11/04/2010 11:49AM

Zenyatta's people: Owners Jerry and Ann Moss

Barbara D. Livingston

Obsessive, reverent, laid back, indulgent -- the team behind the unbeaten mare reflects her quirky brilliance.

Owners Jerry and Ann Moss | Jockey | Trainer | Exercise rider | Groom and hotwalker | Masseuse

Jerry Moss insists the best race he has ever seen in the flesh was the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in which Personal Ensign nipped Winning Colors at the wire to end her career with a perfect 13-for-13 record.

This is Jerry Moss the racing fan talking, not Jerry Moss the horse owner, who, with his wife, Ann, has won a Kentucky Oaks, a Kentucky Derby, and two Breeders’ Cup races with Zenyatta. For most of us, those would have qualified as a best race ever, without a second thought.

Moss, though, is a patron of the arts and therefore sensitive to the fact that possession is accompanied by a prejudicial viewpoint, and to impose that view upon others does a disservice to both the object of art and the world in which it lives. Still, if the Mosses win another Breeders’ Cup race with Zenyatta at Churchill Downs, and she successfully defends her title in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to run her record to 20 wins without defeat, Jerry Moss will be forgiven if he revises his list.

The gift of the grand racehorse falls indiscriminately, although the owners and breeders who spend the most money on the best bloodstock tend to have the edge. The Mosses are not, in the grand scheme, big spenders, and for the yearling version of Zenyatta they paid $60,000, which was pretty much matched over the following two years in boarding and training while they waited for John Shirreffs to pull the trigger.

As the Zenyatta story has unfolded, Moss now finds his greatest satisfaction in simply drawing close to the flame.

“The more I stand next to her, the more I’m awed by her,” Moss said. “She really is quite an animal. She’s such a big ham, and so attractive. Very responsive, notices everything, and she’s just so sweet.”

And then there are her fans, whose legion has grown to the extent that the Mosses have staff dedicated to all things Zenyatta.

“There are so many people who have a truly deep feeling for her,” Moss said. “To them, she transcends being a horse. Obviously, it says something for the idea of perfection.”

The grace with which Jerry Moss has deflected all credit for Zenyatta’s success is a model that can be approached, but never emulated, given the breadth and depth of the tale. That Moss spent his career in the music business dealing with a lot of people who were the best at what they did may have prepared him for the experience. There have been, he insisted, individuals labeled “superstar” who were, like Zenyatta, as down-to-earth as could be.

“They’re just people who happen to have some talent and know what to do with it,” Moss said, “and take care of themselves so that they’ll be at their best every time they show up. That‘s her.”

For Moss the old show biz adage applies: What do you do for an encore? Looking at a racing life beyond Zenyatta is deferred for now, but he was at least allowing himself a few preliminary imaginings.

“We had a 3-year-old Malibu Moon filly win first time out for Shirreffs not long ago,” Moss said. “First time that happened since Zenyatta, so there you go.

“Her name,” he added, “is Makoma.”

Next: Trainer John Shirreffs and racing manager Dottie Ingordo