More than 1,000 brave cold to say goodbye to Zenyatta at Keeneland

Zenyatta, who won 19 of her 20 career starts, will reside at Lane's End farm as a broodmare.
Zenyatta, who won 19 of her 20 career starts, will reside at Lane's End farm as a broodmare.

Like many in the crowd of about 1,200 that huddled four deep around Keeneland's back walking ring Monday night, Ann Moss clicked her camera each time Zenyatta came into frame, documenting the movements of her beloved champion mare.

Even after five years in her presence, Moss — like many in the horse racing community — wanted to savor every last image of racing's reigning queen before saying goodbye.

The temperature may have hovered around the teens, but that did nothing to deter racing fans from turning out Monday to bid one last farewell to the recently retired Zenyatta.

The remarkable winner of 19 of 20 career starts was paraded for the public at Keeneland after arriving from her base in California. Shortly after giving her fans one last show, Zenyatta was then vanned to Lane's End Farm where she will reside as a broodmare.

In addition to the respectful masses who braved the winter cold, Zenyatta was accompanied by owners Jerry and Ann Moss, jockey Mike Smith, trainer John Shirreffs and his wife, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, racing manager for the Mosses.

Just as emotions ran high for those getting to see up close the 6-year-old daughter of Street Cry, it was equally joyful and wistful for her connections to see her get one more massive outpouring from her admirers before beginning her second career.

"When you're with her it's just such joy so you don't really think about much more than smiling," Ann Moss said. "Look at all the people who are here to welcome her on a cold night. It's huge because the East Coast doesn't know her quite as well but they're all going to fall in love. It's already started."

Zenyatta was also paraded at Hollywood Park on Sunday before a crowd of 11,216.

Though 17 of her 20 career starts were in California, returning to Keeneland was a homecoming of sorts for Zenyatta. It was at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale that the Mosses bought the future champion for $60,000.

"It's amazing that Zenyatta is walking this path because we saw her walk this path about five years ago," Jerry Moss said as he watched the dark bay mare make one of a handful of marches around the ring.

That Zenyatta suffered her first career loss in her final start, a head defeat by Blame in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, has taken none of the fervor away from her fans.

Colorful signs proclaiming her greatness decorated the evening backdrop. And as she made one her last passes before her people, a fan yelled their thanks out to the Mosses for letting Zenyatta showcase her amazing ability for more than three years.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life," said Smith, who guided Zenyatta in all but three of her 20 career starts. "It's a great tribute to her, and more."