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.