05/15/2013 4:56PM

Eric Kronfeld, Zenyatta's breeder, dies at 71

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Eric Kronfeld, breeder of Horse of the Year Zenyatta, died on May 15 at age 71.

Eric Kronfeld, best known for breeding 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, died May 15 following a battle with cancer. He was 71.

Kronfeld, owner of a New York-based investment company, became involved with the racing industry in 1975 with the purchase of two horses in England. Among his initial successes was Mrs. Penny, a $40,000 yearling purchase who was named champion 2-year-old filly in England in 1979. The following year, she took the 3-year-old filly title after winning the French Oaks.

“I thought, 'This is an easy game,' and I've spent the last quarter of a century trying to play catch-up,” Kronfeld was quoted.

Kronfeld, under his Maverick Productions banner, bred and raced Zenyatta’s dam, the winning Kris S mare Vertigineux, after privately purchasing and campaigning second dam For the Flag. Vertigineux’s first three foals all went on to become stakes winners. Where’s Bailey, who Kronfeld sold for just $4,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale, become a stakes winner in Oklahoma. The mare’s second foal, the A.P. Indy filly Balance, sold for $260,000 at the same sale the following year and became a multiple Grade 1 winner and millionaire.

After being sent to Darley stallion Street Cry in his first year at stud, Vertigineux produced Zenyatta, who was purchased for $60,000 by Jerry and Ann Moss at the 2005 Keeneland September sale. Jerry Moss and Kronfeld became acquaintances when both were involved in the music industry in the 1970s, when Kronfeld was with PolyGram Records and Moss with his A&M Records.

Zenyatta, named champion older female in three consecutive seasons in addition to her Horse of the Year title, won 19 of her 20 career starts, including the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic and the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. She won 13 total Grade 1 events, and also finished second by a head to Blame in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic in her career finale. She retired with a bankroll of $7,304,580, making her the all-time earnings leader among North American females.

Currently representing the family on the track is Eblouissante, Vertigineux’s sixth foal and the last owned by Kronfeld. He privately sold the mare, who he boarded at Don Robinson’s Winter Quarter Farm, to Coolmore Stud in the fall of 2008.

“When I thought the world of finance was coming to the end, in 2008, I talked it over with Donnie Robinson,” Kronfeld told Daily Racing Form in 2011. “I said, ‘I think we have to sell her. There is never going to be the eight-digit prices for broodmares.’ The odds on her throwing one more [Zenyatta] are astronomical. I said I wanted to keep the in-utero foal. John Magnier [of Coolmore] allowed me to do that. I asked for a number, and there was no negotiation.”

Eblouissante, a 4-year-old Bernardini filly, has now won both of her starts and is currently in training with John Shirreffs in New York.

“If you get to see Eblouissante, your breath will be taken away,” Kronfeld said in 2011, when the filly was an unraced juvenile. “Do I expect her to be anywhere close to Zenyatta? Absolutely not. If she were ever good enough to win a stakes, that’s all a breeder can hope for.”

Other top runners campaigned by Kronfeld include Nereid, a $190,000 yearling purchase. The daughter of Rock Hard Ten finished in a dead heat for the win in the Grade 1 American Oaks in 2011, and placed in three other Grade 1 events. Kronfeld sold her for $1.3 million at this year’s Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. It was the highest price paid for a broodmare or broodmare prospect at the sale.

Funeral arrangements for Kronfeld are pending.