LOUISVILLE— There will be a much larger crowd when Zenyatta takes to the Churchill Downs track for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday.
But in her first appearance over the surface Wednesday, the undefeated champion mare still drew the kind of following many racetracks would love to have on a daily basis.
Zenyatta had her first gallop over the Churchill dirt one day after arriving from California, complete with police escorts and a paparazzi-like following.
"She's terrific, she couldn't be training any better," said exercise rider Steve Willard. "She loves the dirt. She drives off of it. The crowd was great. A couple yelled, but for the most part they were very accommodating."
The 6-year-old Zenyatta is seeking her second straight win in the Classic and her third triumph in a Breeders' Cup race. The flawless daughter of Street Cry also won the 2008 Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita Park.
Mile could be Paco Boy's turn
In discussing the chances of Group I winner Paco Boy for Saturday's Breeders' Cup Mile, Richard Hannon Jr. didn't mince words on who he'd love to beat most.
"I'm just sick of looking at Goldikova's (butt)," said Hannon, assistant trainer to his father.
He may have chuckled when he said it, but Hannon wasn't really kidding. Four times in his career, including three this year, Paco Boy has faced two-time defending Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova and each time the son of Desert Style has finished behind the champion mare.
In the Group I Queen Anne Stakes during the Royal Ascot meeting, Paco Boy put in a late drive down the stretch only to fall a neck short of the brilliant daughter of Anabaa. During their most recent clash, the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, Goldikova again got the best of her rival by a half-length to earn a record-setting 11th Group I/Grade I triumph.
Paco Boy also ran third, beaten a neck by Goldikova, when the bay mare finished second to Makfi in the Group I Prix Jacques Le Marois on Aug. 15.
"We've had three goes at her, and I'm not making any excuses, but he's had three legit reasons why he got beat," Hannon Jr. said. "When we were in Ascot, we gave her a bit too much lengths and then we went to Paris and we were drawn terrible. She's not drawn very well this time (post 10) which I think is to our advantage. We won't be letting her out of our sights.
"She's had her day. Now it's our turn."
A multiple Group I winner himself, Paco Boy is slated to be retired to Highclere Stud in Berkshire next season.
Espoir City has final work
Japanese invader Espoir City was one of the few horses still left on the work tab Wednesday, covering 4 furlongs in :493⁄5 in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Classic.
The 5-year-old horse, who won the Japan Cup Dirt in December, figures to be one of the Classic contenders prompting the early pace. "If he breaks well, he can settle wherever. If he doesn't break well, he can cover ground," trainer Akio Adachi said through an interpreter. "I'm not concerned."
Workforce's status on firmer ground
A day after talk surfaced that Judd-monte Farms' Workforce, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner, could be scratched from the Breeders' Cup Turf because of his connections' dissatisfaction with the firm ground, trainer Sir Michael Stoute expressed a bit more optimism about the conditions.
"The track is in wonderful shape, and it has good cover," Stoute said after sending the colt out for a one-mile gallop. "It's firmer than we'd like and there has not been enough rain. We'll monitor it each day."
Churchill Downs has been watering the course for 10 minutes each night, which amounts to about a quarter inch of rain.
"I don't think it's that hard," said trainer Bill Mott, who will saddle Al Khali in the Turf. "It's not hard. I asked (jockey) Garrett Gomez three or four days ago what he thought, and he said there's a lot of give in the ground."