10/05/2010 12:41PM

Peppers Pride had perfection of her own

Robbi Large/Coady Photography
Peppers Pride won her 19 consecutive races without a defeat all in New Mexico.

Two men – one in Abilene, Tex., the other in Hobbs, N.M. – watched Zenyatta extend her unbeaten streak to 19 races in the Grade 1 Lady’s Secret Stakes at Hollywood Park last Saturday with profound interest.

Joe Allen and Joel Marr are the owner and trainer who accomplished the same improbable milestone two years ago with the New Mexico-based star mare Peppers Pride.

“We’re all tied up,” Marr said on Monday from Zia Park, where he has a 30-horse stable.
“We watched it Saturday, and I can imagine how they feel,” Allen said. “I don’t think most people realize how hard it is for a horse to do that.”

Peppers Pride won 19 races against New Mexico-bred horses, including 14 stakes, from July 16, 2005 to Dec. 14, 2008. She earned $1,066,085, and won at distances ranging from 5 1/2 furlongs to a mile at Ruidoso Downs, Sunray Park, Sunland Park, and Zia Park.

Allen is quick to state that Peppers Pride and Zenyatta accomplished their 19-race streaks in vastly different settings.

“Peppers Pride, she’s not the same horse that mare is,” Allen said of Zenyatta. “It’s still hard to do.”

Zenyatta began her streak on Nov. 22, 2007, has won at distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, and has won 17 stakes, including 13 Grade 1 races. Zenyatta has earned $6,404,580 and will make the final start of her career in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, a race she won last year at Santa Anita.

“I’ve kind of watched her all the way, from way back when she was at 9 or 10” wins, Marr said of Zenyatta. “I keep track of it. They’ve done a tremendous job. She’s a tremendous athlete, and she’s one of the greatest ever.”

Next year, Zenyatta will be bred in Kentucky, which is where Peppers Pride has been based since her racing career ended. She slipped her first foal from a 2009 cover but is in foal to Distorted Humor and expected to deliver a foal in early 2011, Allen said.

“She’s a happy girl,” Allen said.

Allen, 64, who operates a restaurant and catering business, bred Peppers Pride. He recalls that Peppers Pride began to attract national attention in the middle of 2007 when her unbeaten streak reached double-digits. She was nearing the 16-race winning streaks of Cigar, Citation, Hallowed Dreams, and Mister Frisky.

“It’s just an unreal feeling,” he said. “That’s the only way I know to say it. I didn’t know about the record until we got to 10. That was the first time I’d heard much about it. Each race got harder.”

Marr, 43, has mixed memories of the latter stages of Peppers Pride’s career, recalling the pressure he felt to maintain Peppers Pride’s form in the final two years of her career in 2007-2008.

“You enjoy it to a certain extent,” he said. “Like the old saying, you’ve got 1,000 things that can go wrong and one thing can go right. It’s your job to cover all the bases. It was exciting and fun, but I was kind of in my own world for a while. I was trying to keep her healthy, happy, and safe.”

For Marr, the downside was national criticism of the way Peppers Pride was managed as a New Mexico-bred.

“We never left New Mexico and we never planned on leaving,” Marr said. “We weren’t out to do anything but do the best for her and win races. Zenyatta has basically stayed in California, outside of two races. She’s been a hometown California kind of deal, and our mare was New Mexico.

“It was always a little discouraging. It’s just horses that have won that many races in a row. It doesn’t matter if it’s claiming horses or stakes horses. Our mare was a stakes mare. That was a little disheartening to read about all the little comments. That doesn’t take anything away from our mare. We did what we wanted to do.”

Aside from the win streak, Marr notices that Peppers Pride and Zenyatta have one more thing in common – the ability to connect to people

“Zenyatta has been one of the best things for racing,” he said. “Our mare got people in racing that probably wouldn’t have gotten into it. They came to the races, watched on television, or read about it.

“Zenyatta has done that for racing on a national scale. I hope everything goes well for them. She’s a tremendous equine athlete, and if she wins more it will be great.”