10/09/2009 9:49PM

Z-Day

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At the beginning of the season, when Jerry Moss said that it was his goal to let Zenyatta do something different this year, the imagination soared. Suddenly, there were visions of Big Mama traveling far and wide, taking on the boys, tap dancing at Radio City Music Hall.

Moss made his comments in good faith and high hopes, while at the same time knowing from his years in the business that the easiest way to make a horse laugh is tell him where he's running next. As it turned out, the only thing different Zenyatta has done in 2009 compared to 2008 is run in fewer races. She has won them all, of course. But that is nothing new. Here is her lifetime record in black and white:

Download Zenyatta

Events wrought by man and nature conspired to restrict Zenyatta's current campaign. Moss outlined a few of them.

"We took her to Churchill Downs at the beginning of her year," said Moss, referring to the Louisville Distaff on Kentucky Oaks day. "That didn't work because of the weather. We certainly didn't want to run her on a sealed track in her first start in nearly seven months. Everybody can understand that."

Those who don't are excused.

Z2

"The fact that we didn't have Hollywood Park this summer to train kind of affected our mobility," Moss went on. Hollywood, Zenyatta's home ground, was closed after its meet for renovation. "When you go out on the road you want to have a perfectly sound, fit horse. And she would not train on the surface at Del Mar as she usually does.

"We nominated her to the Beldame, hoping maybe the other horse would show up," Moss added, referring to Rachel Alexandra. "But that didn't pan out. And I could well believe why they wouldn't want to run her the rest of the year after her courageous race at Saratoga."

Rachel Alexandra called it a year after defeating older males in the Woodward Stakes on Sept. 5. There was wailing from the bleachers that Zenyatta ducked Rachel, but the impervious fact remains that Rachel Alexandra only ran in one race for which Zenyatta would have been eligible--the Woodward.

"And we only knew about her going in that race about a week or so before, after her people had been talking about four of five races," Moss noted. It was actually 12 days, but still that's not much notice for a proper cross-country attack. Rachel Alexandra was stabled at Saratoga at the time.

"I'm not complaining," Moss said. "They did a great job of managing that horse, and whatever she's accomplished she deserves. But we couldn't compete with her in the Mother Goose, for instance, or when she ran against 3-year-old colts."

Zenyatta's record should sustain no blow on Saturday when she defends her title in the Lady's Secret at Santa Anita Park. But make no mistake--to win she will need to be the Zenyatta of last year's Lady's Secret, when she dusted Hystericalady. The field is full of fillies and mares in good form, especially on synthetic surfaces. Anyone who would consider this less than a full-blooded test has a misunderstanding of the nature of Thoroughbred competition.

The ultimate irony is that Moss is no fan of the all-synthetic circuit in California, despite the fact that the best horse he's ever owned has mastered the surfaces without serious complaint.

"It's not right and it's not fair," Moss said of the surface monopoly. "It has separated us from the rest of the country. If we don't do something about it, we'll become Tripple A ball out here. The purses might still be good, but you'll never develop a horse that gets the national acclaim. California owners and trainers deserve better. They want to dream big."

There also remains the lingering regret that the rest of the North American racing world has not been able to reach out and touch Zenyatta. There will be a begrudging cutaway on ESPN2 Saturday afternoon to show the Lady's Secret, but that's way too little too late. Zenyatta has become the mostest horse viewed by the leastest people in generations.

That could change if Zenyatta runs in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 7, at a mile and a quarter, a test Zenyatta has never faced. Moss was asked if his mare could handle that kind of distance against the best possible field. 

"Absolutely," he replied. "She doesn't run that hard for most of a race, and she has that incredible stride that makes up a ton of ground once she does run. I don't think a mile and a quarter would be much of a challenge to her, and I'm very sorry we haven't had a chance to try it."

Yet.

Gharza More than 1 year ago
I think Jess Jackson is to be commeded for how he gave RA the opportunity to show her greatness. Having said that, his assertion that my boy Curlin was defeated by running on a synthetic track is flawed. There's no way you could circle the filed like he did and make the lead like he did, albeit before tiring to 4th, without liking the surface. Curlin was a combination of tired and moved too soon. RA might actually love SA. Too bad we'll never know.
Octave-the-Rave More than 1 year ago
To all the Zenyatta critics, I have this to say: shhhhhhhhhhsh! Bite your collective tongues and PRAY she runs in the Classic. Can you fathom how much Cal-money will pour into the pools? It'll make all that Lava Man money pale by comparison. And unlike Lava Man, who at least had some hope, Zenyatta has no chance even of hitting the board.
dan c More than 1 year ago
The only thing Moss said correct was that the Rubber track is masking California racing and its ruining the "CaliforniaSpeed" horses. For 50 yrs we have heard and got beat by California speed horses shipping and just running away from our horses. This is dead and gone period. Name 1 California sprinter that has been dominate on DIRT across the country since Rubber????? NONE is the answer. Midnight lute came to Belmont and lost to a nobody in the Cigar mile. He beat a bad group at Saratoga and nothing in the Breeders cup. Where are all those top speed horses now????? Poly Rubber has ruined it. All the Cal trainers are now looking for Grass breeding that might run on Rubber and hope they are a 1 run horse. IE Ventura, Albertus maximus......Well you see what Well Armed did to him on REAL DIRT why cause Well Armed is a speed horse who needs DIRT.....Does anyone else understand that LAva Man went straight downhill the minute Rubber came in??? He struggled to beat nobody on Rubber then started losing and eventually retired. If Cal still had DIRT the horse would still be winning. Lets face it the Rubber is NOT safer the studies have proved it, that was all bogus crap by the people trying to sell you something. STATS dont lie!!!! Moss wants us to think Zenyatta is the best of all time, bring her to the Clark handicap at Churchill against older Males, the down to Fla to the Donn handicap, and run her against the boys in the Classic , If she wins all 3 races then OK she is one of the greatest. As for Rachel no way on earth I would bring her to run on that rubber she is a SPEED horse. SPEED horses dont run well on that stuff, the STATS dont lie. Stalkers and Speed horse cannot hold off the dead closers (turf horses) on that stuff its just a fact just watch the races especially ALL the GRADED races on the stuff. One last thing JAY the worst favorite of the day will be Zensational. There is no way that SPEED horse will beat good rubber horses instead of glorified claimers. And if he ran next yr on DIRT he would probably do better cause he is a SPEED horse. The closer will run him down and Fatal Bullet will run with him from the break.
Qev More than 1 year ago
There can be only one...
Mike S More than 1 year ago
ZENYATTA is one of the most amazing creatures I've ever seen on a racetrack. Thanks for this interview with Jerry Moss, and thanks for appreciating ZENYATTA, one of racing's all-time greats.
Gene More than 1 year ago
I guess it's too much to enjoy bothe of them without bashing the other.
tommy More than 1 year ago
To mention Zenyatta with Pepper's Pride is insulting to them both.
Leon More than 1 year ago
Gene: The big mare is great, but it is her connections we are bashing. She's probably good enough to win on different surfaces, tracks and against the boys, but her handling has not been one of a true champion, who takes on real challenges.
Steve T. More than 1 year ago
Gene, Amen - we have two great female runners, the best in a long time and we try to run both of them down.
Kat More than 1 year ago
Paul A. - I can't tell if you're being facetious. Since obviously there are a few trainers out there that would (and did) say, "yes, we will prep in Goodwood". And of course, the Etc. was to encompass the concept (of facing males), vs the specific of the Goodwood. Otherwise, do you know a polite silence when you see one?