Horses

Zenyatta stays perfect

ARCADIA, Calif. — Zenyatta's demeanor has been described as a little demanding and, at times, aloof, like a starlet who knows how special she is and requires nothing but the utmost respect.

"Without a doubt she knows how good she is," trainer John Shirreffs said of his talented filly while standing outside his barn Thursday. "She doesn't pay attention to anything around her and she expects everybody to stop for her."

Shortly after the dark bay filly stepped onto the Santa Anita Park oval Friday, she reiterated why she and everyone in her midst hold such a high opinion of her every action.

With the roars of 31,257 followers echoing throughout the track, the undefeated Zenyatta attained her greatest achievement to date when she powered her way to an emotional 11/2-length victory over seven challengers in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (formerly known as the Distaff), locking up divisional honors and making her own case for Horse of the Year.

Unbeaten and rarely challenged in her eight previous starts, Zenyatta came in as the overwhelming favorite in a field that included defending race winner and champion Ginger Punch along with Grade I winners Cocoa Beach, Music Note, Carriage Trail and Hystericalady.

For all their collective accomplishments, however, Zenyatta dwarfed them in both size and ability on this day, coming home under a hand ride from jockey Mike Smith before being greeted by her overwhelmed connections and thunderous applause.

"She's a great star, you know, and the people understood that," said Jerry Moss, who co-owns Zenyatta with his wife Ann, his voice cracking slightly with emotion. "They gave her the respect she deserves and that always gets me. We're just thrilled she won this race."

As is customary for the hulking, 17.1-hand filly, Zenyatta broke slowly from post position one and was simply galloping along while Bear Now set the early pace with fractions of :23.71 and :48.08.

When Music Note began putting in her bid approaching the final turn, Smith chirped to Zenyatta and then hung tight as she began eating up chucks of ground while traveling six wide.

The momentum she gathered on the outside carried her through the lane as the daughter of Street Cry surged to the lead with a furlong to go and was still edging clear as she hit the wire in 1:46.85 for the 11⁄8-mile race.

"I found a new word for her, it's 'bottomless'," joked Smith, who also guided Stardom Bound to victory in the Juvenile Fillies. "I seem to never get close to the bottom. Every time I ask her there is something there.

"Around the first turn, I knew she was there for me. I was pretty excited from that moment on, to tell you the truth."

The Godolphin Racing duo of Cocoa Beach and Music Note were game to finish second and third, while Ginger Punch never factored and came home sixth.

"She, herself, feels fine but ... she was just very uncomfortable," said Rafael Bejarano, jockey for Ginger Punch. "She didn't show me anything."

While Hall of Famer Personal Ensign retired after capping off her undefeated career with a win in the 1988 Distaff, the Mosses say the plan is to bring their perfect girl back for a 5-year-old campaign.

"I mean, she's too good not to run again," Jerry Moss said. "Obviously she deserves a rest and we'll go from there."

Moments after being saddled in the paddock, Zenyatta came to a halt before a pack of vocal fans and looked directly at them as they furiously clicked their cameras.

After giving them an image to savor, she then delivered a performance to match.

"I don't know if I can explain how I feel, this is just an amazing experience," said Shirreffs, who saddled his first Breeders' Cup winner. "Isn't she great?"

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