ARCADIA, Calif. — When it came down to it, Zenyatta's connections just couldn't say no to their favorite girl.
After everything Zenyatta has done — the 13-for-13 career record, the seven Grade I triumphs, the Eclipse Award honors — the champion mare now has the chance to fill the one void on her résumé as she was officially entered Tuesday to take on the boys in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.
Though owners Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs indicated a week ago they were leaning toward the 11/4-mile Classic, Zenyatta's continued progression in the mornings erased any last-minute thoughts of instead going in Friday's Ladies' Classic, a race she won a year ago.
Shortly after her entry into the Classic field of 13 was made official, Zenyatta — who will break from post-position four — was deemed the 5-2 morning-line favorite over Coolmore Stud's multiple Group I winner, Rip Van Winkle (7-2), and Belmont Stakes hero Summer Bird (9-2).
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"She deserved the chance," Jerry Moss said. "Based on her last couple works, she has certainly shown us she's ready to perform.
"I don't think it's about any titles. It's just not about that. It's about giving this horse, who is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we've ever been given, a chance to really show how great she can really be. And we believe this is within her reach."
Zenyatta will be the fourth filly or mare to run in the Classic, joining Azeri (fifth in 2004), Jolypha (third in 1992) and Triptych (sixth in 1986).
With star filly Rachel Alexandra skipping the Breeders' Cup and European standout Sea the Stars retired after his win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, there was much chatter that this year's Classic would be lacking in glamour.
Though the prospect of facing an undefeated champion is not what her rivals would call an ideal situation, there was strong sentiment that Zenyatta's inclusion in the Classic made the entire event better.
"The Breeders' Cup should be very thankful she's in there," said trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Grade I winner Richard's Kid in the Classic. "I think it's great they're running her even though I have to run against her. It's the best thing they could do for the sport right now and ... if she were to win it, I think they should give both (Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra) Horse of the Year."
Blessed with a massive frame over 17 hands and a remarkable late kick that has never failed her, Zenyatta will be the horse everyone is looking for once the field turns for home Saturday.
Still, the 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry has her share of obstacles to overcome. She has never raced 11/4 miles and, with Regal Ransom seemingly the main speed in the race, she could face a lack of pace and a slew of other closers to overcome as she makes her move.
"I think, if she can pull this off, she'll not only go down as one of the best mares of all time, but she should go down as one of the best horses of all time," said jockey Mike Smith, who has been aboard Zenyatta for 10 of her 13 career starts. "It will definitely be her toughest race by far."
Though it doesn't boast racing's reigning queen, Friday's $2 million Ladies' Classic is as competitive as any race on the lineup.
Grade I winner Music Note, third in the race last year, was installed as the 9-5 morning-line choice over 3-year-old filly Careless Jewel, the second choice at 2-1.
Conduit, winner of the 2008 Breeders' Cup Turf, was made the 7-5 favorite to defend his title, and Goldikova was installed as the 8-5 choice to repeat her victory of a year ago in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Should Zenyatta take the Classic, Jerry Moss indicated, it could be the mare's swan song before she heads for the breeding shed.
"If she gives her all, I don't know if it's fair to ask her to trot out again in another month or so," Moss said.
But given everything the mare has done for her connections, they said it was only fair to give her a chance to cement her legacy.
"She is on the brink of making history, and why take that away at the last minute?" Shirreffs said.