Zenyatta's Road To Breeders' Cup
Bought at an auction for only $60,000 when she was one year old, Zenyatta's exceptional racing career -- in which she hasn't lost a single race -- did not begin until she was three. On Nov. 22, 2007, Zenyatta hit the track for the first time at Hollywood Park. She won the race by three lengths.
Almost a month later, on Dec. 15, 2007, Zenyatta raced again at Hollywood Park in her first allowance race, an event intended for younger horses that are not yet ready for stakes competition. Zenyatta proved she was ready for bigger and better things however, when she won the race by 3 1/2 lengths.
In early 2008, in her first stakes race, Zenyatta set the El Encino Stakes record, finishing the 1 1/16 miles track in a time of 1:40.61. Racing against four-year-old fillies, Zenyatta only beat her counterparts by 3/4 of a length.
After a short break, Zenyatta entered her first Grade I stakes race in April 2008. The event, the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, pitted her against Ginger Punch, the 2007 Eclipse award winner for American Champion Older Female Horse. Undaunted by the competition, Zenyatta cruised to victory, winning by 4 1/2 lengths
Riding high, Zenyatta entered the Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 31, 2008. She galloped her way to a 1:41.17 first-place finish, defeating all opponents by 2 1/2 lengths.
In July 2008, Zenyatta entered her first race longer than 1 1/16 miles -- the Vanity Handicap, a Grade 1 race that has run at 1 1/8 miles since 1988. Not needing much time to adjust to the added length, she won the race by 1/2 a length, in 1:49.51.
Back at 1 /16 miles, Zenyatta entered the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap in August 2008. She defeated runner-up, Model, by one length.
In September 2008, Zenyatta raced her fastest time to date at the Lady's Secret Stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park. She finished the 1 1/16 miles course in 1:40.30, and won the race by 2 1/2 lengths.
In October 2008, Zenyatta entered the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, a race for fillies and mares three years and older. Racing at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park for the second-consecutive race, Zenyatta was the 1-2 favorite. She did not disappoint. She won by 1 1/2 lengths and raced the second-fastest Ladies' Classic in Breeders Cup history with a time of 1:46.85.
In January 2009, Zenyatta won the Eclipse award for American Champion Older Female Horse. She finished second in the Horse of the Year voting to Curlin. In May, she made her highly-anticipated 2009 debut at the Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park. Racing against her highly-touted stablemate Life is Sweet (who would go on to win the 2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic), Zenyatta exhibited her dominance, romping to a victory in 1:42.30.
Mirroring her schedule from 2008, Zenyatta raced in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park in June 2009. She won the race for the second year in a row, defeating runner-up Briecat by 2 1/2 lengths.
One track Zenyatta never seems to be able to blow the competition away at is the Del Mar Race Track, where the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap is run every year. Such was the case in August 2009, when Zenyatta only defeated runner-up Anabaa's Creation by a head to preserve her pristine record.
In October 2009, Zenyatta came from behind to win the Lady's Secret Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. A month later, the race was renamed the Zenyatta Stakes.
After her Lady's Secret victory, it was announced that Zenyatta would enter the Breeders' Cup Classic. No filly or mare had ever won the Classic, which began in 1984. On Nov. 7, Zenyatta won the longest race of her career (1 1/4 miles) to become the first female horse to win the Breeders' Cup and win two different Breeders' Cup races. She beat a field that included Mine That Bird and Summer Bird.
In December 2009, it seemed that Zenyatta would go out on top, finishing her career with a pristine 14-0 record. But in early 2010, Zenyatta looked too good to retire, and her owners and trainer announced that she would run again in 2010. Her first race of the season, the Santa Margarita Invitational at Santa Anita Park, was won in typical Zenyatta style. Coming from behind, she navigated through traffic and made a late charge to win the race by 1 1/4 lengths.
It was rumored that Zenyatta would finally face Horse of the Year, and fellow filly, Rachel Alexandra in the Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9, 2010. But after Rachel Alexandra lost the New Orleans Ladies Stakes in March, her handlers scratched her from the highly-anticipated matchup. Always one to rise to the occasion, Zenyatta still ran the Apple Blossom and won the race by an amazing 4 1/4 lengths. With the victory she tied Cigar, Citation, Ormonde and Ribot for most consecutive victories.
On June 13, Zenyatta captured her historic 17th consecutive victory, setting a new record for consecutive wins, and tying Rock of Gibraltar for most consecutive Group 1 victories.
Underestimating the competition, Zenyatta found herself behind in the final furlong of the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes in August 2010. Jockey Mike Smith turned up the heat though, and Zenyatta somehow won the race by a half-length, her narrowest margin of victory since her last race at the Del Mar track. With the victory, she broke Rock of Gibraltar's record with eight consecutive Group 1 wins.
When it was announced that Zenyatta would race in 2010, the Zenyatta Stakes reverted to its original name, the Lady's Secret Stakes. Despite losing that honor, Zenyatta raced in and won the Stakes in October 2010. The victory broke the all-time North American record for Group I victories by a female horse, and tied the all-time North American record for consecutive victories. Zenyatta's next and final race will be the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.