A Day with Zenyatta and Rachel

If you took all the passion that Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra sparked during their respective reigns in 2009 and 2010 and converted it into pure energy you could keep the Sport of Kings (and Queens) running at full speed for the next 20 years.

The resounding cheers, the rocking grandstands, and the free-flowing tears of joy have subsided, as racing’s two queens now live the quiet life awaiting their first foals. But out of sight is not out of mind, and both mares continue to inspire their legions of fans, who after a year still are fueled by the countless memories and unforgettable moments they experienced while in the presence of two of the greatest and charismatic fillies of all time.

Individually, Zenyatta and Rachel were powerful forces traveling on parallel paths. Together, they triggered arguably the most heated debate in the history of the sport. Sadly, or perhaps not so sadly, they never met on the field of battle, thus keeping alive a rivalry only of the mind…and the heart.

Today, an audience with one is a rare moment to cherish. An audience with both in the same day borders on the surreal.

So it was that I, Ernie Munick, and Richie Migliore departed the frenzied atmosphere of the Breeders’ Cup in Louisville, Ky. on a glorious, cloudless day and headed out I-64 toward Lexington and our scheduled visits with Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.

Mig, who had the privilege of working Zenyatta when she was young, still talks about the energy she emitted. Last fall, he said, “When you get inside a horse’s space, you can feel their energy, and sometimes, you can’t believe what you’re feeling. I’ve been around a lot of great horses, so it’s not like I go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ because they’re good horses. But feeling her energy was a genuine sensation that I had only felt when I was around Seattle Slew at the farm. It’s hard to describe, but it’s similar to the feeling you get walking into Churchill Downs on Derby Day. I just know with Zenyatta and Slew I’ve never felt anything like that in my life…never. She had become this amazing animal, and the energy she gave out was unbelievable.”

He was now about to feel it again.

Ernie, who has worked in racing in numerous capacities over the years and currently provides online video coverage for the Breeders’ Cup and race analysis for NYRA, has as infectious a personality as anyone I’ve ever met. And, pardon the cliché, he wears his heart on his sleeve, and has no reservations about declaring his love for Rachel Alexandra. He even admitted having feelings of guilt visiting Zenyatta and putting together a one-year-later video on her for the Breeders’ Cup website. But knowing his visit to Rachel was still to come and the feelings he still had for her, he had to wonder how he would hold up seeing her again after more than a year and on a more intimate level.

I am not going to compare visits or appearances or personal feelings, because they all seemed to blend together to form a single magical experience. I will say their coats were resplendent and showed no sign of the impending winter. Both mares were brought out of their barns and allowed us to hug, kiss, pet, and hold them (or to be more concise, dote on them) for a good 45 minutes each. Zenyatta in fact was being weighed when we arrived and Rachel actually was already standing outside her barn waiting for us. Everyone we met at both farms couldn’t have been friendlier or more gracious.

I spent the better part of last November gushing over Zenyatta in a series of columns that I’m sure many of the more pragmatic readers felt were maudlin at the very least. The year before, in describing Rachel’s Woodward Stakes victory, I had the Saratoga grandstand all but rocking as if it had been jolted by one of those biblical-like thunderstorms so common to the area. It was pretty much the same story after Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic victory. I may have been the victim of my own hyperbole and sentimentality in writing about Zenyatta and Rachel, especially the events following Zenyatta’s Classic defeat, but in retrospect, who cares? The words “hyperbole” and “maudlin” have no meaning and hold no significance when you’re reaching into your heart…oops, there I go again.

All I go by now is the look on Ernie’s face when he first laid eyes on Rachel, while trying to hold his emotions in check, or his filming and narrating his Zenyatta video, putting his guilt feelings temporarily on hold and appreciating being in the presence of greatness. I go by the moment after his posing for pictures with Rachel when he simply pressed his lips together and turned away, saying nothing. I go by Richie reiterating that special feeling of entering Zenyatta’s energy zone. And I go by my own feelings as I looked at these two placid mothers-to-be and was flooded by a wave of memories, recalling two gallant and determined heroines who possessed the power to touch people like few before them. Their siren calls can still be heard and likely will for years to come.

OK, I admit, I cannot write about either one without sounding maudlin. But that is a foible I can live with.

Rather than continue to attempt to describe our unforgettable afternoon, I will conclude by posting several photos and let each one take the place of a thousand words.


Leave a Comment:


Steve..the pictures do tell the story and thank you for sharing them with us..they both look beautiful content and happy!It does look like Rachel was giving you a horse hug.Zenyatta looks so calm..both mother to be's will never be forgotten as they are both seared into our hearts forever..what a wonderful day for you guy's to have!

12 Nov 2011 7:57 PM

Bless you for your foibles.  Thank you so much.  A sorely needed visit with two great ladies.

12 Nov 2011 8:17 PM
Dave Parker

"Maudlin" and "gushing" are not adjectives that I apply to your writing, Mr. Haskin.  You have brought these horses and experiences alive in ways that no one else could.  The way you described the Woodward with Rachel when the rafters were shaking was just wonderful--I was there and I know.  You have a gift, a talent, a wonderful way of bringing the thoroughbred experience to all of us.  Zenyatta . . . who can even begin to describe her but you . . . (well, I also love Liza G. Fly's song).

12 Nov 2011 8:18 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, i just knew you went to see Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, i should have placed a bet on you!

I think i asked you in one of my posts and you never answered me then. Now i know why.

Thanks so much Steve.

12 Nov 2011 8:22 PM

Being in Zenyatta's presence is nothing short of surreal. I'm sure it's the same with Rachel, but unfortunately I've never had the privilege to be in her presence. But I was lucky enough to spend time with Zenyatta. I began following her career just after her impressive maiden victory. I was initially skeptical of her, thinking about how often I've seen horses win impressively first time out, only to fail later on. I chose to take the wait and see approach and promptly added her to my DRF horse watch. Her second win gave me more reassurance that she was the real deal, especially after hearing Vic Stauffer boldly proclaim: "here's a future superstar". After seeing her sweep past several grade 1 caliber mares in only her third career start I went from being just a fan to a follower. I began following Zenyatta religiously, checking for news updates on an hourly basis in case of any announcements as to where she'd run next. When it was announced that she'd run in the Apple Blossom against Ginger Punch, who was the reigning champion older female and coming off impressive wins in the Breeders Cup and Sunshine Million Distaffs. Of course, she blew the doors off that race, winning by nearly 5 lengths. I was blown away, mostly because I was in such awe of Ginger Punch at the time. The first time I saw Zenyatta in person was in the days leading up the 2008 Clement Hirsch. I was sitting next to John Shirreffs watching the workouts at Del Mar when Eric Kruljac came by and asked, "so John, how's the big mare doing?". I knew exactly who he was talking about. "She's coming by right now actually, she's doing great". I looked down the racetrack and there she was, Steve Willard aboard, on her morning gallop. As the Mig said, she has a presence about her that's difficult to put into words. You just simply "knew" that she was great. The electricity in the air was unmistakeable. I regret not being there for the Hirsch, but I'd have many opportunities down the road. My first Zenyatta race experience was the BC Ladies Classic. Looking back on it, I take great pride in being one of the few at the paddock to see her. A year later people would be crowded 10-20 deep around the paddock. I was seated near the top of the stretch. As the field went into the turn, I thought "there's no way she's going to circle this field, no way", and just like that she swallowed them whole with that tremendous burst of energy we've seen race after race. It was the first time I teared up during a horse race. It was like she broke an emotional barrier that would be vulnerable every time she ran. I knew then that she was the greatest racehorse I had ever seen. My love for her grew exponentially race after race, reaching new heights after she won the Classic. After her final race, the opportunity arose where I'd have the chance to finally "meet" Zenyatta. The day was November 22, 2010, which seemed appropriate considering it was 3 years to the day I began following her. Now it was time to say good-bye. I was with about 20 other fans gathered outside barn 55, over by Zenyatta Way. One by one each fan had their picture taken with the Queen. Then Steve Willard motioned over to me, and I nervously walked over. It felt like a dream. I stood next to her and she seemed like a dinosaur(and I'm 6' 6"). She put her head down into my arm and I caressed her. Then, as I was about to have my picture taken something came over me. I leaned over and gave Zenyatta, my hero and my queen, a kiss just as the camera flashed. I'll cherish that photo forever. The memories she created are more powerful than anything else I had ever experienced. I had previously been jealous of my parents, for they were alive to see the likes of Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Forego, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, The Bid...etc, but after experiencing Zenyatta the envy is gone. I'm proud to say that I was a part of the Zenyatta experience from beginning to end. As one of the first, if not the first Zenyatta fan, I'd like to extend my gratitude to her connections for her glorious career. It will never be forgotten. From Zenyatta's greatest and most loyal fan, all I can say is "Zenyatta, thank you".

12 Nov 2011 8:53 PM

I only hope you three guys know how lucky and blessed you have been to spend time with these two great mares. I love them both and truly envy you. I have still not recovered from seeing Zenyatta lose. But everyone knows in one more giant jump she would have had that race. That's the champion she is. And as for Rachael she's all class. Can't wait for the babies now. Cherish your lucky moments!

12 Nov 2011 8:53 PM
Lindsey S

Great pictures, Steve!  They both look SO happy and healthy.  If you can't find the words to describe your day, then there are no words!  They both meant so much to us, and it's hard to watch any of their memorable races without shedding a few tears.  I was lucky enough to visit Rachel in July, and the folks at Stonestreet were so kind and gracious, as was the Queen herself.  I only hope to get up close and personal with Zenyatta someday.  Oh, what a moment that would be!!

12 Nov 2011 8:56 PM

Saw these earlier on Facebook but with words to go with them, they're even better. THANK YOU so much for sharing both the photos and the lovely words!

12 Nov 2011 9:01 PM
anita b

Hi Steve,

Awesome--I would have left my family to come with you. I have always had the upmost respect for the Mig--to meetthe queens and Mig would have been a dream come true.Thanks for a neat article and pictures to boot.

12 Nov 2011 9:10 PM

Thank You....

12 Nov 2011 9:26 PM

Perfectly said in both words and photos.  THANK YOU for sharing the experience of being in the presence of greatness with them once again! We are lucky to have them in our lifetime.

12 Nov 2011 9:27 PM

Wonderful photos of Zenyatta! Love her always...Please keep update on her foal when she delivers. Thank you for sharing your day!

12 Nov 2011 9:34 PM

HOORAY for MAUDLIN!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks Steve.

12 Nov 2011 9:41 PM

Steve, this is just so wonderful I cannot find the words to express how grateful I am to you for sharing this visit and these photos.  Maudlin?  Sentimental?  Pish-tosh - it is beautiful!!  I am so glad that Ernie got to go and meet Rachel - the look on his face says it all.  Wow.

12 Nov 2011 9:43 PM

Queen Z would have had no trouble in beating the Classic field this year.  If she were to race Blame 10 times, she would be the leader in the number of wins.  She ran the better race and is the better horse.  

12 Nov 2011 9:53 PM
Stellar Jayne

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You to the three of you!  Thank you for your heartfelt 'maudlin' feelings, they are so beautiful for these two beautiful women.

These are the first HAPPY pictures I have ever seen of Rachel - she never looked happy to me while she raced, she always had a look of concern, or unhappiness about her.  These are just wonderful pictures of her.

I have never met or seen Zenyatta in person, but I completely understand Migliore's feeling when he is in her presence.  She exudes something that transcends distance and photography - at least for me.  I have pictures of her all around my home and I check-in at her blog every once in awhile to see that she is okay.

This was a great treat - thank you so much.

12 Nov 2011 10:12 PM

I'm so glad, that we could at last have an article that is about both of our champion female horses. They are just such wonderful creatures, and for what they have done in their careers, I'm thankful that Rachel Alexandra has not been forgotten. I love them both just the same, no matter how their careers have gone or ended.

12 Nov 2011 10:23 PM

Awe...awe... So Sweet!  Thank you Steve. Seeing those fine ladies made my day.  They are both looking great.

12 Nov 2011 10:24 PM
Blind Luck

I'm so jealous.  Thank you for sharing though:)

12 Nov 2011 10:33 PM

Thank you so much for sharing the visits! Having had the good fortune to also get into Zenyatta's space and feel that energy, if it could be bottled, there would be no need for anti-depressent medications. There are mysteries with horses like these that heighten all our senses when in their presence and I wish everyone could feel that at least once in their lifetime. It pleases me that you and your friends have and that you continue to share brushing against those wonderful and unexplainable mysteries.

12 Nov 2011 11:09 PM
Arts and Letters

I'd rather read a thousand pages of "hyperbole" and "maudlin" words about Zenyatta and Rachel than a single vitriolic sentence from the so called "fans" of horse racing who found a reason to hate one or both of these wonderful mares.  They're both fabulous and it was great to see these pictures.  Thanks!

12 Nov 2011 11:12 PM

As always, Steve, a wonderful article about two of the greatest horses loved by thousands.  How lucky the three of you were to have a one on one visit with the two queens of racing.  Thank you, again, for sharing your admiration and your friends admiration of the two future moms!  A great read.

12 Nov 2011 11:22 PM

The emotions that a horse can invoke are often times indescribeable.  To be in the presence of champions like Rachael and Zenyatta would render and fan, breeder, groom, trainer, or writer speechless.  We have gone so long since we have seen such energy from a racehorse.  It is moments like these we think Angels exist - even in the form of a champion Racehorse.

13 Nov 2011 12:05 AM
Karen in Indiana

Steve, there are many writers who give the facts, figures and angles on the horses, but the reason you have such a devoted following is because you not only write about those things, but you also see, feel, and write about the heart and soul of the horse. And I want to thank you for that.

13 Nov 2011 12:19 AM
Karen in Indiana

Love the photo of Richie & Zenyatta looking at each other.

13 Nov 2011 12:20 AM

Thanks Steve.  Share your heart anytime.  That's the beauty of this game...the heroes and heroines equine and human.  When Zenyatta came up a little short in her final start my son asked: "Why are you crying dad.  You just hit the pick 4."  I responded to him that the most beautiful animal I had ever seen was just a short head away from immortality.  He countered: "She's already one of the immortals Dad.  You have been saying that for 2 years every time we went to see her race."  I managed a grin.  I have tons of respect for Rachel, but unfortunately never got to see her live.  I fell in love with Zenyatta.

13 Nov 2011 12:36 AM
Alexandra Boyd

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta will never be forgotten. They are two of the greatest females in racing history. And I hope people will stop hating one or the other. And love them both as equals. Horse people have to unite and love every horse. From the cheap claimers to the classic winners. Horses past and present. Only when we have done that. The world will be a better place for people and horses.

13 Nov 2011 1:18 AM

Thanks for a lovely narrative about both of these outstanding mares, Steve.

I'd love to read a similar story about Blind Luck sometime next year, assuming she goes to Kentucky to start a new life as as a broodmare.

13 Nov 2011 1:26 AM

Mr. Haskin,  A thousand thank-yous

for reaching into and writing from your heart again.  I think your always excellent writing rises to a higher level when you do.  Once again, you put the big lump in my throat like last year when I was hungry for every word you wrote about Zenyatta after her Classic loss.  

I made the long trip to Churchill to see her because I couldn't believe I felt so much for a racehorse and doubted that I ever would fall so hard again.  I can still feel the rocking CD grandstand, still hear the silence when the great Z fell short.  I felt so sad afterward.

But a new and greater appreciation of her, and her greatest race took hold.  And a large measure of my new found perspective came from reading your words.  So tonight, as I type this, I am again filled with awe for a legendary racemare and grateful that you continue to honor her with words of sentiment and grace.

Thank you also for the update on Rachel--love the one where you are cupping her muzzle.  The photos are wonderful.  I hope there will be some more next spring when foals are by their sides.  

13 Nov 2011 1:31 AM

Every time I see a picture of Zenyatta it makes me smile. I see the news broadcasters do the same. How can your scribblings be maudlin? I wish I knew how to photoshop you out of the picture of Zenyatta and put myself in your place. My fantasy!!!

13 Nov 2011 1:42 AM
Paula Higgins

Steve, you aren't maudlin. You understand and appreciate greatness when you see it. Then you write down what you saw and felt, in a way that few can do. Magical horses meets magical writer. I think Zenyatta's magnetism is enhanced by her sheer size (someone said she reminded him of the Loch Ness Monster she was so big-he meant that as a compliment to her size) and the fact that she looks at you, instead of above you or around you. John Shirreffs said she was one of the few horses who would look you in the eye. She tries to connect to the people around her. Her personality and charisma is as large as her body. Rachel is the smaller and more streamlined version of racing greatness. She was all heart in every race she ran, as was Zenyatta. Both of these girls gave it everything they had, every time they stepped out onto the track. Even when they lost, they showed their greatness. I, for one, am very glad they never met up. It would have broken my heart to see either one beaten by the other. I love them both. Both are horses for the ages. Thank you for the pictures Steve. I am so glad the three of you got to see the two Queens.

13 Nov 2011 1:50 AM
200 lb. Jockey

Stevebiscuit: Right on, your post was a great article in itself. My first time seeing Zenyatta in person was when she lost the Classic, and it actually hurt me. I've never been so distraught over a horse or my favorite team losing. I was shocked and devastated. I still have a hard time watching that race. It took me a long time to forgive Mike Smith for his ride on her, though I like the guy and was happy to see him win last week. Still though, the Zen BC experience still popped into my mind as i was leaving Churchill Downs. I turned to my mother and quipped "Too bad he didn't do that last year". I guess hard feelings are hard to forget. Blame was a great horse, but he was very lucky that day. I still think Z would've beat him 9 out of 10 times, but that's racing. The best horse doesn't always win. Zenyatta will always be the horse that reinvigorated my passion for racehorses, and just sent it through the stratosphere. I recently joined a partnership and have my own piece of a racehorse. Watching him break his maiden by 6 lengths gave me a high I can't describe, I'm so proud of him for trying so hard. Without big Z, I never would have taken that step towards being in the game. It's a thrill like none other. I did it for the love of the game, not the money. More than anything else, I was happy for my horse when he won. The money was an afterthought. I owe a lot of that joy to Zenyatta  for stirring those emotions inside me, for the inspiration. I am a simple guy and far from rich, but I can't imagine not owning at least a sliver of a racehorse for as long as I live. Hopefully next year the great Black Caviar will come to the U.S., she is no replacement, but what a fine specimen she is. I think she is disrespected outside of Australia and can't wait to see her silence her critics at Ascot in the spring and hopefully here. I never bat an eye at greatness. Peace!

13 Nov 2011 3:42 AM

Speechless. Thank you Steve.

13 Nov 2011 5:21 AM

Such lovely photos and narrative! Thanks so much, Steve, for sharing these wonderful visits with two racing "greats" with your readers.  

If you have a moment, would you kindly remind us where a TV "spot" on your visit with Zenyatta was shown?  Perhaps it was on PBS or on ESPN during its Breeders Cup coverage.  

Also, could you please let us know the approximate due dates for Rachel and Zen's foals?  Rachel's could be 1-2 months sooner, so possibly even as early as mid-late Jan.  

Thanks, Steve, for all that you do for horse-racing and its (and your) fans!

13 Nov 2011 5:49 AM

With your words and pictures, Steve, I am visiting with them vicariously.  Blessings to both Rachel and Zenyatta that they and their babies come through the foaling safe and sound.  Two equine treasures and a humane treasure in the form of Steve Haskin who once again makes us believe that we were there with him sharing the experience.


13 Nov 2011 7:43 AM

TWO FREAKS!!!...ty...

13 Nov 2011 8:51 AM

As always, anything about Zenyatta brings out the tissues! I have read and re-read your past columns about Zenyatta (I love Rachel, but in a different way, and I totally respect and honor those who are just as enamored with her as I am with Z)...they never get tiresome, they never get repetitive, they always inspire, enlighten, and thrill my heart. Thank you for your unabashed love of these wonderful horses -- you have shared your passion in a way that very, very few writers are ever able to do. I think it's because no matter what the story, you speak from your heart. (I cry a lot reading Steve Haskin columns -- loved the Inky story, the columns on Mucho Macho Man, Charismatic, et al.) I find it particularly refreshing that you have 40+ years in the sport and if you can be "maudlin", then I know I'm not crazy or simple or stupid for feeling the same way!

I just have to also thank Stevebiscuit for his account of his Zenyatta experience. Stevebiscuit, your account was also from the heart, and as such, touched mine -- thank you!

Ann Maree - Facebook

13 Nov 2011 9:09 AM

Thank you so much, Steve, for sharing your experience with us.  We have been privileged to be able to see absolute greatness in our time.  The scorching comet of Rachel blazing over the tracks.  The spiritual presence of Zen reigning without disdain over the mere mortals who followed her every move with love.

Rachel and Zen have given us so much to be thankful for.  May God always hold them in the palm of his hand.  

Stevebiscuit: your loving tribute enhances Steve's blog, and brought tears of sweet memories.

13 Nov 2011 9:14 AM

Halfway through your piece, emotion started welling up in me and I could barely control it. There is something about these two beloved horses that just sends me over the edge.  I am in awe of them both.  Thanks SO much for sharing your visits with us!

Stevebiscuit, thank you for telling your Zenyatta story.  It reminds me again of how grateful I am to Steve Haskin for helping set up a long visit to Zenyatta's barn last October, the day before the Lady's Secret.  Mr. Haskin, I will never forget your part in that magical, magical morning.  Thank you.

13 Nov 2011 9:27 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I loved seeing you guys on video during your visit. To hear The Mig's description of Zenyatta's aura gave me goosebumps. I think he would be an excellent trainer. Thanks for sharing. Two very special thoroughbreds. Every step of the way with Zenyatta was life at it's most nerve racking, thrilling, and fantastic. Her Classic win was the most exciting race I can remember. Rachel was stunning in The Kentucky Oaks and everone was saying should could have won The Derby. Then Calvin gets off the Derby winner Mine That Bird to get on Rachel and win The Preakness. Amazing times. We almost got to see them face each other for the Race of the Millenium but the timing seemed to be off. One of those very special times to be a racing fan like much of the seventies was. I'm glad you got to see them Steve in their new world of peace, joy, and luxury. Two of the greatest Queens in racing history deserve it.

13 Nov 2011 9:38 AM
Steve Haskin

I thank you all for your wonderful comments. I am happy to be able to share such a special day.

13 Nov 2011 9:45 AM
Brian Zipse


13 Nov 2011 9:52 AM

Your day with Zenyatta and Rachel turned into my morning with Zenyatta and Rachel.  What a lovely read over morning tea and what sweet memories.  Thanks, Steve, for sharing.

13 Nov 2011 10:03 AM
Karen in Texas

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your visits to these wonderful mares with us! It's a special pre-Thanksgiving treat for which I'm very grateful!

13 Nov 2011 10:59 AM
Sue MacGray

Every time I see that you've written something about Zenyatta I should cut to the chase and get a box of tissues before I begin reading. What a wonderful story Steve, and a once in a lifetime experience for you to visit these two champions who were (and still are) in a league of their own. I can relate to so many comments here, particularly Stevebiscuit's. I was following Zenyatta and Zarkava (from afar, online, etc.) when I watched Zenyatta's Breeder's Cup win on TV in '09. That race hooked me for good. Her move from the back to pass the boys and leave them in her dust brought tears to my eyes. I made plans soon after to attend the 2010 Breeder's Cup on the second day because I knew in my heart that Zenyatta would be there to defend her title. Although Zenyatta made it her calling card to languish in the back of the pack before picking off her competitors one by one, her move that day was even more (if possible) impressive because of the distance she made up. (I even wondered if she was lame or something was wrong she was SO far back.) Her performance that day was impossibly heartbreaking but I think also cemented her superstar status forever, even among the doubters. After following the Thoroughbreds for so long, I credit Zenyatta with molding me into a true fan of the sport. My husband and I traveled to Churchill Downs again this year and are talking about BC's down the road, too. And as someone else above mentioned, I'm even thinking about trying (somehow, some way) to own a race horse :) One can always dream. In the meantime I will follow today's stars (and the progress of Rachel and Zenyatta and their foals as well). We will see other great horses, of that I am sure, but in the meantime we can still relive and remember our memories with these two Queens of the Sport of Kings.

13 Nov 2011 11:01 AM
steve from st louis

As much as we are thrilled by these animals down the stretch, they are equally as heroic down the shedrow. Thanks for showing us both ladies without any makeup.

13 Nov 2011 11:11 AM
Love 'em all

What a wonderful Sunday treat ... and with pics!  

Steve, thanks so much to you, Ernie and Richie for sharing with us your very special day with our favorite girls.  

13 Nov 2011 12:05 PM
Mike O

Mr Haskin,

Great as always.The only problem I have is with the title.It should be,A Day With Rachel And Zenyatta.Just kidding.

13 Nov 2011 12:56 PM
Stellar Jayne

Thank you to Stevebiscuit for sharing his memories and feelings with us about these two great ladies.

13 Nov 2011 1:00 PM

Oh gosh, I am now once again choked up and stuck in the moment of what has been.  The pictures are definitely worth more than a thousand words but say just what we all feel when we think of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.  I am so choked up right now, just want to thank you so much for bringing back some of the most exciting and magnificient memories that I have ever had in the sport of horseracing.  The two most favorite and loved horses in my lifetime for me, will always be Zenyatta & Rachel Alexandra.

My Love & Blessings to them both forever!

LouAnn Cingel from Union, Missouri

13 Nov 2011 2:21 PM

What a blessing, Zenyatta and Rachel on the same day. I was at Santa Anita for Zenyatta's first race of 2010.She entertained us with her dance in the paddock and during the warm-up. And she won in her usual style. I was fortunate to be invited into the win picture (though at 5 feet tall and in the back row you only see a corner of my head). To stand a mere five feet away from this amazing horse was the experience of a lifetime. As I walked out of the winner's circle,a man bumped my shoulder and apologized. About 5  minutes later, it dawned on me the man was Dustin Hoffman. On any other occasion, I would have been thrilled to bump into Dustin but in that instance, he was well overshadowed by the Queen.

13 Nov 2011 2:37 PM
Mike Sekulic

Steve, thank you for sharing this with us. ZENYATTA is like nothing I have ever seen. To me, she is so sweet and special and endearing that it's really hard to accurately capture my feelings with words. The contrast from sweet horse, around the barn, to tenacious racehorse, once she got on the track, was astounding.

I often think of SECRETARIAT and SPECTACULAR BID, along with RUFFIAN and, now, ZENYATTA, as being The Standard by which other horses are judged, because she was that great on the track. And I've never seen such a level of passion and emotion, as I did from witnessing the crowd's reaction to most of her wins. Seeing people so happy and so emotional - even openly crying - was something I have not seen in my entire 39 years of being a fan of this sport. Friends tell me that at her last race it was simply incredible to see and feel all the energy and adoration that was directed at her, and that the crowd was defeaningly loud, cheering her home, as she made her outrageously great run from last at the top of the lane to nearly winning.

Here's a link to some of the photographs I took of ZENYATTA during many visits to see what I consider to be The Greatest Female Racehorse of All Time:


For some strange and inexplicable reason, Jason Shandler wouldn't allow me to post my link.

13 Nov 2011 2:48 PM

Thank you Steve for continuing to follow these equally bright shining stars of racing...how ironic that the mares as you said are traveling on parallel paths...both retired, both champions, both HEALTHY, both in foal...if they were human they may laugh at our comparisons and heated debates of which one was better...and I can relate to both of them. As a recently laid off corporate mom, always on the go, always stressed and pressed for time, who now finds herself staying home with my healthy beautiful 2 year old child, (thankfully husband has his job and benefits)...all the "noise" of my former life seems just that...a different life and one I don't really miss myself as a "runner/competitor". I hope these mares continue to be healthy and happy and have an easy time foaling. The pictures are beautiful. Again, thanks...

13 Nov 2011 3:12 PM

Steve, thanks for sharing this with us.  These two GRREAT females gave us more joy and awe than horseracing has seen in ages.  They do remain at the center of our hearts and your words are beautiful...I still am baffled at apologies for the corners of open heartedness we find in this sport.

It's amazing to recall their challenges, victories, record breaking feats on the track, as well as to truly appreciate what their lives are about now...the miracle of birth and the giving life.  I pray that both of them can keep and mother their foals...teach them that mystery they hold about facing challenges square on with talent, grace, and generosity. They both look strikingly beautiful and calm and happy with their new lives.  Thanks again Steve!

13 Nov 2011 4:26 PM


We have many horses over the past decades to, for lack of a better word, worship for their athletic and competitive achievements but there are few writers out there who can tug at the heartstrings and are such a free flowing "read" as you are. I often get "chocked up" when reading your poetic words written in a prose style. Thanks again for lifting the sport of kings to an even loftier level via your words of love for the thoroughbred.

PS...Joyce and I love "the Mig"s commentaries on racing tv. There are quite a few "experts" on the two horseracing tv channels but he has quickly risen up to the top few in our eyes.

13 Nov 2011 4:34 PM
Paula Higgins

Zenyatta's 2010 BCC was her greatest race, hands down. Take comfort in that. It confirmed her immortality in my opinion. What she did was otherworldly. 200lb. jockey, don't be upset with Mike Smith. He did everything he could do, short of going to the outside, and I am not convinced that would have made the difference. He was trying to make up ground by going to the inside and I believe it was the right thing to do. QR stopping, was the deciding factor I believe. If QR had not backed up, she would have won. It cost her just about or more time than she lost by. To run under the lights for the first time, at age 6, on a track she initially wasn't handling well, against younger males, as a deep closer, and then finish like she did, is something only the greats can do. Yes, Blame won and he is a wonderful horse. But what we will all remember is how Zenyatta ran that race, de ja vu Seattle Slew.

13 Nov 2011 4:47 PM

Steve, thank you!  You are my best friend right now.  Your words to go along with the photos--bliss!

13 Nov 2011 6:39 PM
Ida Lee

Oh yeah...these two Queens of Racing who brought us so much excitement on the track still have a very prominant place in my heart. I check their websites every day and have their pictures all over my house, along with Barbaro and Secretariat. Some day, my dream will come true and I will be able to see them in person. I envy you every second you spent with them. Thanks for sharing.

13 Nov 2011 7:01 PM

Oh you lucky man; all 3 of you!  Thanks for the wonderful words and the pics showing these ladies perfectly healthy and CONTENT!  We who loved them couldn't wish more.

13 Nov 2011 7:27 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

When Zenyatta finally is on Dancing With The Stars after she gives birth to our next Triple Crown winner, we'll see that all of the previous dancers have looked like they were clutzes with clodhoppers. Our Renaissance Queen will show them what dancing really is just like she showed us how to close the deal on the track like no other.

13 Nov 2011 8:56 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Next time sing Zenyatta a song to the tune of Maria from West Side Story substituting Zenyatta for Maria. Now that's a film I'd like to see.

13 Nov 2011 8:59 PM
spectacular bid

what a great read that was. i am also one of the fortunate to have seen alot of zennys races in person as well as meet her several times at barn 55.i agree that being close to her is surreal..i remember seeing her at barn 55 and seeing people crying after taking pics with her and touching her..its something that i will always remember..seems "beatle-ish"

someone posted earlier that Z's bcc defeat was her best race. i totally agree. the what-ifs and all aside. as soon as i saw the replay i commented to the people in my box at CD"she just ran the greatest race ive ever seen,even in defeat"i hope i get to see/touch her again and wouldnt mind meeting RA someday as well

14 Nov 2011 1:38 AM

Steve - I EXTREMELY enjoyed the video of you, the Mig, and Ernie visiting Zenyatta.  I watch it over & over.  My question is, did you flim one when you visited Rachel?  If so, where is it posted online?  I looked for it on Ernie's blog but it's not there.

14 Nov 2011 3:04 AM

Steve, one of my favorite quotes is by John Eldredge in his book, Wild at Heart.  In it he writes, "Don't ask what the world needs, instead, ask yourself, 'What makes you come alive?', because what the world needs, is people who have come alive."

Keep writing from the heart because your articles are moving and they, most definitely, make me come alive!  Keep us posted periodically on Zen and Rachel.

Thank you!

14 Nov 2011 7:57 AM
Abigail Anderson

I just couldn't let this one go by without saying something, Steve. I just love it when you get into this "zone" -- the heart of the matter for those of us that have loved thoroughbreds all of our lives. It's that "something" when a horse manifests its ancient history as powerful, sacred beings and our eyes -- and hearts -- are open to receive it. Granted, one couldn't write this kind of piece weekly on BH, though. Not because it's maudlin or etc. but more because it isn't the sensibility of the BH site....although I have noticed the odd nod to readers who only come here because they adore thoroughbreds, because they have a sense of the magic of horse & sport. But I am SO GLAD to read this kind of writing from you --- and the photos do, indeed, say so much more about the "zone" and that "magic." Thank you!

14 Nov 2011 9:31 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Abigail. Beautifully put, as usual. I guess I need to let the old softee in me out once in a while.

Thanks, BigTex. That is a wonderful quote. I'll have to remember it.

Saharagold, to be honest I cant remember if Ernie took video of Rachel. He was so emotional seeing her he may have felt taking video would have been intrusive. But I will ask him if he did.

Dr. D, thats all I have to do is write "Zenyatta, say it soft and it's almost like praying," and I'll be run out of the business. lol.

Mike, thanks for sharing some of your many great photos of her.

14 Nov 2011 10:10 AM
Bill Two

Who wouldn't get maudlin or carried away when in the presence of greatness?  Lucky you.

14 Nov 2011 10:39 AM
Fran Loszynski

Oh Steve, what beautiful pictures-awesome. They both look so good and happy. The girls love you too! The closeups bring a tear to my eye. They both are more than just racehorses-they are royalty. Thank you for the pics. If you can't be there-Steve Haskin will make it like you are!

14 Nov 2011 12:48 PM

Articles such as this always make my heart grow fonder. Not only for my fellow horse racing fans, but for this beautiful sport, and the animals for which the sport is named after.

I was fortunate enough to visit Zenyatta at Barn 55 last year. Those two magical moments provided me with memories that I will never forget. For there is a magic that horses possess, and Zenyatta shared her magic with us with no hesitation. She touched the heart of everyone who was in her presence. One of Zenyatta's fans was a lovely older woman who had flown from Northern California just to see her. She was a quadriplegic, and needed the assistance of her daughter and son-in-law. Despite her handicap, Zenyatta approached her in loving curiosity and kindly nuzzled her cheek. Zenyatta's magical way of telling the woman that she was loved. The woman was beaming the entire morning and never stopped smiling from that moment on.

Thank you Steve, and thank you my fellow racing fans. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and illustrating the beautiful light that imbues this sport. Horses and racing are amongst my greatest joys, and I am so glad to have the opportunity to share it with all of you. God Bless all of you, and may you all have a blessed and wonderful holiday season. As for Zenyatta and Rachel, I stand with everyone in saying that you are a cherished part of all of our lives.

14 Nov 2011 4:21 PM
Criminal Type

Steve ! Awesome pictures and story of two great ladies. Wouldn't it be something to see their babies race each other ? I loved seeing photos of the Mig with two of my favorite race horses. I really miss him on the track but love him as a commentator.

14 Nov 2011 5:43 PM

Thank you for this gift Steve.  The photos are great.  I was secretly hoping you would "hightail" it over there after the BC and it happened.  Just when we are experiencing the let down after the BC races you give us this treat!  The mares look wonderful and look like they loved their 3 visitors.  You guys must have been in your glory that day.  I can't wait to see the two superfoals after they are born.  Did you get to see Rachel's husband Curlin while you were at Lane's End?

14 Nov 2011 6:38 PM

Blessed are the broodmares.....they truly are gifts.

14 Nov 2011 7:55 PM
Mike Relva


Not the least bit suprised he wouldn't let you publish pictures.

14 Nov 2011 7:57 PM
Alexandra Boyd

Rachel Alexandra is one of the most beautiful thoroughbreds ever. She could be the next miss America. I remember seeing her run in the golden rod at Churchill downs. Ever since that. I cannot get enough of her. I have pictures of her all over my wall. I also have a tribute shelf of her. I was so happy when I got her Breyer model. She was such I awesome racehorse and will be in the hall of fame someday. I also love Zenyatta to. Together they prove that girls can kick butt.

14 Nov 2011 8:52 PM
Mike Relva


Thanks for the pictures. Your lucky,wish I could visit Zenyatta.

14 Nov 2011 9:59 PM
Paula Higgins

Mike and Mike, it doesn't matter if a certain someone doesn't let you post pictures of The Queen. Steve nurtures all of us with his beautiful writing and wonderful pictures of the girls. That's all we need. As to the other person, who wouldn't let you post pictures, just keep fighting the good fight and maybe he will see the light. If not, maybe he will surrender LOL.

14 Nov 2011 10:39 PM

Now just look at these girls, they don't have a care in the world. Neither one cares who or what a HOTY is or ever was.  They just look so happy and content,  both enjoying their retirement and looking forward to the next chapters of their lives.   Steve, they look beautiful. And to just think that at the end of next year HDG (if she wins HOTY) will be the third leg in this Diva Trio that will go on to proclaim her right as the third historical lady to claim the title in the last three years.  Gosh,  who'd ever thought this??     We will have to call them "The Three Divas".

15 Nov 2011 6:19 AM

I do love these two gals......

15 Nov 2011 1:42 PM
Mike Relva


I doubt he will ever change.

15 Nov 2011 4:01 PM

Rachel Alexandra's 2009 season was as exciting a season I have experienced in sport period, no exceptions. The dad of two beautiful daughters Rachel (20) and Alexandra (18) you can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon the great filly that year in the Martha Washington. I followed with great interest and anticipation for each race that year. The spectacular animal has made me a fan for life. Looking forward to following her foal. Thank you Steve for your excellent coverage of thoroughbred horse racing for novice fans like myself to gain an understanding of this sport of Kings. Or shall I say QUEENS!  

15 Nov 2011 4:10 PM

Steve:  I've been a horseowner and fan for something longer (55 years) than I've been fan of yours.  But your stuff is as good as it gets with observations, feelings  and sheer knowledge.  You sir, are a poet.  Thanks.  Singer

15 Nov 2011 7:01 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   There are only a limited number of spaces available for great writers but your place is secure even if all you write in the future is "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" over and over. "Zenyatta, I've just met a girl named Zenyatta and suddenly the races will never be the same to me againnnnnnnnnn."

15 Nov 2011 7:13 PM
Storm Catwoman

Thanks for this Steve! As always, you handled the subject perfectly, just showing us two great champions as they are now. Your Solomon-like wisdom is admirable, presenting them in an even-handed, calm way so as not to raise any hackles and restart any feuds. It just shows that, like Rachel and Zenyatta, you are in a class by yourself.

15 Nov 2011 9:46 PM
Paula Higgins

Mike Relva, it is his loss. I am bemused by it at this point because he is being ridiculous.

15 Nov 2011 9:47 PM

Sitting here pondering the life of a broodmare.  Yikes.  Pregnant, alone, adoring fans nowhere in sight, "husband" off running around with tons of women, go through the pain of birth, and then the foal gets weaned off in about a year never to be seen or heard of again.  By our standards it is such a sad life of misery, hopefully for the equines they like it. Poor broodmares, they deserve all the love and attention they can get.  I have a newfound respect for all the broodmares that give us these magnificent runners.  I am thankful too that we are furtunate to have Zenyatta's life and pregnancy chronicled for us by Steve and the Mosses.  There is still something magical in Zenyatta no matter what anyone says.

15 Nov 2011 10:30 PM

Yes, things at the races seem almost simply mundane since these ladies went off to their well deserved retirements. Being a Californian on a budget, I never got to see Rachel A. before my own eyes. But Zenyattas' energy stopped me in my tracks at the Breeders' Cup in '09. She stunned me the second she came into view. I will NEVER forget the absolute frenzy of the crowd the moment Mike took her through the hole on the inside- the place just went nuts! I don't believe I will ever hear such a roar of the crowd at the track ever again. I cherish that memory:)  

15 Nov 2011 11:49 PM
Steve Haskin

Dadofrachelalexandra, I sent you an e-mail.

Singer, Dr. D. and Storm Catwoman, thank you very much for the kind words. They are greatly appreciated.

16 Nov 2011 1:29 AM

It's good to see that not everyone at the Bloodhorse detests Zenyatta for no apparent reason.

16 Nov 2011 10:39 AM
Zen's Auntie

Steve Haskin thanks for the pictures and LOVE. what a day brightener this blog is. Can you belive it? I didnt even ball at all just smiled and nodded - I got throught the whole thing and the pics and THEN this time it was...

Stevebiscuit that has me all teared up - even though I have never been in her presence or gotten to smootch her (I'm so jealous of both you Steves') I can tell you she affects me the same way.

Both Mares look great!  So sad we lost Jess before Rachels first was born. Thats life I guess.

16 Nov 2011 2:13 PM


Anyone who detests Zenyatta detests the very idea of greatness.

16 Nov 2011 3:25 PM
Gae Seal

Thanks you for your heartfelt, poetic, NOT maudlin words. In the presence of greatness, we are reduced to superlatives or poetry. God bless both ladies and their offspring which I hope to watch in a MATCH RACE some five years from now.

17 Nov 2011 12:50 AM

Blame beat Z fair and square, but she got horse of the year fair and square.

Z had no performances like Blame trying to run at Haynesfield and losing ground in the stretch.

Z was always vulnerable to losing by closing late to a very good horse who was waiting on her with something in reserve.

Steve, do you understand why they ran Zenyatta that way? You see trainers do that with a horse with suspect stamina, trying to shorten the race into a hand gallop plus a sprint, but Z never looked as though she lacked stamina.

17 Nov 2011 1:37 AM

BTW, Northern Dancer had more of IT than any horse since. He could knock you off a fence with the force of a look -- he did it to me in the walking ring at Woodbine.

Nijinsky and a couple of other Dancers had it too, but it was HIS look they had.

17 Nov 2011 1:40 AM
Linda in Texas

Zen's Auntie - your comment that you wished Mr. Jackson could be here to see Rachel's first foal begged mention of a thought that came to my mind. What i say may offend someone who thinks differently but i would like to think that Mr. Jackson is close by the green pastures in that other place sitting on his porch with one of his favorite labs from the past just counting the days til Rachel foals and making sure she stays well. His hand in her foal will be apparent.

Thanks Steve. I nominate you WOW!!

(Writer of the Week) every single week.

P.S. Zookeeper - i hope you are okay. I have really missed your posts.

17 Nov 2011 12:33 PM

For as much as I love both mares, I do not have hatred for either one of these beautiful mares. But, the one horse that really got my attention was Rachel Alexandra. I was always interested in watching her race. I never really got that much into Zenyatta, but I always anticipated watching races like the Preakness Stakes, and the Mother Goose Stakes, and the Kentucky Oaks, and the Haskell Inivational and the Woodward Stakes, all because of Rachel Alexandra. I wanted to see my favorite girl race, and win. Rachel Alexandra will always be a part of my heart.I am very excited about seeing her first foal race in a few years, just the same as I am very excited about seeing Zenyatta's first foal race in a few years. I don't care about which foal comes first, just hopefully both of them will be healthy and happy and safe, and have a good career ahead of them.

17 Nov 2011 9:43 PM
Mike Relva


This blog isn't about what Zenyatta accomplished. Obviously she did something right,cause if you've noticed, ratings for this yrs Classic were way down. Hmmmm.

18 Nov 2011 12:00 AM

It's Christmas a little early this year.  Thank you Steve for  a wonderful gift.  

18 Nov 2011 2:55 AM

Thanks Steve for another insightfull article about these two great ladies.  I agree with some others that both of these moms-to-be look very relaxed and content.

I was blessed to see Rachel live win the Preakness.  We made our way over to the gap where they would come out on the track from the barns expecting a large crowd, but hardly anyone was there.  A few people gathered but we had an unobstructed view as the Preakness horses came past us.  I was able to get some good shots of Rachel.  Sitting up in the last row of that old metal-roofed grandstand, I can still feel my ears ringing as she came down the stretch and held off Mine That Bird.

I was in the paddock at last year's BC, had worked my way up to the rail in the paddock as everyone had their eyes glued to the big screen as the cameras followed Zenyatta on the walkover.  When she finally came out of the tunnel into the paddock, it was electric as she did her dancin' and prancin' to the delight of the paddock crowd.  Was able to get two pictures as she and Mike went by then raced to my seat to witness one of the greatest races ever.

Thanks for sharing the pictures and reminding us that these beautiful creatures are more than just winners or losers.  

19 Nov 2011 7:56 PM

I had the opportunity to meet Zenyatta for the first time a few weeks ago. I was remiss in following her career. I have worked with Thoroughbreds most of my life and more recently working with mares. So to me this visit was just like going to see any other mare... No, it was not. There she was on a gloomy day, standing there in her paddock. As I got out of the car, I was overcome with the sensation of what felt like a little bird flying through my heart and out my back. I felt a big tear form in my left eye and knew I was in the company of greatness. Believe me, this is not a normal reaction me at all. This Thoroughbred mare is one in a million. I spent the next hour appreciating her beauty and personality. I am so happy to read the experience that you and your comrades shared Steve. An experience I am sure we will all treasure.

20 Nov 2011 1:12 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

At the time I was glad she wasn't DQ'd eventhough she should have been. Now I wish they would have DQ'd her. Humans know that Goldi was last because of a DQ and actually finished 3rd and Goldi doesn't care. She knows she didn't win and if she was placed last she would never know, I think. Looking forward to Ruler On Ice in the Clark although I'm fine with Flat Out winning too, and Empire Way(who I have on top in my Derby Dozen) in the Prevue Thursday at HP.

22 Nov 2011 8:39 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

" Well Hello Zenyatta, hello Zenyatta, it's so nice to have you back where you belong. You're lookin' swell Zenyatta. Hello Zenyatta, it will be so nice to see the foal we've all been waiting for. Hello Zenyatta, hello Zenyatta."  All together now- Well Hello Zenyatta, hello Zenyatta...

23 Nov 2011 8:52 AM
Tiz Herself

Thank you Steve for sharing this gift with us. At the end of a long day or at the beginning of what promises to be a long day, I only need to read one of your blogs and then I am revitalized.

You said it best in a previous blog on Zenyatta titled I Lied...

For many of us, horses are a way of life. It is not something that was forced upon us. We have chosen to allow these magnificent creatures to infiltrate our very being and touch our souls in a way that bonds us to them – yes, at rare times spiritually. The foundation between humans and horses was built centuries ago. Whether it is a racehorse, a riding horse, a show horse, or any horse that becomes a part of our life, there is always going to be that rare one who comes along and enters some hallowed sphere deep within us.

Both Rachel and Zenyatta both came at a time when horse racing needed a star. I only dream that someday I might be able to meet both of them. I would probably hyperventilate if it were on the same day... in the good way. There is no human celebrity that could make me swoon like a fan girl, but these two and any of the other horses that I have followed in my life certainly could.

Being in Alberta, there was nothing more special than the trip to Kentucky last year for the Breeders Cup. Although through the crowd of people, I saw Zenyatta's ears going by, it was enough to feel the energy from her fueling that crowd. I wish I hadn't had to fly out as early as I did Sunday because I would have been right there to see her. And Rachel, too... as both of them never failed to give me goosebumps during their most prestigeous wins... Rachel's Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward and Zenyatta's 19 wins in a row that included two Breeders Cup races and she remains the alltime female earner for North America.. both Horse of the Years and Horses of a lifetime. I am one of those that is proud to appreciate both for their accomplishments and as individuals.

Thanks again Steve, I read this daily.

PS I also love that Zenyatta's paddock buddy was a Canadian star Tasty Temptation. Who would have thought?

I hope the two mares both have colts or fillies that would be able to face each other some day... could you imagine?

23 Nov 2011 9:25 AM


Thank you so much for this article and the pictures.  These two mares are so beautiful and such great racehorses.  What is really so wonderful is normally, when mares are retired from racing, you never hear about them again.  They go off to a farm and breed.  When they have a successful offspring, you will hear their name again.  With Rachel and Zenyatta we had two of the most amazing females ever.  They were like shooting stars, brightening up the whole sport amd made it so exciting for us mere mortals who were so lucky to see them dominate the sport and give us thrills that will live with us in memory for the rest of our lives.  Thank you so much for including Rachel in this article and publishing pictures.  Rachel had my heart, she touched me at a time when I needed to leave the darkness in my life behind and she brought me back toward the light.  That may seem like an odd thing to say but Rachel burst on the scene when I was at my lowest and that beautiful animal gave me more than anyone will ever know. Thanks for honoring her along with Zenyatta.  I owe her my life.

23 Nov 2011 10:11 AM

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