A 4-year-old campaign in which she captured four grade I stakes and three grade II contests to go 7-for-7 overall -- with earnings of over $2.1 million -- should wrap up a Horse of the Year title for Zenyatta (pedigree).
The filly by Street Cry (IRE) (SRO) out of Vertigineux (more on her later!) put in a stunning performance to capture the weekend's spectacular $2 million distaff championship, the newly-named Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I). The effort brought her career record to 9-for-9. Not bad for a $60,000 yearling purchase.
Kudos to owners Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss, advisor David Ingordo, and trainer John Shirreffs for a perfect season. And thank you for showing the world that sometimes it pays to hold off on a young horse's career until she's matured physically -- Zenyatta didn't make her first start until late as a 3-year-old (Nov. 22, 2007, to be precise). You didn't push her too early, and she's a powerhouse now.
Much will be written about young stallion Street Cry -- and it will be deserved. The son of Machiavellian is sire of an amazing five grade I winners from his first crop, and already three from his second crop (now 3-year-olds) and one from his third crop of juveniles. No wonder Darley wants to keep this bloodline in-house! (In addition to Street Cry's 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)-winning son Street Sense (SRO), Darley will host his first-crop son Street Boss (pedigree) starting in 2009 (full story)). Expect to see Street Cry buck the trend of stud fee price slashing. If he stands for less than $200,000 next year -- double his '08 fee and almost seven times his $30,000 introductory price in 2003 -- he will be one of the biggest bargains in Kentucky.
It would be easy to continue heaping praise on Street Cry -- but I'm a bottom-of-the-pedigree kind of guy and Zenyatta's dam is a near-perfect example of what a young blue hen looks like. The 1995 daughter of Kris S. started out her broodmare career in style -- her 2002 Aljabr (SRO) filly, Where's Bailey, was a stakes winner of over $100,000. For most broodmares, that's the highlight of their progeny records -- but for Vertigineux, it was actually a slow beginning. Her next two foals are multiple grade I-winning millionaires. In addition to Zenyatta is her older half-sister, the Thunder Gulch (SRO) mare Balance, winner of the 2006 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) as well as two additional grade I scores.
Vertigineux' owners have not stuck to any one cross in their mating selections. Aljabr is a Storm Cat-line stud; Thunder Gulch and Street Cry come from distinct branches of Mr. Prospector; and unraced 2-year-old filly Treasure Trail is by the Seattle Slew-line Pulpit (SRO). No matter, they all seem to work just fine. And Vertigineux has earned the right to visit any stallion in the world. (Just for fun, I'd like to see her paired with Mizzen Mast (SRO). The two share the 4-r family line of blue hen mares Mrs. Peterkin and Legendra, and Mizzen Mast's sire, Cozzene, has crossed quite well with Vertigineux' Roberto sire line.)
Oh, and if you're wondering -- the whole Horse of the Year thing -- no, it's not official yet. We won't find out until January which horses are actually voted champions. But Zenyatta's perfect season really does deserve sole honors as Eclipse champion Horse of the Year. Curlin is a star and should be recognized as such with a champion older horse title -- but his short-of-the-mark performance Saturday in the Classic should knock him out of contention for the big honor. Majority owner Jess Jackson also deserves kudos -- bringing Curlin back for a 4-year-old campaign was not a financial decision, but it was a breath of fresh air for a troubled Thoroughbred racing industry that needs more sportsmen like him. So while I can't support Curlin for top honors, I sure would like to see Mr. Jackson named Owner of the Year.