think it separates her in a special way from Man O' War and Secretariat. She's such a girl's girl. Absolutely LOVE that. As Jerry Moss said, "Girls can be better than boys and often are."

To the poster who mentioned Smarty Jones-ditto to that. When he lost the Belmont by a hair it broke my heart in two. Another unforgettable horse of the people.

18 Apr 2010 12:55 PM

This was indeed a fitting tribute to the undefeated magic and majesty that is Zenyatta.I too look forward to an equally fitting blog on 2009 HOY Rachel Alexandra.

18 Apr 2010 1:18 PM

I was at Oaklawn for the Apple Blossom & was lucky enough to see Zenyatta up close & personal. She walked the shed row and had her legs & tail washed & then grazed a bit, all with her 2008 Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic Blanket on. Why didn't they take it off? They didn't want anyone to see her wings! My conspiracy theory only deepened with the race call "Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Zenyatta flying down the backstretch!!!" Loved the article! Is there any other animal on earth that can command such emotion other than the horse? I don't think so!!!!

18 Apr 2010 1:19 PM

My eyes well up with tears every time I see that BC stretch run. Moments after that race, I found a way to express what I was feeling; and, more to the point of your article, "why".

Here it is:

She ran for us: the too-big, chunky but determined older girls who are always beautiful on the inside and have so much to offer.

She ran for them: Ruffian, Go for Wand, Eight Belles,: all of that brilliance and fire and destruction,  somehow coming full-circle in a race for the ages, a performance that moved a crowd of thousands, and touched my heart.

18 Apr 2010 1:46 PM

Dear Mr. Haskin,

As a radical fan of the "other" horse and having had a similar experience as Mr. Wallace's girlfriend with her, (while not being able to touch her, I got extremely close, enough to reach out and kiss her, and that was enough for me) when I had a life threatening illness that just gave me the motivation to live and DID save my life, I have to say, I have always LOVED Zenyatta until recently when all of her fans on the facebook boards tried to rip me apart for giving her a compliment by saying that she was too good for her competition.  After that, the word Zenyatta left a sour taste in my mouth, how could the ones who loved her most curse and tear down anyone complimenting her? (By the way, I did NOT mention I was a fan of the "other" horse).

Thank you Mr. Haskin for reminding me why I loved her so much in the first place, and allowing me to see through the cloud of hatred spewed upon me, to see the glorious, beautiful, miraculous being that is Zenyatta. By the way, from someone who grew up with the original Globetrotters in their own backyard, the comparison couldn't be better, and someday she will post parade to Sweet Georgia Brown, I can picture it now.  I think that she is really an old vaudeville girl reincarnated.   Or, that's at least what she wants to be.  Thank you again Mr. Haskin for lifting the cloud of hate, and allowing me to love again.  You always have that way with words.  Bravo!

18 Apr 2010 2:11 PM

Thank you, Steve, for putting words to the phenomenon I've watched and felt myself.

A friend of mine said he once got to meet Seattle Slew. He said Slew had a presence of greatness about him, something I've read the "Great Ones" in racing always have. In fact, I just read something similar on Blood Horse about the classy presence of Personal Ensign.

I can attest to the fact that Zenyatta has a presence as well, one so vivid that she reached out and captivated me through the television as I watched the BC Ladies Classic in 2008. That experience prompted me to read and watch all I could about her and I've followed her ever since.

It's the kind of presence with a capital "P" that makes people stop what they're doing and take notice of a Thoroughbred racehorse.

Add to that Zenyatta is so obviously dappled and happy doing what she's doing. She hasn't been whipped within an inch of her life in her races, (FYI, repeated whipping is a serious turnoff to new racing viewers) and her connections are nice people.

That entire package is the best sales pitch horse racing could ask for. It's a shame racing's "powers that be" don't seize the opportunity to promote its stars more. It seems like most of the promotion is left to individual tracks like Oaklawn Park.

I've often thought those who cast doubts on Zenyatta's talents were projecting their dislike of synthetic tracks onto a horse that ran on them. It's good to see some who doubted her last year rethinking their criticisms.

Finally, for Stacy who said, "Let's see the Mosses and John Sheriffs make Zenyatta into the GREAT champion that we all know she can be."

They already have, and she is!  

18 Apr 2010 2:12 PM

Great piece of writing Steve.  I think you finally get it, why those of us who have seen her and watched her race in California  think she is so special.  It is not just that she always finds ways to wins but what a presence she has on and off the track.  The only horse that ever impressed me as much was Secretariat  although Zen has far more pesonality.

18 Apr 2010 2:31 PM


18 Apr 2010 2:47 PM
Meydan Rocks!


You are truly echoing the sentiments of turf writers are you duly noted in your blog above!

I stumbled on Pricci's article and voila!

Daunice - Regarding Zenyatta, Medaglia D'Oro and  horses like  Midnight Lute. Truly they are all imposing specimens that induced awe and wonder at how majestic this animal we call the Thoroughbred is.

Thanks Steve!!!


I drove to Golden Eagle Farms to visit one of my old faves - General Challenge. I almost fell to the ground at how massive and imposing that ole boy is.

I remember Baffert saying that he wished GC had a stronger mind he would have been a world beater.

Pleasantly Perfect was a tad better than MDO going beyond 1-1/8th and MDO had Congaree' number at 1-1/8.

MDO fascinated me (but Conga had my heart). I am tickled to see MDO' passing on his genes so well.

18 Apr 2010 3:20 PM

Draynay is actually trying to be civil for once, and he somehow gets blasted even more than when he's being an insufferable nuisance. Personally, in a matchup between the three most hyped horses in the older division, Rachel, Zenyatta, and Quality Road, I will root for my Quality, but I will not begrudge the others a win. No, I'm not being sexist, I am a girl, I just like Quality Road more than most horses currently racing.

18 Apr 2010 3:28 PM
joe c.

How sad we cannot see Zenyatta's prances, dances and bows on network television. (note: Kentucky Derby preps on NBC saw a ratings gain over ESPN coverage of recent years; do you get the message Breeders' Cup?)  After being around over a dozen years, the NTRA has made little headway. indeed is losing ground on racing coverage.  Zenyatta is the best thing racing has going right now, and her victories and vivacious bearing are not being seen.  Off topic, do we remember Seattle Slew's on his toes, pre-race war dance?

18 Apr 2010 3:29 PM

I was able to experience the privilege of seeing Zenyatta at Oaklawn. I spent four hours waiting on the rail to get a good spot for when she came out - mind you, this was hot sun, no water, and feeling completely drenched in alcohol fumes and cigarette smoke. Not to mention I suffered the horrible experience of being hit on by the nastiest guy I've ever smelt!

It was all worth it though, to see her parading out on the track. My aching feet went away, the smells stopped bothering me, and my attention was completely absorbed by this tremendous mare. Everyone was cheering - there was a little girl who wasn't even two behind me screaming "Zi'yatta! Zi'yatta!"

This is a mare with Presence. She dipped her head as if she was bowing to the audience. She gave a little extra flair as the crowd roared even louder following her name on the loudspeaker. As she circled in the paddock prior to the call for riders up, she'd lift her head and gaze imperiously around. And when she ran! I will never forget seeing her going so easily towards the finish line - she looked like this was an easy morning breeze, while the other four mares behind her were giving it their all. Zenyatta is truly special.

She's an absolutely amazing mare, and I hope she continues her success. I was on the fence between her and RA before, but having seen her in person, I'll be rooting for Z all the way.

18 Apr 2010 3:46 PM
Barbara W

Wow! Draynay is beginning to get it. Now that is something we can ALL celebrate. Made my day.

I believe plans are in the works for the big Z to do just as he says--travel to other parts of the country.Wish I could go with her.  

When she passed the last horse to her right in the BC, as if to say, "That's ok--go ahead--I'll just go around", I lost my heart completely.

18 Apr 2010 3:49 PM
Meydan Rocks!

This bloggers recollection of FACTS stopped me cold. (She wrote this on JOHN PRICCI' blog at HORSERACINGINSIDER dot com [Zenyatta Joins Conversation for Best Thoroughbred Ever])

Barb Dwyer says:

16 Apr 2010  at  11:24 am | #

I beg to differ with your opinion that" [insert filly of your choice] "had the “most ambitious campaign ever waged” by a 3YO filly.

Winning Colors raced 10 times at age 3 including the SA Oaks, SA Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont, Las Virgenes, Maskette and BC Distaff.  She ran against males 4 times at 4 distances in 4 states at 4 different tracks.  Several of her races were spaced closer than Rachel’s and she ran against tougher fields.  Her competition included Forty Niner, Risen Star and Personal Ensign among others.  And she faced them more than once.  Not to mention her Derby was a 17-horse field of all males (besides her) that she wired.

Before anybody claims" [insert filly of your choice]  "faced equally tough fields, I’ll remind you that Forty Niner was the 2YO champ and compiled a lifetime record of 19 starts with 11 wins and 5 places by the end of his 3YO season.  Risen Star ran the fastest Belmont since Secretariat and won by a margin of almost 15 lengths.  To date his Belmont stands as the third fastest.  Personal Ensign needs no introduction.  I’m not aware of anything even remotely similar to their feats among the starters in the fields"  [insert filly of your choice] "faced"

NOTE: {insert filly of your choice] was my designation. I used quotation marks to indicate the wonderfully sharp bloggers comments.

18 Apr 2010 3:57 PM

I love Zenyatta.  However, thats not what this column is about. Over the video feed, I could have sworn I saw Zenyatta bow her neck down to the ground when they announced her name, regardless of her achievements, that type of personality in a racehorse is so cool.

18 Apr 2010 4:03 PM

So many good comments that I've enjoyed reading; I'd like to respond to each of them but time and space constrain.  So a big Collective Thank you to all who bring positive comments about horses, who say good things about their favorite, whether RA or Z without denigrating the other.

To Daunice, thank you for reading my post; you made me feel good by mentioning it and with the wonderful words you wrote about Zen.

To Deacon, thank you for reminding me of this, so true of Zen: "people may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel"

To Animallover, Like you, "I am one of those who when I watch each of her[Zen]races, she is the only one that I see." (I quoted you)

To Steve Haskin:  Thank you again for your inspired writing and for providing this forum.

I will end with a quote by Charles de Kunffy that is apropos: "The horse as an object of art, as a subject of concern, as a monument to character development is now more important than ever.  That which is irreplaceable and not interchangeable deserves cherishing."  

18 Apr 2010 4:18 PM

I hope she comes to NY so I can see her.

18 Apr 2010 4:57 PM

Steve, thanks a million for bringing back fond memories of my childhood where Seattle Slew and Ruffian gave me inspiration and dreams with wings. Thank you for putting into such perfect words, why Zen is who she is, and why we love her so much.

I feel sympathy for those who can not simply enjoy her for what she is.

18 Apr 2010 5:03 PM
Pam S.

Can't say much that hasn't already been said about the amazing, inspiring, unbeatable Zenyatta!  I am just so impatient to hear what her next race will be!  Wanted you to know, Steve, I'm also impatient to read your piece on Rachel.  I'm sure it'll be great too.

18 Apr 2010 5:36 PM
Dixie Deb

Thank You Steve for your thoughts and well written piece on Zenyatta.

My first time to see her was this year at the Apple Blossom "event"!

I call it an event because that is what it was. My young friend turned to me during the post parade in total awe. At that moment I told her it was like being at an Elvis concert in the early days.

That's the only thing I have ever experienced that compares to the total enchantment of 45+ thousand people at one time.

Zenyatta is a rock-star in horse racing. She came on the track with the flair of a Queen. Pawing the dirt and dancing sideways as she arched her neck.

The late afternoon sun put a spotlight on her standing majestic and statuesque as she stopped occasionally to give a regal look and perfect pose to the crowd.

She charged the air with a mysterious electrical energy  intoxicating the crowd to even further excitement.

I knew I was under her spell and was standing in the presence of greatness.

Long Live Queen "Z"

18 Apr 2010 6:22 PM


What a lovely turn of phrase to dismiss a horse's talent and 16-0 record.

It isn't "flowery journo-poems that have been sufficient to launch her straight to the top," nor is it fawning and lyrical tributes" that have promoted Zenyatta's higher profile. It was her perfect record of performance.

In fact, many turf writers talked down her potential to win the Breeders Cup Classic last year, as I said before, simply because she ran over synthetic tracks they disliked.

It's good to see some of those reconsidering their prior opinions and giving Zenyatta the positive recognition...not hype...that she deserves this year.

To paraphrase you, her talent is not in doubt, and yes, she's pretty.

18 Apr 2010 7:07 PM
Big Brown's Buddy

When y'all put Zenyatta in league with the great Man O'War, you're not too far off - check out her pedigree - you'll find Man O'War once or twice (didn't check right before posting,so not sure exactly how many times, but it *is* at least a couple of times).

Explains why Zenny has no problem carrying heavier weights than her competition - MOW routinely carried 126+ in his races.

Just an FYI.

Run On,Zenyatta,Warrior Queen!!

18 Apr 2010 7:29 PM


I couldn't agree more with your post of today at 2:52.  With Mr. Haskin stating "that name will not appear anywhere in this blog" I respected his statement and commented only on my praises of Zenyatta, which were very sincere.  If I, as a fan of the "other filly", can respect Mr. Haskin's statement or request, then I wouldn't think it would be that difficult for Zenyatta fans to do the same.  I will very graciously wait until Mr. Haskin's other blog is written to comment on the "other filly".  For now, I am thrilled to death that I saw Zenyatta in person and was able to witness her greatness.  She is truly something to behold.

18 Apr 2010 7:39 PM
Tim G

You guys are buying that from Dray?

Steve, she's a beauty to behold. Those who haven't seen her run in person need to get on a train, plane, bus, drive their car but figure out a way to get to see her.

She's got more personality than any horse I've seen, even though Secretariat used to pose for photos and so did several others, this mare is just a unique individual. She does her dances, prances, bows, gives interviews and then wins Graded stakes races.

There are others with great accomplishments, but NONE recently have done that and done it with the same style and panache of Zenyatta.

18 Apr 2010 7:50 PM
Ida Lee

Very well said.  What a treasure she is!!! When I see Zenyatta, or even just think about her, it always brings a smile to my face. That she's a great TB is without doubt. But her personality and her charm, she is indeed precious. P.S. I also adore the "Other One" and am looking forward to reading your blog on "Her".

18 Apr 2010 7:55 PM

Thanks Steve for the wonderful article on the "Queen" Zenyatta.

@ John: If you could convince Draynay, not to "Name Call,not to use "sarcasm, ect.  That would be wonderful.

18 Apr 2010 8:16 PM

Zenyatta is the queen of the horse racing world,  She is to be listed as a national icon,  or maybe better,  the 9th wonder of the world.

She not only is ranked up there with top notch record holders, she also is a hollywood starlet.

Enjoy her while you can folks, because when she is gone (retired) you will never witness this again in history..............She is more rarer than a TC.  

18 Apr 2010 8:30 PM
Tracy W.

Once again, Mr. Haskin, you prove yourself to be the most eloquent turf writer I've had the pleasure of following.

I fell in love with Zenyatta after her fourth start, her first Apple Blossom, long before she danced for the crowd or was a household name. Soon after, I got my mom hooked. After the Breeders Cup Classic, we both got my grandmother hooked.

My grandmother, who has been following horse racing since she saw Citation win the Triple Crown and has seen horses such as Secretariat, Forego, Kelso, and John Henry, now boasts that Zenyatta is the greatest racehorse she's ever seen.

My mother and her mother hardly spoke before this. Now, because of this amazing mare, they talk weekly and own pieces of racehorses, while I'm far away, at the North American Racing Academy in Kentucky, aspiring to train.

I'm young, so I can't say I've seen a horse bring three generations together like she has, but I can definitely say no other horse has brought smiles and tears to the eyes of all three of us just by bowing to the crowd.

Even if someone is a critic or not a fan of Zenyatta, they at least have to appreciate what she's doing for this sport. Horse racing needs her, regardless.

18 Apr 2010 10:07 PM

Just in the last couple of days we have suffered the loss of a few very talented and beloved horses. Tiz Chrome injured while jogging and had to be put down. Viewed, the Melbourne Cup winner died of a twisted bowel, She be Wild was injured and hopefully can return in the very near future but no Oaks for her. The point is, life is precariou enough but add to it the dangers faced each and every time these gallant warriors go onto the track for owners, trainers and yes fans. It makes you sick to think people are so caustic in their apprasial of these animals or their performances. Diss the people around them if you must but for crying out loud, show respect and yes, gratitude for the pleasures given us, be it win or lose on the track. Sometimes the lose is more than we deserve. By that I mean, we're not worthy fans when it comes to the lose of Tiz Chrome or Viewed. The price is to high. We don't pay with anything but our   sorry and pain. It's not enough. ore

18 Apr 2010 10:18 PM

Ditto, Dona. These awesome creatures willingly give up their very lives for our entertainment.

Honestly, Steve, this is so ironic becuz two weeks ago I came across yet another rewrite of the song about Stewball--and a group of us were singing it at the OTB--there are many many versions--the one we were singing was sung by Joan Baez but she rewrote it in honor of Ruffian. Baez said something to the fact that her being a woman's liberationist and Ruffian being a lady and how she was going to win her last race--describing Ruffian as a horse with a heart made of gold . . . great song.

Z makes me laugh with her prancing and a dancing--Secretariat was my generations horse and Z may be this generations horse--becuz Z has done a lot for racing; donating money to organizations that care for retired racehorses that are inhumanely treated after they are used up. Kudos to Z (Shirrif) for making that possible and giving those horses back their dignity. Another horse with tons of personality was Silky Sullivan and I suggest watching his races on YouTube if someone needs a good laugh(s). Thanks for the article.

19 Apr 2010 12:12 AM

Thank you Steve - beautiful.  Zenyatta's presence and personality are unlike any horse I've seen in my 40+ years of following racing. I mean, BOWING to the crowd as she was announced: priceless!  (It's on You Tube, folks - you can see it yourself if you missed it last Friday.)  The fact that she's also won TEN Grade I races, and four Grade II's and all sixteen races total puts her in a racing class all by herself too.  I "saw" Secretariat and Ruffian as a young teen, when I was reading all those books Steve mentioned, and now, as an adult, I've "seen" Zenyatta. I hope I am fortunate enough to experience her in person. Long Live The Queen.

19 Apr 2010 12:37 AM
David R

I've been to every one of Zenyatta's races at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. There is something in the air during those days. The happiness she brings touches everyone luck enough to be there. It's fun to see the smiles on all the faces.

19 Apr 2010 1:31 AM

You know the great horses when they make their move at the turn for home and they quite literally, take your breath away. I have only experienced three in my life time, Secretariate, Barbaro and now Zenyatta. I doubt I'll ever see a fourth, but one never knows. Long live the Queen!

19 Apr 2010 1:40 AM

I enjoy reading your blogs, but this was an especially good one, Mr. H. I had tears in my eyes after reading it. She is - Zenyatta the rock star!

19 Apr 2010 9:38 AM
Rachel O

What a great piece you have written here, Steve, to inspire so many people to pour their hearts out with appreciation for what Zenyatta has done for them.

All of this goes to show without a doubt that Zenyatta is indeed an angel in a gorgeous horse suit; she is a healer. Think of what she has done for the autistic boy, for Marty, for me, for countless others who have not posted here. Yes, we "experience" Zenyatta, as Dottie says, and Z radiates something so powerful that the fans along her way light up like a Christmas tree.

I'm not a religious person, but this kind of experience for hundreds of people has prompted me to write this. I've studied forms of healing through the transmission of energy, and I've seen it work to relieve pain of more than one kind. Zen has this ability whether she "knows it" or not. Actually I believe she does. She "knows" with every step she takes, whether in the paddock or after she meanders out of the starting gate to thrill us to pieces a couple of minutes later.

19 Apr 2010 11:40 AM

Another wonderful Blog, Steve.  I wish she would come to Arlington so I could drive down to see her.  Long Live Zenyatta!

19 Apr 2010 12:48 PM
Dave Johnson

Typo's corrected:

I would like to give a little insight to the bloggers of Steve Haskin's article and what was going on with Zenyatta and Churchill Downs last year.

Once this is posted, the cat will be out of the bag "so-to-speak".

Sherriffs already knows what he has when it comes to Zenyatta and the Churchill Downs racing surface.

Before the track was sealed (last year at Churchill Downs) Zenyatta was eating the track.

I feel its important to inform the public (a public that has an open ear and does not want to go through the school of hard knocks) regarding Zenyatta and the Churchill Down racing surface.

Her best surface to date "according to her connections" is Churchill Downs.

John is "very" conservative and did not want to race Zenyatta on a sealed hard surface, due to his main goal of the Breeders Cup later in the year.

I am telling you now (whether you choose to listen or not is up to you),this mare will absolutely destroy Quality Road and any filly/mare on the North American continent in regards to Churchill Downs racing surface.

Most people (meaning the public) do not realize "just how good" Zenyatta took to Churchill's racing surface.

They will soon find out.

Best Regards,

Dave Johnson

19 Apr 2010 1:19 PM
the maui cowgirl

A few of my barrel racing board buddies from a barrel racing website were able to see Z run at Oaklawn.  One barrel racer said during the stretch run by Z her husband and the lady standing next to him were crying. For me, this mare, and RA as well, have done tons for horseracing and bringing new fans and supporters to the sport who might not otherwise have been interested.

19 Apr 2010 2:31 PM

And, to top it off, Zenyatta graces the cover of this week's B-H magazine.  

You're right, Mr. Haskin.  We can't get enough of Zenyatta, so keep it coming.  Excellent reading, as usual.

We all thank you.

19 Apr 2010 3:02 PM
Lupe Aranda

Awesome write up on an AWESOME RACE HORSE,Steve!!!  Thank you!  We are so lucky to witness another one of Horse Racing's legends!!!

Down in Texas!

19 Apr 2010 3:07 PM
Carry Back

Steve, Thanks for another super blog.  I've missed it if this was discussed previously but where does Zen get her size - apparently not from her sire!

19 Apr 2010 3:54 PM

Zenyatta has such a expansive and expressive personality that even people who might not know the first thing about horses get what she's about.  And what she's about is:  "Ooooh boy, this is gonna be FUN!"  Everything about her demeanor and behavior points to a horse who is having a hell of a good time, and it's hard not to feel the same way when you're around her.  In 30 years of following racing, I've never seen a horse leave a trail of smiles, laughing, and good feeling behind, even among the most jaded racetrackers.  I don't care, ultimately, if she loses or not, or  what speed figures the numbers wonks assign her.  As a racing fan, all I care about is that I got to see her in person, and feel for myself how moved I and the crowd was by her.  Regardless of who does or doesn't show up to run against, her or what awards she may or may not win...her ability to make that kind of impression on people is uniquely hers, and more than her record or anything else about her, is why people -- both old fans and people new to racing -- love her.  

19 Apr 2010 4:25 PM

Steve, Thank you for the moving article.  There are just no words adequate for Zenyatta but you come the closest of anyone.  I haven't seen her in person yet because I live in VA but as soon as she is close enough for me to get to her, I'll be there.  She moves me to tears on the screen - I'll probably embarrass myself with the emotional overload of seeing her in person.  I have never believed another horse could be put on the level of the immortal Secretariat but now there is Zenyatta.  If any horse has his heart it is Zen.  Maybe Big Red wanted to run after 3 so he came back as a girl.  I am so grateful to be able to enjoy this treasure.

19 Apr 2010 4:56 PM

I have a praise I'd like to share and it's not for Zenyatta, but instead for one of her many, many fans. As I was holding my place for the Apple Blossom, camera in hand, I was getting all set to capture the best shots of Zenyatta that I could (never having seen her in person before).  Just as she was being brought up, the batteries in my camera died and I was about to be in the position of having nothing to show for my trip.  A very nice Zenyatta fan beside me offered to make me a CD and mail it to me and she knew I was a fan of the "other filly"!!! I got it today and couldn't be happier.  There are definitely some very nice Zenyatta fans out there.  Thank you, Nancy, if you happen to read this.

19 Apr 2010 6:12 PM

"WOW", did you all notice Zenyatta's sire's stud fee?  It is way more than the other fillie's sire's stud fee is.  Street Cry, for Aus.  which is in US dollars,  Medaglio d'oro RA sire is in US dollars......Now tell me she ain't the queen,  Gosh, she is making Street Cry happy and proud, and she is making Darley richer.............

19 Apr 2010 7:02 PM

Carry Back,

I've read Zenyatta probably gets her size from Kris S., who sired Zenyatta's dam Vertigineux.

I haven't found a reference that says exactly how tall Kris S. was, just that he was a large stallion.

Another interesting piece of information I've read came from a blog that suggested Zenyatta is a good candidate to have inherited the "large heart" factor because that characteristic runs throughout her bloodline. Fascinating stuff.

19 Apr 2010 7:58 PM
Mike Relva


Zenyatta isn't a "local hero" and that's coming from someone that loves Cigar and drove nearly five hrs yesterday to see him on his birthday.

19 Apr 2010 8:47 PM

Dave Johnson,

Thnk you for the very enlightening tidbit. I can't wait see what the big mare will do at Churchill.  

19 Apr 2010 9:08 PM

Carry Back,

Zenyatta's maternal grand-sire is Kris S., a very large, nearly black stallion. When I visited WinStar in 2005, I had a long conversation with a man named Larry who took care of Kris S. and loved him a great deal. He had a very dominant personality and his demeanor intimidated the other stallions even from afar. When I see Zenyatta, I think of what Larry said about her grand-sire and I know where she got her PRESENCE.

Dave Johnson,

Thank you for the info about the "sealed track" at CD last May, her connections took a lot of heat for scratching her that day. I always thought it was patently unfair. Why take chances with a treasure like her? Thank you also for telling us that she really, really liked the track. It bodes well for her if they decide to run her there in June. Now let's hope for clear skies and good competition to silence the rest of the doubters, if there's any left by then.

19 Apr 2010 9:12 PM

Zookeeper, I remember your comments about Kris S and Larry in another BH blog and thought then what a treasure that memory must be for you, and thankful that you shared it.  I agree that Kris S would be the main source of Z's size (though he may not have been quite as tall as she is) and a very large part of her stamina influence - taking nothing from Street Cry, mind you! :-)  

19 Apr 2010 10:25 PM

Mike Relva,

Hope you didn't tell Cigar that a mare tied his record for consecutive wins. lol! I saw him in '05. He looked fantastic and  seemed to relish the attention people were giving him. His paddock was across from John Henry's. I wonder if he misses the grand ole guy giving him the evil eye. You must like Cigar very much to drive all that way to say Happy Birthday!

19 Apr 2010 10:54 PM

Zookeeper,  Kris s.'s Dam Sire was Princequillo who is also the Dam Sire of Secretariat.  You could be right about Zenyatta inheriting the large heart of the Princequillo line.

20 Apr 2010 12:59 AM

Carry back: Her dam sire is Kris S. a large beautiful stallion.  One of his sons is Rock Hard Ten who was the largest colt to ever race,(17 hands 3 in) and he's turning into a fine sire with quite a few stakes winners.  I'm just assuming when I say Zenyatta may be his equal as she has been listed as 17 hands 1 + in.  And RH10 always had a magnificent and intimidating presence.

20 Apr 2010 8:22 AM
Matthew W

Dave Johnson: Thanks for the info--I think you were all over Big Z in the Classic last year, when so many took the wiseguy side and were saying she had no chance at all---now we know she can get the 1 1/ we know she loves Churchill...can it be that she's gonna prove unbeatable, once and for all, on dirt/v males/v everyone, and run into eternity as the unbeatable mare,with all of her obsessive compulsive oddities and I'm giddy (again!)....

20 Apr 2010 9:47 AM


Thank you for remembering my post about Larry and his love for Kris S. That whole experience at Winstar is etched in my mind as one of the most intimate contact I've ever had with a human being. We were complete strangers and will probably never see each other again but for these unforgettable moments in time, the love for a horse brought us very close.

I'm positive that Zenyatta brings the same level of unconditional devotion from the people who care for her on a daily basis. If she can have that effect on us, for the few seconds that we have in her presence, we can only imagine what it must be like to live with her 24/7.

Yet some people are derisive of the care with which she has been handled. They may say: "She's a racehorse! Let her run all over the country, under any condition!" They simply don't understand that Zenyatta's connections care a great deal more about her than about any short lived admiration from the few who fail to appreciate her and what she has already accomplished.

20 Apr 2010 11:13 AM

Thanks for this piece, Steve.  She is a very special horse, and we love her dearly.  Someday I envision speaking to youngsters in the family about her in hushed, reverent tones.

Wait, I already do that.

20 Apr 2010 11:52 AM

I would like to see Zenyatta, Rachel and Quality Road, meet in the Steven Foster at CD.

20 Apr 2010 12:04 PM
Between Friends

Steve, thanks for another beautifully written column about the horse that most of the racing world absolutely adores. It's wonderful to see how many people share an admiration for Zenyatta.

Terri V.

If you get to see Zenyatta at a racetrack near you, you won't embarrass yourself if you find yourself fighting back tears because you won't be alone. (I think I remember Steve saying something about even the photographers at the Breeders Cup Classic were wiping away tears at the end of the race.)

Dave Johnson: Thanks so much for your insight. When Zenyatta was scratched last year, I figured John was not going to take any chances with her. Because of the great care Team Zenyatta has given her, she is still in training at age 6 and loving every minute of it. (And thrilling the racing world.) It is good to hear that she liked Churchill Downs.

20 Apr 2010 1:21 PM

Steve, thank you for the Zenyatta love story.  It is so true.  For each of us it is personal, a memory of youthful dreams.

Sodapopkid, thank you for posting the info on The Interview with Zenyatta.  It was indeed a step closer to her presence and beauty.

MikeRelva, I understand the devotion to Cigar as well.  I live in Las Vegas and have made the trip to see him three times over the past six years.  He knows he is greatness.  I actually was able to touch him after one of the shows and I truly welled up with emotion.  I waited eight months for his bridle and it is displayed where I can see it everyday.  I never thought another horse would pull at my heartstrings like Cigar.  

Zenyatta.  Just say her name, Zenyatta.

20 Apr 2010 1:58 PM
Big Brown's Buddy

TerriV, if you should ever get to see Z in person,don't worry about the water-works! Just remember that there's people like ME, sitting at home watching on TV, bawling our eyes out! (Was at Monmouth when Big Brown won his last race,and bawled my eyes out - this is BEFORE knowing this was to be his last!)

What I'd give to be able to see Queen Zen in person. But I'm even further away from anywhere than you are, Terri, up here in MA.  Destined to only dream about meeting her one day.

20 Apr 2010 3:03 PM

Steve again thank you for this article.  You put so much into perspective about this great/fabulous mare!  I'm also glad that I'm not the only one that everytime I see her on TV, youtube etc., I well up with tears of joy!  I just love Zenyatta and everything she brings with her.  Her charisma, the love she has for her fans, the love of the sport!  She is the "Secratariat/Ruffian" of MY Time!

20 Apr 2010 4:29 PM


Wonderful article!  It's so good to read something that focuses on what she (Zenyatta) has done, and what she is doing for the people, and *not* comparing her to Rachel.

Zenyatta is truly one of a kind. We have been blessed with amazing fillies the past couple of years and it has been such fun to experience.

Thanks again Steve.

20 Apr 2010 5:57 PM

It is so much fun to come back here and read the comments that you all have added and to keep learning more about the devotion we share.  I've been mentally responding to each comment and wish I could reach out to all of you, but it is just not possible.  I do want to cover a couple of things, though:  Old Dog, your comment at ll:52 this a.m. really did make me laugh out loud - sounds like me sharing my love for Zenyatta with my 5 year old granddaughter.  She was thrilled with the big button that I gave her from Hot Springs, and she loved looking at the photos on my computer from the race.  Sadly, there were not many that turned out, but at least there are a few.  The other thing I wanted to mention is the newest video on you-tube from John Shirreffs - I wish I had the link handy, but I'm sure if you search you can find it and it is well worth the effort - Zenyatta greeting a model horse made in her image and her return home from Hot Springs.  Just more lovely Zenyatta goodness to see evidenced again how much she is loved by her connections as well as her fans.  Thank you for your time!

20 Apr 2010 6:11 PM

The Dancing Queen makes me cry everytime I see her race.  She is a hero untarnished by scandal in a time when we are constantly disappointed by the foibles of mere humans.  'My beloved companion, and friend to my creator, thou shalt never fail me.'  Zenyatta is a true 'drinker of the wind'.

20 Apr 2010 6:36 PM
Barbara W

I think it is just now sinking in how great she has been, is now, and will be. The thought occurred to me after returning from Hot Springs: could she have been our Triple Crown winner 3 years ago?

We'll never know. Perhaps not, because her connections were being very careful with her, but it's an intriguing thought to ponder.

By all means watch the clip of Big Zenyatta meeting Little (Breyer figure) Zenyatta. It captures her sweetness perfectly.

20 Apr 2010 8:36 PM

Thanks for the great article! I hope to see her this summer back at Del Mar where it all started! One thing I'd like to mention is if you want to be the best you have to go where the best are and beat the best there. Last I checked Zenyatta was undefeated, 16-0. She's done it carrying weight, at classic distances, and against mostly older fillies, mares, colts and horses. A mile and a quarter is a mile and a quarter no matter what surface it is run on. She won twice on dirt and even easier than on the synthetic surface so that argument is OVER. If you haven't seen her yet, get on a plane and come see her. The seaside track at Del Mar is a beautiful place to watch a beautiful queen!

I love RA too. What she has accomplished is awesome. However, she isn't the only filly I've seen beat the boys in style...Personal Ensign and Winning Colors both beat the boys. WC did it in the SA Derby and at a mile and a quarter in the KY Derby. Lets please not forget Rags beat Curlin at a mile and a half in the Belmont.

That being said,I do hope RA stays in training and I get to see her some more too. We are so spoiled right now and I love it all!

20 Apr 2010 8:56 PM

Beautiful post Kathleen!!! I couldn't agree more... all this mention of the tears that come to people's's so refreshing to know I am not crazy. I have always cried when I watch these horses race. Every year I stare at the T.V on derby day and there is just so much emotion running through my veins....Every one of them is simply breathtaking...Zen and Rachel really turned up the love for me and put an entire new spin on the love I feel. Just the mention of either one of them just makes my head spin. I thank God for these gifts every day. It is my escape. Thank you every one on these blogs for sharing the love...we really are cut from the same cloth...

20 Apr 2010 9:41 PM


 Go to Youtube and watch everone of her training videos that is listed under JOhns name Jonshs05 I think thats it, if not it is close enough, You can figure it out when you see it,  But ,the cutest video of March training is when John gives Zenyatta her bottle of Guiness, and she is inhaling it and he tells her to take a breath,  I love them all,  I also love the fact that John shares with us the behind the scenes of her everyday life.  "PRICELESS"

20 Apr 2010 10:07 PM

She is not in the same league as Secretariat -- not even close! To make that declaration shows zero respect or understanding of the magnitude of his accomplishments. She is a great horse no doubt, but Big Red's brilliance deserves to be remembered appropriately!

20 Apr 2010 10:19 PM
Matthew W

Dave Johnson the greatest performance I ever witnessed--you called! On a clear, cool, windy day, Spectacular Bid made an early move into a fast pace--very fast--in the '80 Strub...I was at the Clocker's Corner, where I'd like to go, and would be able to see the horses in their leanning into the turn--Bid had gone very fast for a mile yet had this beautiful lean, no sign of fatigue, and I couldn't believe what he had, and as they passed into the stretch, I could hear you say "...and Spectacular Bid is spectacular..." aside: my boss gave me a parlay bet, a Radar Ahead/Double Discount exacta, in an earlier race...(which won)...and parlay it all to Shoe, who had ridden Bid, in the ninth and last race--my boss told me Shoe wouldn't be riding this race if he wasn't "live"...well, his horse turned out to be First Albert, a future Swaps a maiden race, and he paid boxcars...and my boss laid a wad of a tip on me--something like half---I saw some great horses that day---including the best I ever saw....

20 Apr 2010 11:13 PM
Paula Higgins

I hope all of Zenyatta's connections read this blog and see how much she is loved by people who have never met her and will never meet her. I am very grateful for the care they have given her. Her welfare is their primary concern and that is crystal clear. Just love that about them. John Shirreffs is a hoot in those videos. You may not see him but you can hear him.

20 Apr 2010 11:17 PM
Matthew W

The one word name of the Zenyatta story is: Unbeatable! That word means so much/stands for so much...and the oddities of her mannerisms are some sign of her "reaching out" to communicate--and she does know all eyes are on her, you can tell in the post parade--on, yeah, you guys at Churchill, you guys at Saratoga---you'll get a birds eye view of her! Win/lose/or draw---Zenyatta is worth the price of admission, and then some! As far as losing/or drawing, don't bet on it!

20 Apr 2010 11:31 PM

YES!  You said it all...even though she's a horse it seems in some way she comes out as a kind of role model for "living your passion", she just loves being herself.  I happen to be one of the few who don't think she sees herself as a diva or a ham as some say.  I think she's rather amused at us, the public, clapping and cheering, she wonders what the big fuss is.  She's just doing her thang!

21 Apr 2010 1:24 AM

The magical, mystical lady has cheered me through the difficulties of a stroke. She touched my heart when it needed to be touched. She makes me laugh and she makes me cry tears of joy. Her beauty transcends all understanding, as it seems to ooze from every fiber of her being. It's obvious that all of her connections adore her; and rightly so. They have allowed us to quench our thirst with a tall drink of water. We just can't seem to get enough.

21 Apr 2010 6:31 AM
21 Apr 2010 8:58 AM

Great article Steve.  You really nailed it.  I flew from Maryland to Arkansas for the Apple Blossom and it's just one of thse days I'll never, ever forget...she is one of a kind.  Steve

P.S.  I saw some home videos from that day on Youtube and got as much of a kick out of the videographers gushing over Zenyatta as I did from her pre-race performnce....great stuff.

21 Apr 2010 11:43 AM
Mike Relva


Just because others'(including myself) has a different opinion doesn't mean we're wrong.

21 Apr 2010 12:17 PM


Thank yo so much for writing this. As you said Zenyatta seems to embody human traits and enjoys putting on a show (dancing, prancing, sidestepping( as much as she enjoys racing.  I agree with you that she almost seems to be a reincarnated diva who has come back to perform on a different stage to entertain us. Two of my favorite movies are My Friend Flicka (which is very sad when the mother mare dies) and Seabiscuit.  I love horses and always enjoyed watching or attending the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont and the Virginia Gold Cup races here in my native Virginia, however there is no horse that has ever moved me emotionally the way Zenyatta does.  And I've never seen her in person!...not that it matters as you can watch her every move on the internet again and again!  As you have stated so eloquently, the Zenyatta craze is hard to put into words. I hope you will consider writing a book about Zenyatta because it would be a bestseller!  For most of us who did not experience Seabiscuit in person, it was the movie that inspired my love of horses, horse racing, and charismatic horses like Zenyetta, Seabiscuit, and Secretariat who seem to embody human traits and have thousands of devoted and loving fans.  Please continue to write about Zenyatta!!  We cannot get enough of her and I agree with the earlier blogger who said she goes to the internet every day in search of something new (even the smallest tidbit) about our Superstar Zen.  

21 Apr 2010 12:56 PM

As great as Zenyatta is ,it IS premature to put her in a class with Secretariat as a racehorse.She may be approaching the same level of human following as Big Red,but of course there is much more media exposure now and the showcase of the Breeder's Cup. I have no idea if she has more personality than Secretariat as there were no daily "behind the  scenes" clips,etc. of him to share with fans.Most media personalities have commented on Big Red having a lot of personality too.(Remember Dick Enberg's comments!)

I do hope to see Zenyatta race Rachel ALexandra,Quality Road ,Summer Bird(on dirt) and maybe the good 3 yo's from this year.I don't know if she will stay undefeated in 2010 ( any horse can be beaten on a given day)but applaud her owners for continuing to showcase her and otherwise.The sport needs its heros and heroines like Zenyatta and Rachel!!!

21 Apr 2010 1:55 PM

I  had mentioned Zenyatta as being the "Secratariat/Ruffian" of "this generation."  I was born in 1973 so, never got to see Big Red or Ruffian or Seabiscuit.  Even though, I have read books seen their movies etc. I understand and know their Greatness but, for me and those of my age, Zen is that Greatness!  She is our Star that we have wished for.  She has become the Peoples horse of this era.  Perhaps, She is Big Red/Ruffian and Seabiscut reincarinated?!  

Girl, you just keep doing your thing and keep making history and loving it!  I agree with another blogger that their should be a book written about her and a movie.  I would definetly buy the book and buy the movie.  I would go to the big screen.

I love that Sherriffs regularly posts on Youtube the behind the sceens with her and I loved her with her breyer horse.  How sweet is that?!  I also loved it when he gave her the bottle of guinness and he had to tell her to take a breath.  LOL.  Poor Life is sweet had to have the left overs.  Love it, Love it, Love it!

Long live the dancing queen!

21 Apr 2010 5:33 PM

I too go to youtube a few times a day to see if there is anything new posted about Zen.  I'm obsessed for sure!  

Steve, please keep writing about her, we love it and thrive on it.  Thank you.

21 Apr 2010 5:35 PM
Ida Lee

Wow!!! The outpouring of love and admiration for this great Mare is astonishing. I did see the great Secretariat and Ruffian race. To say that their beauty and talent was stupendous is putting it mildly for me. I loved them so very much. Is Zenyatta in their league? Maybe so. I have a feeling that decades from now, if I'm still alive, I will remember this great Mare and the excitement and fun she brought to so many people and her picture will still be in my home next to Secretariat and Ruffian(and Seabiscuit)like it is today.

21 Apr 2010 8:17 PM

Ida Lee,

Zenyatta is in a league of her own.

Ruffian never raced outside of New York, except the Sorority in New Jersey, where she beat a filly from California, Hot N Tasty, by only two lenghths.

Ruffian never carried more that 122 lbs., and even was assigned 113 lbs. for a race during her three year old year.

Ruffian never faced a Grade 1 winner other than losing to Foolish Pleasure.

Zenyatta just crushed the winners of 18 Grade 1 races from around the world in the BCC.

She has totally destroyed the winners of approximately 25 Grade 1 races in her career.

She has beaten four Eclipse Awards winners and two Breeders' Cup Distaff Champions.

She has carried 129 lbs. in one race, and 127 lbs. in another.

She even traveled further than Ruffian - going to Arkansas twice.

Art Wilson of the Pasadena Star News calls Zenyatta not only the greatest female racehorse of all time, but the GREATEST racehorse of all time.

Claire Novak of NTRA/ESPN calls Zenyatta the Horse of the Century.

She is in a league of her own.

21 Apr 2010 10:50 PM

I have said a lot of things about Zenyatta on the "A World of Their Own" blog so I'm not going to repeat myself. Thanks to all who gave video links. Watching Zenyatta after a long hard day always puts a smile on my face, better than Prozac.

I'll add one more childhood favorite horse, "Pie" in National Velvet and I firmly believe Zenyatta talks to John Schirreffs, but he is the only one that can hear her, just like Mr. Ed.

His videos are a priceless look at her care, personality, their relationship and her regal presence. I had not really seen that until I watched his videos. She stands so tall, head held high, alert to all that's going on around her but intimidated by nothing. This she does everywhere and I clearly saw it in the little patch of grass where he so often takes videos. You can also see the intelligence in her eyes.

She is submissive to her handlers because she chooses to. When she is done looking around at her kingdom or getting that last mouthful of grass, then she moves on. They wait on her.

She is such a gorgeous horse and so very powerful. I have compared her easy source of power to Secretariat's. Of course their race record is not the same because she had to take a different path to greatness and her racing style is different. When I watch her I feel that same chill down my spine and the joy of seeing a rare blend of power, beauty and talent and something special that's hard to put into words; that I felt watching Secretariat. I do think she is the greatest horse since Secretariat.

To paraphrase a quote about Secretariat, There is no one to compare him to but himself. The same is true of Zenyatta. There has never been another horse like her. I was too young to go see Secretariat in person but I will not let this opportunity to see a true thoroughbred great pass me by. I have lived long enough to recognize just how rare this is.

22 Apr 2010 2:09 AM

Zenyatta to the Vanity? Really? If he takes her there I give up.  What a shame.

22 Apr 2010 6:31 AM

Dray:  Where is the "other filly"?

Hmmmm,  do you know when she is going to race Zenyatta or QR for that matter, No, and no one else does either,  chances are it won't even happen.

Zen just came east and everyone was to scared of her to race against her,  including your other filly,  

Zen can still go and race in Cali and have plenty of time to come back and race in the east, The problem with the east is the chicken out owners and trainers that wont' go in the gate to take her on.........Not Zens fault,  compare her to the other filly,  Zen wins hands down.

22 Apr 2010 9:59 AM

Thank you for expressing what so many of us feel for Zenyatta! If she were to never win another race, I'd love her always. I never get tired of watching her prance, bow her head or paw the ground. She looks graceful in spite of her size. Yes, I love Rachel Alexandra also (there's enough room in my heart for both!), but the two are so different and should be appreciated for their differences. Rachel Alexandra exudes raw power, Zenyatta exudes confidence and a showy class. Rachel bursts from the gate like a rocket (one can almost see the comet tail) , Zenyatta is almost languid starting from the gate, building momentum slowly, keeping her audience in suspense until the very end and comes home in a blaze of glory with her ears pricked and looking as if the outcome was never in doubt. I, for one, feel privileged to see both mares. Let's hope they stay healthy and on top of their game. They will leave us all too soon.


I'm glad to see I'm not the only dual fan! I'm a huge Rachel fan, but there is enough room in my life for the Zenster as well.

Wonder when/where their next race will be? To see Zen strut her stuff and then charge at the end (EXCUSE ME! COMIN' THROUGH!!), and to see Rachel with her 'I can do that!' attitude--words can't describe them.


22 Apr 2010 10:46 AM

While I agree with you Dray (I may be choking here), they're in a tough spot. They just can't ship for every race. You're talking about sending her across the country for every single race; who does that? I don't know what the solution is.

22 Apr 2010 11:02 AM
Pam S.

I actually agree with Draynay here.  

I said on another blog that I don't think Zenyatta was brought out of retirement to win the Vanity a third time.  I think since she has only a bare handful of races left, it is time to let the Kentucky/New York fans see her in all her awesome glory.

She could stay in Calif. and run in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Pacific Classic and Goodwood (or some two out of the three) to get ready for the Breeders' Cup, but why not make her farewell tour a real tour??  It seems like she ships really well.

I hate to second-guess the Mosses and John S.  After all, they are the ones charged with the responsibility of caring for a national treasure.  But I hope they are still keeping their options open.

22 Apr 2010 11:16 AM

As usual, Steve, your words enchant me. I've been watching and "soaking up" the career of Zenyatta since her first race just like many fans. Considering myself an obsessed fan, I always cry when I see any video of her on YouTube or read any article that respects her so greatly as you just did. I have even showed her BC and Apple Blossom to my ESL and international students in classes--what a thrill for them...I will come to see her in the SF, I hope. I love her dearly but want so much for her to be safe...and retire sound, happy, gorgeous, and as diva-like as she is. What a horse, what a mare!

22 Apr 2010 11:26 AM


According to the LA Daily News, the connections of Zenyatta may be leading to the Vanity on June 6, if the weights aren't too severe, and use it for a prep for the Hollywood Gold Cup four weeks later.

That would make prefect sense.

They know that there is nothing out there right now that can touch their horse, and by going from racetrack to racetrack all around the country showcasing Zenyatta accomplishes nothing.

They might even do the same 1-2 punch at either Saratoga or Belmont later.

Remember, it's all about the goal of the BCC at Churchill in November.

22 Apr 2010 11:45 AM
Mike Relva


No disrespect intended,but why paint the illusion that you're a fan of Zenyatta's when in reality all you usually do is slam her.

22 Apr 2010 12:22 PM

Thank you so very much Mr. Haskin for such a poignant and memorable piece of writing. Zenyatta has had the same impact on me as she has so many others. As a credentialed photographer, I had the good fortune of being able to be up close to her. Being in her presence was an unearthly experience. Whether it be during her approach to the walking ring, or her march into the winner's circle. She provided us with moments that brought warmth from within and tears of joy to ones eyes. As Mike Smith stated so eloquently. Zenyatta is a horse of a lifetime. She is God's horse.

22 Apr 2010 2:48 PM

Zenyatta gives me goosebumps.  Every gesture, expression, dance move-every ear flick, eye roll, tail swish-gives me a rush.  She is at the same time dramatic and enigmatic, awe and laughter inspiring.  She has a classic case of not taking herself or life too seriously. She obviously has a great sense of humor. She has come this far undefeated, undaunted and unjaded.

Zenyatta has never looked like anything but a supremely happy horse, and that is a testament to the skill and compassion of the lucky humans who are the decision makers concerning her life.

Ultimately, I am convinced that God decided He wanted a mare, and so made Zenyatta. We are so lucky He decided to share her with us!

22 Apr 2010 3:13 PM

sushyne :

Zenyatta at GGF???  Do you know something that I don't know?  If she comes to GGF, I will do whatever I have to in order to see her in person.  I'd camp out at the gates if I had too.  Let me know.  Thanks

22 Apr 2010 4:31 PM
Ida Lee

John: I don't see why you found it necessary to defend Zenyatta by putting down Ruffian's accomplishments. Zenyatta does not need to be defended. I agree she is in a league of her own. But, during Ruffian's time on the track, she was in a league of HER own too. Her beauty and talent were beyond compare. Ruffian's fans adored her and to this day suffer the pain of her loss. So, please don't downplay a great Mare's accomplishments in order to uplift another great Mare's accomplishment. Neither is necessary. It hurts Ruffian's fans and insults this great Mare's memory. We all know Zenyatta is indeed a treasure but so was our beloved Ruffian.

22 Apr 2010 7:16 PM
Mike Relva


Well said,unlike some that claim to be racing fans but fail to appreciate the great talent of Zenyatta.

22 Apr 2010 7:22 PM
Paula Higgins

Tiznowbaby, you are right, they cannot ship her for every race. That means they have to pick and choose the most ideal one to ship to. In fact, she just shipped. they have to ship her across the country (not a few states down or over) and they want to make it worthwhile. Maybe they would like to do the next one close to home. I totally understand that perspective. Their careful handling of her has paid off tremendously. Makes perfect sense to me.

22 Apr 2010 9:18 PM

Ida Lee,

I wasn't trying to put down Ruffian.

I only stated the facts that always seem to be glossed over when remembering Ruffian's racing career.

Many will always remember Ruffian in a very emotional way, and thus, has become an enigma with racing fans.

Truth is, we will never know how great Ruffian might have become, or might not have become.

We'll never know.

What we have is what she gave us.

No more and no less.

However, when we look at horses and their places in history we must step back and look at it with an objectable, non-emotional way.

And facts will always bear out the truth in this.

23 Apr 2010 2:25 PM

I think people forget what it's like to fly across the country.  Imagine if you're a horse.  We understand what's happening when a plane takes off, or lands, or hits turbulence.  Horses don't.  If they decide to ship only 2 more times this year, and one of those will be the BC, I'm sure they'll choose the other race very carefully.  The first, last, and only consideration that Zen's people have is her happiness and well being.  I would rather she run in the SF rather than the Vanity, but it's not my horse, not my decision.  Just be happy that we have this bonus year to see that magnificent horse race.  

23 Apr 2010 5:25 PM

Dray, I suspect you would find fault even if Zen beat Pegasus.  You'd complain that the surface was clouds instead of dirt, or that the race wasn't run in NY.  Whatever.  

23 Apr 2010 5:29 PM
Mike Relva


I agree with you a hundred percent what you told John!

23 Apr 2010 9:46 PM


First it's Draynay, then it's John. Why can't you except that not everyone agrees with you, and does have a different opinion, or even take on things.

Didn't you asked that from Buddy900?

23 Apr 2010 10:41 PM

IDA LEE & Mike Revla,

I agree with IDA's post as well. To undermine one great to support another serves no purpose.

Now onto something more uplifting. I just read Zenyatta is being pointed to the June 13th Vanity. And here I was accepting the fact I'd never see her race again in CA. What a pleasant surprise!! Time to get the camera gear ready.  

24 Apr 2010 8:46 AM
Matthew W

The idea of shipping her across country for each race, then shipping back for works--that's not something I have EVER seen in racing! I think Ancient Title went out there, in 75, for three races, but he stayed back there... She'll probably go East after Hollywood---in the meantime, everyone's invited to try her--(STILL!)...and if she takes on Rail Trip and friends in the Gold Cup, that would be no easy task!...they'll all get to try her--in the Classic!--good luck with that!

24 Apr 2010 10:56 AM

Think this is my favorite Apple Blossom video (9+ minutes of Zenyatta!)

24 Apr 2010 11:53 AM

The heading: "Steve takes one final look at Zen."

Anyone want to make a wager about that, lol.?

24 Apr 2010 12:47 PM
Round Table

Watch Zenyatta in the paddock (before the Grade I 2010 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap):

She's human! At the 2:10 mark of this video, she stops and strikes a pose for the Paparazzi!

24 Apr 2010 1:46 PM

Sherpa, Round Table,

Thank you for the links to more of Zenyatta's antics off and on the track. I never get tired of looking at her. I'm still smiling as I'm typing this... :)  :)  :)

24 Apr 2010 7:31 PM
Judy G ~ Burbank, CA


I didn't think it possible to love your writing any more. I love this piece!!

First of all, thank you for mentionihng my favorite: JOHN HENRY. Yes, he brought out the crowds like a rock star over 20 years ago.

I've read the majority of the comments. I have to admit, I had tears well up more than once! ZENYATTA evokes such beautiful words, that I don't think I could add much more.

I had the humble pleasure of stroking QUEEN ZENYATTA. Was I speechless? Was I numb? Was I star-struck? YES! YES! YES! Her beauty is beyond words! Her charisma is beyond words!

I've watched her at the track numerous times ~ my hands shake so much that I can hardly take her picture!

As Mikey said, "She is heaven sent!" Thank you, Lord, for giving us ZENYATTA.

Thank you to the Mosses, the Shirreffs, and all her connections. I love your "Treasure". Zenyatta now resides in my heart ~ right next to John Henry! She is the "baby sister" he never had.

24 Apr 2010 9:17 PM

great writeup steve

besides zenyatta being zenyatta to appreciate what she does on the race track being male/female is to realize how difficult it is for a horse coming from far off to win a race, is there any horse who won so many graded races coming from way out of it. Silky did it till the classic distance, lit de justice sprinting, etc. but there no horse ever doing it at classic distance and in graded company, PEOPLE APPRECIATE WHAT WE ARE SEEING & THANKS TO THE MOSSES FOR THAT EXTENDED YEAR.

24 Apr 2010 11:00 PM

Sherpa, Roundtable:  Ditto what Zookeeper said.  Thanks so much!

25 Apr 2010 9:21 AM
okie girl

I am disappointed to hear that Zenyatta is going to run in the Vanity instead of the Stephen Foster :(

I will cheer for her no matter where she runs or who she runs against but I thought the whole reason for them not retiring her was to do things "differently" this go around.  


25 Apr 2010 4:43 PM
Mike Relva


You know what I don't "accept" ? So called fans that relish in slamming racehorses'. It's about that simple!

25 Apr 2010 11:29 PM

Steve, have you heard anymore about where Zenyatta's next race might be? At first I read they were considering the Stephen Foster and then somewhere in the last week I heard it was another race in California (say it ain't so!). I have my tickets to the S.F and lots of good advice about Churchill Downs.

25 Apr 2010 11:44 PM

For what it's worth, someone posted on Zenyatta's Facebook page that TVG reported she was running in the the Vanity Handicap, based on today's DRF article. However, this poster said the TVG hosts reported later in the show that John Shirreffs had called them and said it still isn't certain that the Vanity is next for Zen.

I recall Shirreffs saying previously he had to find out first how much weight Zen would have to carry in the Vanity before committing to that race or another.

So when I read the DRF report, I wondered about it myself.

26 Apr 2010 12:38 AM
Julie L.

I think that it is foolish for everyone to try and second guess the training of Zenyatta because obviously her trainer knows exactly what he is doing and is doing it very well...16 straight could anyone argue that...oh I forgot Draynay can. I have seen the grand girl in person and whether dancing for the crowd or winning for the crowd everything Zenyatta does is phenomenal. She is 6 years old and still loves to race and is sound and in excellent condition so we all should be very thankful for that fact. Perhaps the way her trainer and owners handle her career is the reason she is still going strong. My hat is off to the Mosses and Sherriffs for the wonderful jobs that they have done. Please keep up the good work and thank you for allowing we fans to continue to watch and celebrate Zenyatta.

26 Apr 2010 3:05 PM
Zenyatta - Moving A Nation

Zenyatta shakes the grandstand:

27 Apr 2010 10:05 AM
david in arkansas

Growing up near Oaklawn Park all my life which is now a young 51 I can say I've seen some of the best jockeys, trainers, owners & horses in the world. I even went to the Ky. Derby for the first time and watched Smarty Jones in which I thought nothing in racing could ever top that experience for me.

Was I ever wrong. On Thursday April 8th my wife and I drove to Hot Springs and caught the last few races of the day in order to get a program and form for the next day. We were there for the Apple Blossom and Ark. Derby. That night we went to a new little restaurant in Hot Springs to meet some old friends for dinner. While we were there I discovered Jerry & Ann Moss with John & Dottie Shirreffs and I finally got up to introduce myself and to mainly thank them for bringing Zenyatta to Oaklawn. They were the nicest people I've ever met and I chatted a little bit more and went back over to my table

Later I nodded for their waitress to come over and I told her I wanted to pick up their tab. We took of it and before they left they came over to thank us and John asked me for my e-mail address and name. They sat down and visited with us for another 10 mins and before I knew it we had an invitation to get our picture made with them in the winner's circle if all went well. I don't think I slept the whole night I was so excited.

We were already going to the backside in the morning because we knew an owner who got us in there. We went by Zenyatta's barn and photographers were everywhere but they did have a screen in front of her but you could see her from the side. She was so perky. We were starting to leave and Mr. Shirreffs saw me and called out to me by name. Wow! I went over and he autographed my program and thanked me again for dinner and said see ya in the winner's circle later I had to look for the nearest bathroom. J/K.

It was a dream come true, we actually watched the race in the owners box that Oaklawn provides outside with the Moss's and the rest was history.

Zenyatta and her connections are some of the greatest in THR history.

Just had to share.

P.S. I am going to the Oaks and the Derby this weekend but I can't imagine anything topping the Apple Blossom experience!

27 Apr 2010 4:25 PM
Paula Higgins

WOW DAVID!!!! What a great story!!!!!!!!!!! I am so glad you had a chance to meet them and the Her Majesty, The Queen of Racing. They really do seem like lovely people and that was so kind of you to pay for their dinners. It really sends home to them what a great thing they have done when they meet people like you. Thanks for sharing that with us. Enjoyed reading it very much.

27 Apr 2010 6:31 PM
Paula Higgins

John Shirreffs and Jerry and Ann Moss did exactly the right thing by picking the Vanity over the Stephen Foster. Why ship her for a HANDICAP across country? That makes no sense when she JUST shipped for her last race. There is always time to ship her for another run against the boys. I would not ship for a handicap, period, if it were me. They know what they are doing. For goodness sakes she is 6 years old and the number 1 horse in the world. I will NEVER second guess her connections.

27 Apr 2010 6:37 PM

Someone previously mentioned that Zenyatta beat "the winners of 25 Grade 1 races".

Sorry. That's not true.

It's actually over 30.

That is when you count in Ginger Punch, Life Is Sweet, Cocoa Beach, Hystericallady, Music Note, and maybe one or two others beside the BCC field.

27 Apr 2010 8:31 PM

david in arkansas,

What an experience that must have been! It doesn't surprise me in the least. Zenyatta's connections have been known to drag pure strangers out of the crowd to join them in the winner circle. Zenyatta (as Ann Moss likes to say) is a gift that they love to share. How grateful we are for her and for them! Thank you so much for telling us about your fantastic experience. What a great story!

27 Apr 2010 11:18 PM
Matthew W

David--WOW! Sounds like class acts all around! As for them staying home for the Vanity/Hol Gold Cup--I don't think they want to ship her for another 6K round trip--before Summer---remember what happened to Rachel Alexander last year--she wasn't around for the Fall at all--not the Breeders Cup, of corse, but not Belmont, either--they are going East--probably Saratoga--and, finally, to Churchill for the Classic---But she's a West Coast Gal, that's where she lives--I think they have done allright by her, and she by them!

28 Apr 2010 12:41 AM
Judy G ~ California


There was one more other thing I have to post about ZEN.

My co-workers are not horse racing fans by any means! Well, the day of the Apple Blossom, I had 5 of them standing over my computer as I streamed ZEN's race... you never saw so many smiles as they watched The Queen come down the stretch to the wire!! :-) It was great!!

Zennie has touched the lives of 5 more people. I LOVE IT!

TO DAVID IN ARKANSAS: You've had the pleasure of meeting Team Zenyatta! Congraulations! Now you know why so many of us like them.

28 Apr 2010 12:51 PM

david in arkansas,

What an absolutely wonderful story to share.  The experiences you and your wife had Apple Blossom weekend will be some that you will never forget.  It warms your heart to think your generosity was so graciously repaid.  After having made the walkover with the "other filly" before last year's Kentucky Oaks, I can definitely understand how you feel about getting to participate in something you love so much with a mare that you obviously care so much about. I wish you and your wife the very best of luck.

28 Apr 2010 9:38 PM


I watched Lenny Shulman's Derby Minute yesterday and he said Zen is not set for the Vanity and that she may run in the Stephen Foster.  I think that if Rachel goes to the Stephen Foster, Zenyatta will too.

30 Apr 2010 11:07 AM


After today, I don't think that Rachel will be going to the Stephen Foster and I hope that Zen's connections aren't influenced by people who are clamoring for her to race every race out of California this year. There's a reason why she is still undefeated and it's because they have always done what was right for her. I have enough faith in them to continue to do the same.

They'll go to the Stephen Foster IF they feel it is the right race for her at the time.

The problem with the Vanity is the weight assignment. A race against males would not require her to carry that much weight against her competition. Food for thought...

30 Apr 2010 7:47 PM
Paula Higgins

Monica, hmmm.... Interesting. Wonder what will happen now that Rachel came in second in the La Troienne.

30 Apr 2010 8:52 PM

David in arkansas,

You're story is a testament to how wonderful Team Zen is. I am one of the "strangers" that has been brought into the winner's circle and I can't even explain what a thrill it was to be that close to the Queen and feel like part of the family! My husband and I were in the winner's circle for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic and the following year for the Classic. My husband and eldest daughter were there in the winner's circle for the Santa Margarita. Mr Sherrifs even remembered him from the BCC and asked him why he wasn't in the front row. As a racing fan, to have that kind of connection is priceless! A chance of a lifetime!  Now my two young daughters are also fans and are always asking when Zenny is racing next. They can't wait to see her again! We have seen every race that she's run in Cali and are exstatic that she might run out here again. One more chance to witness greatness!

Thank you Team Zen!! You are all wonderful, warm people and thank you sooooooo much for sharing your beloved mare with us all!

Long live the Queen!!!!

01 May 2010 1:07 AM

JJ said he wasn't going to retire RA yet.  Anyone want to make a bet that he goes back on that statement?

01 May 2010 6:24 PM
Bob Z

So now there is talk about Calvin being replaced as Rachels jockey?

Thats right ... the jockey must be the problem... this years Kentucky Derby winning jockey... its his fault...

Never mind that Rachel was forced into an accelerated training regimen that she wasn't used to because the owner got out negotiated and committed to the Apple Blossom...  

Never mind that that she wasn't as fit as last year when she ran in the New Orleans Ladies...

This week according to the principles she was still only at 90%... which makes sense.. that last 10% is what gave her her breakaway acceleration last year...

So if you throw out the New Orleans Ladies because she clearly wasn't ready and look at the La Troienne ... she was only at 90% and just got nipped at the wire by a horse that ran a great race...

There were only 5 horses in the field.. and the talk is that Calvin went too wide on the first turn and that is what caused her to lose.. this wasn't the Derby with 20 horses in it... How far wide could she get on the first turn...?

The Stephen Foster is in 6 weeks... plenty of time to go back to training and try it again... 6 weeks should be enough time to get that last 10% of performance...

I saw that John Sheriffs was quoted last week that they would probably go to the Vanity... because "its tough flying over the Rocky Mountains" ...  meaning cross country traveling with a horse is tough... understandably...

At Churchill this weed he was quoted as saying that no decision has been made as to where to run next... opening the door for Zenyatta to run in the Stephen Foster...

Team Z has said all along that they wanted to come East and run this year so her coming to the Stephen Foster stays within that plan...

Let's see how this plays out... Does Team Z keep things close to the vest and not commit to a race until we get closer...

What does Team Rachel do if Team Z comes out tomorrow and commits to going to the Foster?

What will they do if Team Z  doesn't commit ... will they point to the Foster?

Its going to be hard to not run Rachel in the Foster... its the obvious next race... right time, right track, 5 more weeks of training.... Grade 1

The only reason to not run is if Rachel still isn't ready to run against Zenyatta...

If they don't meet in the Foster the idea of meeting 3 times this year starts to look a whole lot less likely...

"Asmussen also declined to discuss an issue brought up at owner Jess Jackson's informal press conference the previous afternoon regarding Calvin Borel's ride in the La Troienne.

As was the case in her first setback this year in the New Orleans Ladies, Borel kept Rachel Alexandra under a snug hold during the early stages of the La Troienne, after which she did not have enough punch to withstand winner Unrivaled Belle in late stretch. Borel guided Rachel Alexandra to all eight of her victories during her Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old campaign.

"She finished second and the excuses are obvious when you go to searching," was Asmussen's only comment.

02 May 2010 9:58 AM

Last year at Hollywood Park, for the Milady Handicap, people started showing up with signs.  On the way to the winners' circle, Mrs. Moss grabbed one of the sign carriers and dragged her into the circle with her.  Zen's connections are wonderful people, unlike the villan who owns Rachel. Despite all the naysayers, Zen has been handled with care and because of that, she's still undefeated.  Thank you Arkansas fans for showing up and supporting a legend. For you California fans, see you at Hollywood Park for the Vanity, this is soo much fun!

02 May 2010 1:21 PM
sweet terchi

Paula Higgins & Zookeeper, I agree with you. That is why Zen is the fantastic mare she is today, her well being has always been first and foremost in any decisions made.

03 May 2010 11:24 AM
david in arkansas

Thanks for all the nice comments. Here is a follow up from this weekend at the Oaks & Derby.

Got to meet Jeff Richards who is a 1/8 owner of Mission Impazible, he stayed at the same hotel. We visited with his mom for hours on Thursday night. The Oaks was incredible to watch with the Fantasy winner from Oaklawn Blind Luck ran a great race. The La Troienne was very exciting but I hated to see Rachel go down for a second time. I think last years campaign has really taken a toll on her.  

Derby Day was great as we were treated to a Chalet that's in the middle of the first turn. So we were dry. The worst part about it was John Calipari was in our same chalet. J/K.  I told him to take it easy on my Razorbacks next year.

The highlight of the trip for me though was right before the La Troienne I went to the paddock and people were nice enough to let me get on the fence as I told them I just wanted to yell at John Shirreffs as he went by to saddle up Zardana. I knew he would be busy and focused but as he walked by I called him by name and yelled out hi! He responded with a thumbs up and once again called me by name saying hi back. Unbelievable!

The weekend was awesome but once again, I'm not sure if I could ever top the experience of the Apple Blossom.

If all goes well and Zen runs in the Breeder's Cup I think a return to Louisville is in order.

04 May 2010 8:46 AM

I've always been obsessed with the Triple Crown races from January-June, but this year I'm so much more interested in RA and Zenyatta. Maybe I've lost some hope of seeing a TC winner; these two are simply faster and more interesting than any 3yo colts in recent years. It's such a thrill to see those two racing still; despite RA's losses Jackson did a great thing in not retiring her (just as long as she's healthy and happy). Those two have done so much for racing, dare I say more than a TC winner could? Just the little things, like David in Ark.'s story, endears Zenyatta, at least, to the public. Her connections seem to have set the standard for how to act with a champion horse.

04 May 2010 3:51 PM

It's been several days since I've checked this blog and now after catching up on all the comments - wow!  David in Ark - how wonderful!!!  That is just so thrilling to hear (read) about your trip to the AB.  We made the trek from TX to AR, but wound up in the infield and could barely see any horses.  Made it to the fence to catch glimpses of Zenyatta and that is truly all that mattered, so I'm still tickled that I was able to get as close as I did.  If I had been able to have your experience, I'd probably still be somewhere floating over the town of Hot Springs - lol!  Wow.  I knew the Shirreffs and Mosses were incredible people, but as more of you detail your experiences with them, it makes me love Zenyatta even more, if that could be possible.  Thank you all for sharing!  Thank you, Steve, for getting this all going - you're the best!

07 May 2010 4:55 PM

In my life I never thought I would see a horse who captured my imagination the way this horse has. I love Secretariat, still do but I was too young to appreciate him. This horse will go down in the annals of the sport as one of the greatest that ever lived, and to all the naysayers out there who complain that she hasn't done this or that I say appreciate perfection because you won't see it again in your lifetime. 18 in a row speaks for itself.

08 Aug 2010 12:52 PM

I remain...totally smitten!  See you in November, Zenyatta!

23 Sep 2010 4:39 PM

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