11/05/2009 12:00AM

Topping the charts in two worlds

Barbara D. Livingston
Jerry Moss, with his wife Ann, has enjoyed tremendous success as a record producer and owner of star mare Zenyatta.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Jerry Moss's two passions are music and horse racing. He wants to rock 'n' roll all night, and parlay every day.

He has been smart enough to have the kind of success that has taken him to the top of the charts in both endeavors. As a music executive, Moss and partner Herb Alpert formed A&M Records and nurtured a diverse group of artists ranging from Janet Jackson to Joe Jackson, Joe Cocker to Supertramp, the Carpenters to Procol Harum, and, most famously, the Police. Last week, Moss was in New York for a two-day concert honoring the 25th anniversary of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame.

At the racetrack, he and his wife, Ann, won the ultimate prize, the Kentucky Derby, four years ago with Giacomo, a victory that surpassed those in the Kentucky Oaks with Sardula in 1994 and the Santa Anita Handicap with Ruhlmann in 1990. It would be hard to top the singular, spectacular moment of winning the Derby, yet for the past two years, the Mosses have ridden the crest of another phenomenon, the unbeaten run of their mare Zenyatta. On Saturday, they will watch her go for her 14th straight victory when she takes on males for the first time in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic here at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

For Moss, 74, there is plenty of cross-pollination between both worlds. Giacomo was named for the youngest son of Gordon Sumner - better known as Sting, the lead singer of the Police - and his wife, Trudie Styler. Zenyatta is named in part for the Police's top-selling album Zenyatta Mondatta, which means, Moss says, "absolutely nothing."

He said trying to compare Giacomo's Derby victory with Zenyatta's string of 13 straight wins is like comparing a sudden, phenomenal hit single with a group that yields hit after hit after hit.

"That moment in the Derby was incredible and life-changing in the real sense of the word," Moss said in a recent interview at the Hollywood Park barn of trainer John Shirreffs. "Zenyatta relates to the record business like with the Police, where one record was better than the next. Except that the Police had five, and she's had 13.

"With the Police, you couldn't wait to hear the new songs and be happily thrilled. When Herbie and I put out a hit record, we would always say to each other, 'What did we do to deserve this?' Annie and I feel that way about Zenyatta."

Moss is a native of the Bronx but says he had no exposure to racing while growing up in New York. He said he did not get engrossed with racing until a disc jockey in San Francisco took him to the the races in the Bay Area one day in the 1960s. Alpert's manager at the time, Mace Neufeld - who has gone on to be a successful movie producer ("The Hunt for Red October," "The Omen") - subsequently taught Moss the nuances of reading the past performances in Daily Racing Form. Feeling informed, Moss marched to the betting window.

"I picked a winner - and then they took the number down," Moss said.

He had great instincts in the record business, too. In 1962, Moss and Alpert pooled their meager savings to start a record company. One of the first singles they put out was Alpert's "The Lonely Bull." They were off and running.

Over the years, A&M's lineup of artists under Alpert and Moss featured some of the most popular acts of the times, including Bryan Adams, Captain and Tennille, Amy Grant, Styx, and Suzanne Vega, and such cult favorites as the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Tubes.

Rolling Stone magazine once called A&M "a company that became known as one of the classiest in the business where music really did come first."

The success of A&M - which was sold to Polygram in 1989 for what various news sources at the time cited as approximately $500 million - gave Moss the wherewithal to own horses, an endeavor he has pursued by emphasizing quality over quantity.

Moss has owned top-class horses for more than 25 years. He had a runner, Fighting Fit, in the very first Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park in 1984. He finished third in the Sprint.

Zenyatta was purchased as a yearling for $60,000 just four months after Giacomo's Derby victory. Her namesake album by the Police in 1980, Zenyatta Mondatta, contained such familiar hits as "Canary in a Coalmine," "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Driven to Tears," "Man in a Suitcase," and "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around."

Because of Zenyatta's large size - she stands 17 hands and weighs 1,217 pounds - trainer John Shirreffs took his time with her, and she did not get to the races until the fall of her 3-year-old year, when she won a maiden sprint at Hollywood Park.

"Her first race was quite awesome," Moss recalled. "She got out of the gate lackadaisically, to say the least. It was Thanksgiving week. We had some family in town. So we all came out, because we had been told she was pretty good. And - whoosh - she went by them in three steps. It was breathtaking."

After only three starts, Zenyatta was sent to Oaklawn Park in April 2008 to take on the reigning division leader, Ginger Punch, in the Apple Blossom Handicap. She won going away by 4 1/2 lengths. The tiara had been passed to a new queen.

"A lot of people think that was her best race," Moss said.

It was, not insignificantly, her first and - it turns out - only race on dirt. Shirreffs said he believes that Zenyatta is superior on dirt. But because she is based in California, and because the Breeders' Cup has been here two straight years, it made sense to focus her campaigns around those events. Last year, Zenyatta won the BC Ladies' Classic to secure the Eclipse Award as champion older female.

"We like to travel," Moss said. "We ran at Oaklawn last year. We took her to Churchill Downs earlier this year, but unfortunately the track was off, and John didn't think it was the right place to start off after being off for seven months."

Once back in California, Zenyatta lugged 129 pounds to victory in the Vanity Handicap, and overcame what jockey Mike Smith admits was a poor ride to rally powerfully and win the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar. She ran her final quarter-mile that day in 22.40 seconds, according to Trakus.

Running this year in the BC Classic, rather than an encore performance in the Ladies' Classic, became a more realistic goal in recent months. Moss has been keen on the idea, but only if Shirreffs approved.

"John gets to play referee here. He looks critically at everything," Moss said.

On Saturday, they are hoping for another chart-topping performance.