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Zenyatta will go for the glory

Her legacy already secure, the unbeaten mare will go against the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic

November 04, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

With the stars of the show back in their barns, it was left to their trainers to provide the color at Tuesday afternoon's Breeders' Cup post-position draw at Santa Anita.

The talk, naturally, was mostly about Saturday's $5-million Classic, especially after the connections of unbeaten mare Zenyatta decided to try their luck against the males.

The winner of 13 in a row, Zenyatta was drawn in post position No. 4 and installed as the 5-2 favorite. On her inside will be Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up Mine That Bird, in the No. 1 hole.

Trainer John Shirreffs said Zenyatta deserved the opportunity to prove her greatness.

"That's the way we felt about it," he said. "She's on the brink of making history. Why take that away at the last minute?"

Nor was there any question about risking her legacy.

"When you have a horse that's given you so much and has won 13 in a row on many different surfaces against multiple Grade I winners, I mean that's an achievement in itself," Shirreffs said. "If she never stepped out on the track again, that [13 consecutive victories] would still be a great achievement. I just don't see how that could change anything.

"Man O' War, Personal Ensign, Winning Colors, these are names that just jump out at you if you're involved in horse racing. Personal Ensign won 13 in a row and she retired undefeated. That's sort of like the standard for fillies."

And going up against the males at 1 1/4 miles? No problem, Shirreffs said.

"She runs late and it always seems to be the last sixteenth of a mile when she finally hits her big strides, so we're hoping that the added distance will be a real benefit to her."

Winning the Classic would vault Zenyatta into the pantheon of equine greats. "There's that possibility," Shirreffs said. "There's always that possibility."

Going to extremes

Tuesday's draw had its good moments and bad for trainer Bob Baffert.

The bad came first, when Zensational, the 7-5 favorite in the $2-million Sprint, was drawn in the No. 1 post position.

"The one-hole's not great. We all wanted to be on the outside, but you know what, they all have to break. If they're great, they'll overcome it."

Baffert's Looking At Lucky, the 8-5 favorite in the $2-million Juvenile, got the opposite luck and was drawn No 13, on the far outside.

"There's nothing I can do about it," Baffert said.

Derby dreamer

Chip Woolley, the trainer of Mine That Bird, said he didn't think being given 12-1 odds was necessarily an insult for the Kentucky Derby winner.

"Not really," Woolley said. "He ran a solid race in the Goodwood [Stakes, where the gelding finished sixth] but was beat by sure lesser than these. I actually figured he might be 20-to-1 or 25-to-1, you know.

"That's just the way racing is. You have your ups and downs. We've come through a couple of down races. The horse shows up every time, runs hard, but at the same time things have to set up for you and go your way."

Being on the far inside won't bother jockey Calvin Borel, and Mine That Bird figures to hug the rail.

"That's the way it's going to happen, at least for the first mile," Woolley said. "[Borel] will have to make a decision at the quarter-pole what he's going to do, but I'll leave that to him. I don't ride much."


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