A mare gallops out of the west and into the history books
Photograph by Joe Pugliese
Those who saw it marvel still. Some of horse racing’s biggest names—Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, Belmont Stakes victor Summer Bird—were at Santa Anita for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup. The crowd was heaping its affections on a local mare based at Hollywood Park and co-owned by music mogul Jerry Moss, who had named her after the Police album
Zenyattà Mondatta. Zenyatta was that rare thing in thoroughbred racing, a West Coaster in a culture that thinks the sun rises and sets in the east. When the field broke, she was dead last. Then, in a come-from-behind surge, jockey Mike Smith moved Zenyatta through a seemingly invisible hole in the pack and out to the front past leader Gio Ponti. Not since 1973 Triple Crown legend Secretariat had there been such an electrifying finish. Zenyatta would go on to amass an 18-race win streak that shattered records. Should she step onto the track at Churchill Downs on November 6 for this year’s Breeders’ Cup, the horse that sold for a paltry $60,000 will have already earned more than $6 million. Whether she repeats as cup champion matters not to her fans. For them, she’s the queen.
Read Breeders' Cup, a review of Zenyatta's final race