12/09/2010 3:19PM

Zenyatta, Shirreffs adjusting to changes

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer John Shirreffs and Zenyatta meet their fans on Monday night at Keeneland.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The lives of Zenyatta and her trainer, John Shirreffs, changed rapidly this week.

After being the subject of retirement ceremonies at Hollywood Park on Sunday afternoon and Keeneland on Monday evening, Zenyatta began life as a broodmare at Lane’s End Farm, near Versailles, Ky., on Monday evening.

Gone for Zenyatta was the commotion of living in a backstretch stable, replaced by living in a stable with about 20 fellow mares – and snow. Lots of snow. There was enough snow in Kentucky to keep the popular two-time champion in the barn at Lane’s End on Tuesday and Wednesday, trainer John Shirreffs said.

“With the paddocks full of snow they’re reluctant to turn her out,” Shirreffs said. “They don’t want her to slip on the snow. They hand walk her about three times a day. When the weather gets better, they’ll give her a turn-out pattern.

“There is a window in the back of her stall and she can look out at the other mares in the paddock in the snow. They’re snow-broke. She’s like, When is it my time?”

Shirreffs, who was back at his Hollywood Park base on Thursday morning, was part of a group that traveled to Kentucky on Monday for Zenyatta’s transition from the racetrack to the farm. He was joined by the mare’s owners, Jerry and Ann Moss; the Mosses racing manager and Shirreffs’s wife, Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs; jockey Mike Smith; exercise rider Steve Willard; and groom Mario Espinoza.

Keeneland was the first stop on Monday, and the audience’s reaction during a brief ceremony there mirrored the enthusiastic response that Zenyatta received at Hollywood Park the preceding day. Shirreffs said he was impressed by Zenyatta’s demeanor during the event and her fans’ dedication.

“I couldn’t believe how good she was off the plane,” Shirreffs said. “She was great with the people. They were reaching out. I heard one of them say, ‘Oooh, I touched Zenyatta.’ They really appreciated seeing her. The plane was two hours later and they stayed around.”

After being paraded for approximately 15 minutes, Zenyatta was vanned for 15 minutes to Lane’s End.

“It all happened within an hour,” Shirreffs said.

Willard said he was touched by the crowd’s reaction at Keeneland.

“But we can’t keep her forever,” Willard said. “She is the people’s horse. There is no doubt about it. She was a once-in-a-lifetime horse for us.”

By midday Wednesday, it was time to say goodbye. Shirreffs said that bidding farewell was not easy for the group as they left the farm.

“We were all looking out the back window,” he said.