LEXINGTON, KY (October 15, 2010) – John Shirreffs, trainer of the undefeated Zenyatta, met with the media Friday morning at Keeneland to discuss the 6-year-old mare’s preparations for her defense of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) she won last year Santa Anita.
A perfect 19-for-19 in her career, Zenyatta worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 on Thursday at
Hollywood Park and is scheduled to have two more works there before flying to , for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run November 6 at Churchill Downs. Shirreffs is in Louisville, Ky. to saddle Harmonious in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland. Lexington
“It was her first work back (since winning the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret on October 2), an easy five-eighths,” Shirreffs said about Zenyatta’s Thursday work. “It was a starting point to get into a routine. Her next two works will be longer and faster.”
Other topics addressed by Shirreffs included the following:
How does the Zenyatta of 2010 compare with the Zenyatta of 2009 coming into the Breeders’ Cup?
“I think she is as good or better than she was last year. She has been at the racetrack in training since she was a 2-year-old, so her fitness is good. The main thing you have to do is keep her mentally happy and wanting to do it.”
What is it that has allowed her to basically not miss a beat during her career and manage to win every time?
“I wish I knew. She is very special and has the real ability to lengthen her stride at the end of races. Sometimes people will say a horse will quicken at the end of a race and run a little harder. You just watch when she drops her head and starts to lengthen her stride. You seldom see that in horses. … Some horses can do that for a quarter mile and stakes horses can for three-eighths, but I have seen her do some amazing things and extended her stride for a half-mile.”
Zenyatta has cut it close in many of her races. Were there any races where you thought that maybe this was going to be the day she did not get there?
“Several. But one in particular was the (2008) Vanity (G1) when (trainer Bob) Baffert had a top filly in there (Tough Tiz’s Sis). She had to start her run at the half or 4 ½ to get the speed and it was the longest extended drive I have ever seen a horse make.”
What would your thoughts be should Zenyatta lose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and not be named Horse of the Year?
“It would be almost too much. It would be a real slap in the face. I think she deserves it on what she has done on the track and as for the industry as a whole.”
What is your favorite Zenyatta moment?
“There are so many special times. I think it was when she walked into the paddock at
Mar last year and the crowd was so amazing. People were yelling ‘Go Zenyatta! Go Zenyatta!’ and the paddock there is a lot like Churchill Downs and then the tunnel leading to the track. She didn’t flinch. I was really proud of her.” Del
What do you think your emotions will be when you saddle her for the last time?
“I don’t want to think about it. Walking to the paddock with Zenyatta is such an incredible experience. You just can’t believe it. You feel like everybody loves your horse and loves you. Churchill Downs is always an emotional place. When you go through that tunnel everybody is just yelling and screaming and the energy is going everywhere.”
Should Zenyatta’s undefeated streak end in the Classic, do you think it will tarnish her legacy?
“It would not be the end of the world. She has an opportunity to achieve something (going 20-for-20) unattainable. … As far as I am concerned, she is just one of the best ever. When she is done, she is going to go off to the pasture and whether she is 19-for-20 or 20-for-20, I think she will be OK.”