Zenyatta: a star prepares to give her final performance in Breeders' Cup Classic
ESPN's Wright Thompson writes of the girl who likes her Guinness and does the John Wall dance before races:
She has won more consecutive races than any horse in history, breaking Cigar and Citation's record. She lives on a street named after her. She likes Fiji water. The Dodgers have her on a billboard, with the tagline "This is My Town." She does these leg kicks in the paddock before races; horse people see an animal doing dressage steps to expel excess energy but fans see ... a dancer. She bows to the grandstand.
And the races. They are breathtaking. She waits and waits and waits, then sucks up the entire field in the final moments. She always barely wins. Fans show up at races with signs that say "Girl Power."
But that may not be enough, Andy Beyer writes. It isn't so much a matter of facing male horses; it's the surface. Zenyatta has raced predominantly on synthetic surfaces in California. At Churchill Downs, she'll switch to dirt.
Zenyatta proved she could beat colts last fall when she unleashed an explosive rally to win the Breeders' Cup Classic and became the first member of her sex to accomplish that feat. Yet the quality of that victory is difficult to assess. It was one of the mare's 17 victories over synthetic surfaces in her home state of California, and synthetic-track races are very different from dirt, often favoring horses with Zenyatta's stretch-running style. Moreover, the high-class horses she defeated at Santa Anita were not synthetic-track specialists as she is.
Now she has to show if she can deliver a powerful performance on dirt -- the standard by which great American horses are usually judged.
If she doesn't win, does that significantly diminish her standing among all-time racing greats? Probably not. Her charisma (by the bucketful), the wins and the sheer elegance and grace with which she has roared out of the backfield so many times, probably secure her spot. Win or lose, she deserves to celebrate her career with a Guinness.
| November 5, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
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