Zenyatta's last race: An oral history [Breeders' Cup]


This article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.

Last November a six-year-old mare named Zenyatta brought her 19-0 record into the Breeders' Cup Classic. The horse—who will be the focus of a Nov. 4 event kicking off this year's Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs—captivated crowds, especially during race 20 an the most breathtaking finish of all.

Jerry Moss, Zenyatta’s owner: “After she’d won her 19th in a row, then came 60 Minutes and Sports Illustrated and W magazine and Oprah. Everybody started to realize this was something different.”

Mike Smith, Zenyatta’s jockey: “The Breeders’ Cup Classic was going to be the last time she ran. Yeah, of course I was nervous. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. It was a whole lot of pressure.”

Joe Drape, New York Times turf writer: “She had beaten the boys in the Classic the year before in California at Santa Anita, the first female to do so. It was a very focused drama. It was: Could she win and retire undefeated?”

Randy Moss, NBC, ESPN and Versus horse racing analyst: “You had a greater percentage of the crowd rooting for one horse than you’ve ever had in the Classic and maybe have ever had, period.”

Mike Battaglia, Churchill Downs line maker: “When I made her the favorite I knew everybody in America was going to be rooting for her.”

Trevor Denman, Breeders’ Cup track announcer: “I didn’t get eight hours of straight sleep the night before. I woke up at one o’clock, then three o’clock. Zenyatta was interrupting my sleep.”

Seth Hancock, Claiborne Farm president, Blame’s co-owner and co-breeder: “I’m as big a fan of Zenyatta as everybody is, what the heck? But there were a few people who’d bet their money on Blame, and this farm had bet its reputation on him. Hell, we were hopeful that we’d run well and maybe even win.”