01/11/2010 3:14PM

Mas Moss


Instead of poking and prodding Jerry Moss for a straight answer to the question, "Is Zenyatta retired or what?" last Saturday at Santa Anita Park, the flower of Southern California racing journalism (I confess to being among the wilted) would have served our readers--not to mention the kid's college fund--a whole lot better if we'd asked him for a tout on Banner Lodge in the third and Neko Bay in the eighth.

Banner Lodge is a 6-year-old son of Chester House who paid $6 in winning an optional claimer on the turf. (In his youth, Moss worked at Banner Lodge in Connecticut, and the head waiter's name was Chester.) Neko Bay is a 7-year-old son of Giant's Causeway who paid $12.40 in winning the San Pasqual Handicap at a mile and one-sixteenth on the synthetic main. (Moss and his wife, Ann, once ventured to Neko Bay in Antarctica.) The Mosses have younger horses, but they're just not ripe yet. Both winners were accompanied by Mike Smith, who was wearing a brand spanking new set of Moss colors featuring their traditional bright pink and a green so green you knew it had never gone through the wash.

"Originally, it was malachite green," Moss said, summoning the name of the gemstone.

"By now you can call it Moss green if you want," chirped Smith. "Just like Claiborne orange."

Moss and his closest advisers continue to hold to the line that Zenyatta is retired and will be bred. When asked why she is still in California, they point to the Weather Channel and impugn the Kentucky climate. When asked why she is still tossing off half-mile works every couple of weeks, they insist she needs the occasional blowout to keep her from going stir crazy. When asked if it will make a difference if she wins the Horse of the Year vote or not, they say of course not.

"It's a nice problem to have," Jerry Moss said as he followed Banner Lodge out of the paddock last weekend. The "problem" could have been a reference to the media attention from speculation about a change in Zenyatta's plans. It could have be about having a finalist for Horse of the Year. He even could have been talking about when some kind of announcement might be made.

This time last year, Zenyatta was doing nothing more than jogging around the training track at Hollywood Park. By the third week of January, 2009, she began galloping. After winning the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic on Oct. 24, 2008, she did not have another recorded workout until March 2, 2009, a half-mile in :48.80. Then look what happened.

No one asked my advice, which is usually the best time to give it, especially for free. But if there is going to be some kind of announcement made about Zenyatta's future, I would hope it goes something like this:

If Zenyatta is going to be retired, the fact needs reaffirmation, underlined by her disappearance from California. The Mosses need be concerned about nothing other than Zenyatta's well being. But why perpetuate such a tease? Zenyatta is so deeply identified as a racemare with her Hollywood Park training grounds and the John Shirreffs barn that as long as she lingers out West, confusion will reign. Not that confusion is a bad thing.

If Zenyatta is going to run again, the announcement needs to be made before the Horse of the Year envelope is opened next Monday night in Beverly Hills at the climax of the Eclipse Awards dinner. If the Mosses wait until after the award is announced, and Rachel Alexandra wins, it will seem impetuous and self-serving, two things that Jerry Moss is definitely not. It would be okay, though, if Moss makes the announcement earlier in the evening when they accept Zenyatta's inevitable Eclipse Award for champion older mare. They would bring down the house. Then, no matter whose name turns out to be in that envelope for Horse of the Year, the mood for the evening would already be giddy, the future would glow with possibilities, and the Stonestreet wine would flow.

The only variation would be the ultimate dramatic gesture, a throw of the dice made possible only if NTRA president Alex Waldrop utters the "Z" word when he opens the Horse of the Year envelope. The Mosses could step to the stage and announce that, because Zenyatta has been so honored, they feel obligated to keep a sound, healthy, 6-year-old Thoroughbred mare with just 14 starts in competition for another season, for the pleasure of fans everywhere, answering all challenges from all comers. I know, I know. If I want a Disney ending I should go see that Frog Princess thing. Just let me have my dreams.

Curt A Vassallo More than 1 year ago
Jay, Hello, there my friend. It seems just last week, we were having this same discussion. I, in no way, believed Mr. Moss was being truthful about his intentions of retiring Zenyatta. I said, it seems to me, to have been a ploy to garner artificial publicity. Given his current track record on statements, I won't believe he will enter vs. Rachel, until I see the gate open. I know RA will be in there. & Yes, I read S. Crists' article. Yes, the DRF got the story 1st. However, I, & probably all the Rachel fans, R in NO WAY, surprised. & U, Jay, shouldn't be either. It seems, U weren't dreaming afterall......
Jay H More than 1 year ago
Zonyito -- May I refer you to Steve Crist's blog entry detailing the events surrounding the revelation that Zenyatta would continue racing. It sounds like DRF got the scoop, courtesy of correspondent Brad Free. Around here, we keep score as a team.
Zonyito More than 1 year ago
So the Mosses were holding out on you all along!?! Let this be a lesson to young journalists out there. Kissing up and being a homer will not win the respect of your sources, nor will it get you the important scoops.
Anne More than 1 year ago
I must say about the Easy Goer and Sunday Silence thing, The Preakness win was close the photo shows all legs together. The Belmont, no brainer who won. I firmly believe Lasix had some help in both the loses for each. Sunday could not have his lasix in NY and Shug never used it on Easy Goer when he could (if I remember correctly). I think the two were good horses and good for racing. Just as these two have been. I have been in Zenyatta's support camp since she started racing and would never sway no matter what the Moss's plan to do. I do not think the breeding shed is going to be an easy place for the chosen male to show up. Step stool maybe... who is going to hold up her leg while the breeding goes on? NOT ME! The weather here is horrible. I would not send a mare here either from the West coast. She can't sit in a barn and play with a ball until they send her either. So... what choice do they have? Let her go to the track. Big woop either way to me, if she runs or not. I know she has shown up when I needed it the most after chasing a zillion Triple Crown hopefuls who failed.
kraminator More than 1 year ago
"Nothing she could do in my mind could top the Breeders Cup? How about winning a race outside of the same old tired handpicked fields, on something other than plastic in Southern California? The Breeders Cup Classic? One of the weakest fields yet in that race. Let's see, the horse that finished second is a turf specialist (and still managed to finish second) the horse that finished third is a second rate European horse who had never finished within a dozen lengths of Sea the Stars, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird have both seen the backside of Rachel Alexandra, Quality Road was scratched and you could eliminate any horse who had his last race on dirt. So winning the Classic this year was supposed to be something special? You want special? How about the first 3YO filly to beat older horses in a route race? How about a 3YO filly who beat the boys three times? How about a 3YO filly who came within less than a second of the immortal Secretariat's track record for 1 1/16 at Belmont while at the same time smashing the great Ruffian's stakes record? Sorry, but a spoon fed schedule leading to beating a subpar field in the BC Classic does not trump Rachel Alexandra accomplished. RA should hands down be HOY.
Joanna More than 1 year ago
She will need to be in Kentucky in February to have an early foal...it gets colder in February than it is now so their excuse doesn't work....I am a huge RA fan but would still love to see Zen come back and run in the Dubai World Cup. No she owes us nothing but let's show her off to the world.
Pete M More than 1 year ago
Zenyatta and Rachel "need to meet" blah blah, it will prove nothing. Sunday Silence and Easy Goer met four times I believe, with Sunday Silence winning 3 out of the meeting. Yet the argument is still made by many that Easy Goer was the better horse. Too much goes into a race to prove who is better in many cases, and one race is just that, one race. Let Zenyatta go out in one the racing's best moments you could ever hope for, nothing she could do in my mind would top the Breeders Cup.
Karen More than 1 year ago
Oh, how I would both love and dread to see her run this year. Love it because I lover her and would be selfish about wanting to see her again. Dread it because it would be a sad day if she lost. If you lived here (Indiana), it would be very easy to understand why they would not want to send their big beautiful baby from 70 degrees and sunny to teens for highs, snowy, cloudy, dreary ..... Why do I live here again?? May she enjoy the warmth and love there as long as she can.
Qev More than 1 year ago
Being a Jess Jackson/Rachel Alexandra supporter, I’m going to assume that you meant to convey precisely what you wrote: “The Stonestreet wine would flow.” And had no intentions of the reader inferring the presence of another ‘h’ at any location in that statement. Whatever the case, it’s quiet funny (and clever) stuff all the same. :)