Friday, April 9, 2010

Makin' it look easy

Granted, it was the first Grade 1 race I've ever witnessed in person. But Zenyatta on Friday afternoon at Oaklawn Park made winning the Apple Blossom Invitational look almost like she was facing optional claimers instead of stakes company.

The giant 6-year-old dark bay mare, a two-time champion older female, scared off all but four competitors from the race, including last year's Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. And as I stood on the apron near the finish line at Oaklawn Park, one of 44,973 who mostly came to see Zenyatta in the flesh, I joked that with the mare sitting at 1/9 on the board and certainly much more heavily bet in reality, the most interesting wager might be on how many lengths she would spot the field on the first time past the start-finish line of the mile and an eighth race.

The answer: About eight lengths.

Zenyatta's victory was her 16th consecutive victory in as many lifetime starts, and came only a day after the death of another unbeaten champion mare and favorite of mine, Personal Ensign. It was her second victory in the Apple Blossom, as she took the 2008 running in a much tougher field that included Brownie Points and Ginger Punch.

On this day, jockey Mike Smith shook the reins a couple of times at Zen in the stretch, but that was about it. With practically zero encouragement and seemingly without breaking a sweat, Zen swept five-wide on the far turn and came home a widening 4 1/2 lengths in front of Taptam, whose connections were visibly (and justifiably) thrilled with G1 blacktype and a $100,000 payday in a race that was for second place all along.

Home third was Be Fair, with Just Jenda fourth and War Echo rounding out the field.

In all, despite losing my shirt at the window, it was a pretty darned good day at the racetrack. (As for the wagering, I had trifectas blown up by a 16/1 horse in the third, and a 23.5/1 horse in the fifth, and a super screwed by a horse at about 11/1 in the sixth.)

Since I'm working on free McDonald's WiFi -- and they're starting to give me the evil eye because the lobby was supposed to have closed 21 minutes ago -- I might not know until I get back to North Carolina quite how all the pictures came out. Not even sure the one I've uploaded is a great one, as the laptop lacks Photoshop and its screen isn't as true as the big monitor on the G5 tower back at home. But it was my brush with the greatness that is Zenyatta, so here it is.


  1. Glad you had a good time in Hot Springs.

    First Grade 1 race in person?

    Now there is something to tell your grandkids about. Hope you saved some souvenir win tickets on the Big Z.

  2. Honestly - I don't think there's a horse in the world who can run with her at the finish.

    I don't think the RA connections will ever send her against would answer a question they'd rather not have answered.

    Rachel is a wonderful, fast, brilliant and game filly....but Zenyatta is one for the ages. She is worthy of the same breath as Secretariat and Slew, John Henry and Forego, Personal Ensign (RIP) and Lady's Secret.

  3. Great horses do that, as I'm sure you know. Today in the sea of humanity at Oaklawn that is Arkansas Derby day, you might look for Randy and Barry Maxwell. They were there yesterday, too.


  4. I think my favorite part about this post Glenn is that it was written in a McDonalds.

    Glad you got to see the Giselle of horse racing in person.

    No. 17 will be where?

  5. That's wonderful that you actually got to see her in person. I would have loved to go but it's a long travel from CT to Oaklawn Park.

  6. Wow Glen, You made the Paulick Report!
    Good Job - wish I could have been there - she is so great.

  7. Sorry it took so long to moderate the comments. I'm doing so at 10 a.m. Sunday outside a (closed) place called "Which Wich? Superior Sandwiches" just outside of Springfield, Mo., on my way to St. Louis.

    Hoping to be at Keeneland on Wednesday, but we'll see.

    Hello to everybody, by the way, especially Brendan and Roys!

    I didn't make it back for the Arkansas Derby. I thought about staying overnight in Hot Springs and sticking around for Saturday's card, but I'd already skipped out on a whole day of a mini-reunion with my dad and all his siblings (bar one) and it was a 4.5-hour drive back and forth between Dad and Mom's and Oaklawn Park. So I sacrificed my chance to see the big upset Saturday in order to hang out with all the aunts and uncles, and the 'rents, on Saturday.


I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.