Zenyatta wears Classic crown
ARCADIA, Calif. - What a gal!
Zenyatta beat the boys in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic yesterday, running her record to 14-0 in the most impressive effort of her career.
The 5-year-old mare rallied from last in the early going and fought off Gio Ponti in the stretch to win by a length at Santa Anita, beating a loaded field of 11 males and becoming the first female to win the Classic in its 26-year history.
Quality Road was scratched at the starting gate after he acted up and scraped his hind leg, delaying the start by several minutes. That may have explained Zenyatta’s poor start as she broke from the gate on the wrong foot and trailed early in the race.
Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Zenyatta still ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.62 and paid $7.60, $5.60, and $3.80 as the 5-2 wagering favorite of the 58,845 fans.
Gio Ponti returned $9.20 and $6.60, while Britain-bred Twice Over paid $7 to show.
Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird was fourth and Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird ninth, extending his losing streak to five straight since his 50-1 upset on the first Saturday in May. Irish import Rip Van Winkle was 10th.
Owners Jerry and Ann Moss decided to enter Zenyatta in the Classic instead of trying to defend her title in the $2 million Ladies’ Classic Friday. Her presence gave a big boost to the signature event of the two-day world championships, which was missing the year’s other star female, Rachel Alexandra.
That 3-year-old filly went 8 for 8 this year, including three wins against the boys, one coming in the Preakness Stakes. But Rachel Alexandra’s owner, Jess Jackson, shut her down for the season rather than run her on the synthetic surface, which he dislikes.
Smith let Zenyatta lope along at the back of the field. Rounding the final turn, Zenyatta still had a lot of ground to make up on the leaders.
Zenyatta then made a bold inside move midway through the far turn to gain momentum. After the field turned for home, Smith angled her to the far outside and the crowd erupted.
Showing the grit of an undefeated champion, Zenyatta closed relentlessly and denied Gio Ponti the upset. Smith pumped his left arm as Zenyatta galloped past the grandstand for possibly the last time.
The Mosses have said Zenyatta, named after the 1980 album “Zenyatta Mondata’’ by The Police, will go to the breeding shed next year.
In other races, Conduit defended his $3 million Turf championship, wearing down Presious Passion at the wire to win by a half-length.
Ridden by Ryan Moore, the 4-year-old colt covered 1 1/2 miles on Santa Anita’s turf course in 2:23.75 and paid $3.80, $3 and $2.20. Presious Passion returned $5 and $3.80.
Irish import Goldikova successfully defended her title in the $2 million Mile against 10 male rivals.
California Flag lived up to his favorite’s status, taking the $1 million Turf Sprint by 1 3/4 lengths.
Dancing in Silks was a big shocker, surviving a four-horse photo finish to win the $2 million Sprint by a nose at 25-1 odds. He paid $52.60 to win.
Another gelding, Furthest Land, won the $1 million Dirt Mile a year after being claimed for $35,000 at Belmont Park.
Europe-based Pounced won the $1 million Juvenile Turf by three-quarters of a length under Frankie Dettori.