Zenyatta Video the Perfect Holiday Gift

The new "Zenyatta: Queen of Racing" video is out, but I must issue a warning to all those who purchase it. If you were a fan of Zenyatta, have plenty of tissues close by. You're going to need them. If you weren't a fan of Zenyatta, have them close by anyway, because you will be by the end.

The memories keep coming throughout, reminding us that Zenyatta was so much more than a racehorse. She was a spiritual force who affected people unlike any other Thoroughbred. 

From the powerful opening to the even more powerful conclusion, you will be swept away once again by the equine miracle that was Zenyatta and the love and admiration she brought out in people, especially those to whom she was such an inspiration. 

In this 87-minute video, produced and directed by Edward Kip Hannan, written by Jay Hovdey along with Hannan, and with Zenyatta's owner Jerry Moss serving as executive producer, the viewer is treated to all of Zenyatta's races, either in their entirety or most of the race, behind the scenes shots of the great mare taken at her familiar Barn 55 at Hollywood Park, some of which were taken by trainer John Shirreffs, and insightful interviews with Shirreffs, Moss and his wife Ann, Dottie Ingordo, wife of Shirreffs and Moss's longtime racing manager, and Zenyatta's late exercise rider Steve Willard.

It all comes together in the vast tapestry that was Zenyatta's amazing career, in which she won her first 19 starts before suffering a narrow heartbreaking defeat in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which many believe was her greatest performance.

The film is enhanced by the perfect blend of dramatic and soul soothing music, including that of Sting and the Police, whose album Zenyatta Mondatta inspired the filly's name.

The opening focuses on Zenyatta being one of the rare Thoroughbreds in history to be captured in bronze. When it makes its dramatic transition with the simple words, "This is the story of Zenyatta," the first of the goosebumps begin.

We are taken to the sales ring and watch Zenyatta sell for a mere $60,000 because she was gangly back then with rash on her neck, and are then treated to a montage of the great moments that will follow. 

Perhaps the greatest line of all the interviews was Dottie Ingordo telling how Zenyatta grew into the "person" they hoped she'd be. She immediately caught her faux pas with an "oops," explaining how they always thought of her as a person. I'm glad they left that as is.

Some of the great moments are the actual race calls of Zenyatta's races, especially the emotional outbursts by Hollywood Park announcer Vic Stauffer, as Zenyatta's heroics kept pushing him to new limits of excitement and forced him to run out of superlatives. He actually nailed it in her second career start when he said, "Here is a future superstar, followed by a "Wow!" and a "Holy Mackerel." He eventually surrendered and told the crowd after one of her races, "How do you spell perfection? Why try. Just enjoy her." 

You see many scenes of Zenyatta at home, drinking her Guinness and later on the remarkable throng of fans that gathered at her barn, many of whom had their picture taken with her. Her groom Mario Espinoza said they would get 200 visitors a day. Shirreffs also reveals one of the many inspirational stories behind Zenyatta and could barely get the words out.

As you watch all of Zenyatta's races crammed in the 87 minutes you truly get to see what an amazing machine she was. It didn't matter where she was or how far back, that devastating move and burst of speed in the stretch, combined with that gargantuan stride always managed to get her home first, and with her ears pricked. You once again will be amazed how she managed to catch St. Trinians in the Vanity Handicap and Switch in the Lady's Secret Stakes after looking hopelessly beaten just yards from the wire. But with that stride and desire, nothing was ever hopeless with Zenyatta. 

The highlight obviously was her Breeders' Cup Classic victory and that memorable "Un-be-lievable" call by Trevor Denman, and the hysteria that followed; all of it captured in dramatic fashion. Moss and the others discuss the decision to keep her in training as a 6-year-old, mainly because of how well she was training. 

But the video saves the best for last, in which you relive the days leading up to her career finale in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. But be aware, after all the emotional, poignant moments of the video, it's going to be difficult seeing her get beat, coming so close, and watching Mike Smith shedding tears for her; feeling he let her down. To this day there are many people who cannot bear to watch that race. But in one person's opinion, it was that race, run on dirt, in which she fell some 20 lengths back and then encountered traffic that stamped her true greatness, just as it did Seattle Slew after his gallant defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Who can forget that amazing day after the Classic when people gathered outside the fence on Longfield Avenue to get close to her, as she remained outside most of the day, often being brought close up to the people, who reached in to touch her, just as they did on that freezing cold night at Keeneland after she came home for good on her way to Lane's End Farm. Both are captured in the video.

You will also be moved by Ann Moss showing off the mass volumes of cards, drawings, letters, and gifts of all kinds, which arrived by the thousands, and will join the Zenyatta team at their table at the Eclipse Awards and at Zenyatta's induction into the Hall of Fame, as Jerry Moss gave a heartfelt speech, while Shirreffs wiped away the tears. And of course, there is the unveiling of Nina Kaiser's magnificent statue of Zenyatta, which people still visit every day at Santa Anita to have their photo taken with the great mare, some leaving flowers.

You definitely will need those tissues during the final moments, between the music that accompanies the shots of Zenyatta romping about the field as a broodmare with her buddies and frolicking in the snow, to the tender shots of her with her newborn foal. 

The video reveals this amazing horse in such detail, while telling every aspect of the Zenyatta story, you will walk away privileged to have witnessed it, whether on TV or in person.

Credit to all those involved for bringing the great Zenyatta back into our homes and more important back into our heart.


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