12/06/2010 1:16PM

Zenyatta begins journey to Kentucky

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Zenyatta’s journey from California to Kentucky was delayed approximately two hours on Monday morning because of inclement weather in Kentucky.

The wildly popular 6-year-old mare was scheduled to leave trainer John Shirreffs’s base at Hollywood Park about 6:30 a.m. for Ontario airport about 50 miles to the east, but the trip did not start until about 8:30 a.m.

“We’re on the van now,” exercise rider Steve Willard said just before 9 a.m. Pacific.

Zenyatta was expected to leave Ontario airport by late morning. She is expected to arrive in Lexington, Ky., in late afternoon and will be paraded at Keeneland at 6 p.m. Eastern. Originally, Keeneland had planned to parade Zenyatta in the racetrack paddock, but the delay has moved the event to the lighted outdoor show ring at the back of the sales pavilion, adjacent to the racetrack.

Willard said Zenyatta’s departure from Hollywood Park was a poignant moment for the stable team and owners Jerry and Ann Moss, who were on hand. Willard is accompanying the mare with groom Mario Espinoza to Kentucky, where she will be boarded at Lane’s End Farm. Zenyatta will be bred in 2011. The Mosses, Shirreffs, and his wife, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, the Mosses’ racing manager, also were flying to Kentucky on Monday.

For Willard, he said that saying goodbye to Zenyatta later this week will be emotional.

“It’s going to be a sad situation leaving Lexington,” he said.

Zenyatta was paraded in the paddock and on the racetrack at Hollywood Park on Sunday before an enthusiastic crowd that cheered her every move. The retirement ceremony came four weeks after she finished second to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, her only loss in a 20-race career.

“It’s been unbelievable,” Willard said of her career. “You can’t put it into words.”