03/18/2010 11:00PM

Letters to the Editor


Trip to the track proves brimming with racing royalty

I would like to share an experience my girlfriend and I had over the weekend of Zenyatta's 15th consecutive win. First, though, some background on how I became such an enormous Zenyatta fan.

The first time I had seen her run in person was at Del Mar in August 2008, in the Clement Hirsch. I remember thinking to myself, "That was absolutely amazing," and that I had truly seen a once-in-a-lifetime horse.

Though I had been a little late on the scene to recognize her brilliance - given she had already won six races before that, in equally impressive fashion - I was a full-blown Zenyatta fan. I couldn't help it - the way she ran, her presence, everything about her was sheer brilliance.

I continued following Zenyatta, showing up wherever she did to root for my favorite horse. Never once did she let me down. My most memorable moment at any track came in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita when Zenyatta came thundering down the stretch to win, proving to everyone that she truly was a horse sent to us from the heavens.

That brings us to last Saturday's Santa Margarita Handicap. As usual, I was there to root the "Queen Z" home, but this time I had brought my girlfriend to witness Zenyatta in person. We two were standing just past the finish line on the red steps right below the box seats.

After Zenyatta's dramatic stretch run, I looked over my shoulder and saw the mare's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Moss, coming down the stairs right next to us. When I said, "Here come Zenyatta's owners," my girlfriend, being a little more outgoing than me, said, "Congratulations" to Mrs. Moss. She looked right at us and signaled us to follow her, and before I knew it, there we were, standing in the winner's circle with one of the greatest horses of all time. After the picture, we thanked Mrs. Moss, and what she said blew me away. She actually thanked us. We went back to Santa Anita the next day to pick up the picture and even got lucky enough to have Mike Smith sign it, who as busy as he is took the time to share a few words with us. Zenyatta's brilliance is equal to that of her connections, and I would like to thank them for everything they have done for racing and for sharing her with us. We truly appreciate it.

Stephen Wagner - Ontario, Calif.

All hail the queen, not a pretender

I just got through watching the tapes of last Saturday's races featuring Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta again. Although I surely don't know everything about racing, I understand how difficult it is to remain undefeated as a closer. To win 15 in a row as a speed horse would be incredible by itself, but for Zenyatta to win that many as a closer is truly all-time greatness. What a remarkable performance.

As for Rachel Alexandra, all you heard the week leading up to the New Orleans Ladies was how Rachel wasn't ready. The Racing Form was the biggest culprit, making excuses before the race (as in the March 13 article "Rachel may need this one"), but the fact is ,it was a five-horse race and Zardana had not run on dirt in years. Don't be surprised if Rachel Alexandra never races against Zenyatta, or if she does, gets her head jerked off (like she should, as Zardana couldn't get within five lengths of Zenyatta), and then she'll be retired with some lame excuse.

Rachel Alexandra is a nice filly who had circumstances to her advantage last year, running against a weak group of 3-year-old males who have done nothing since (except Summer Bird), and then a mediocre field of older Grade 2 winners. Zenyatta frequently has to run in races that are painfully slow early to try and blunt her closing kick. It hasn't worked yet and may never, as she is the best filly I have seen in 40-plus years of watching horse racing.

Frank Avilla - Portland, Ore.

Embattled owner has new strength

First a disclosure: Together with my partner, Patti Miller, I am an agent who has helped buy a lot of horses for Zayat Stables the last few years.

Now, in the news, Ahmed Zayat's recent well-publicized troubles - some of them told in the March 5 article "Two states question Zayat's loans" - are joined by his the exploits of his Kentucky Derby favorite, Eskendereya, winner of the Fountain of Youth.

It's always fun for many to see "how the mighty have fallen" headlines. And it appears like a wild stroke of luck that the regally bred Eskendereya may bail him out.

Actually, the truth may be quite different on several fronts. Zayat doesn't need bailing out, though he is in a fight with a bank ("Bank wants insurance payout," Feb 11).

And last year, with Zayat still relatively new to racing, he had a horse run second in the Kentucky Derby (Pioneerof the Nile), and a Breeders' Cup favorite (Zensational), and many graded stakes winners. His stakes and graded stakes percentages were as good as anyone's. The year before he had two horses in the Derby and the year before that five in the Breeders' Cup. He has been the leading owner at both Del Mar and Saratoga.

So is Eskendereya really an aberration?

Zayat is very smart, and hardworking. He is passionate about horse racing. We like to think that he surrounds himself with similar people. And the harder we work, the luckier we get.

Jeff Seder - West Grove, Pa.