Don't stand so close to me
June 13, 2010 10:10 PM   Subscribe

Zenyatta, a six-year-old mare, won her seventeenth consecutive race (out of seventeen starts) to take the record from Cigar, Citation and Mr. Frisky.

Owned by Jerry Moss, trained by John Shirreffs and raced to every victory by Mike Smith, Zenyatta ran against her stablemate Zardana (who beat last year's Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra) and St. Trinian's, winning by half a neck with her signature move - running from dead last to finish first. She stands at sixteen and a half hands and was carrying 129lbs. of weight in today's Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, but it didn't seem to faze her.
posted by annathea (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
And...I got a little overexcited and didn't fact check closely enough: Mike Smith did not ride Zenyatta in her first three wins, just the last fourteen. He did, however, ride Cigar in the first win of his sixteen-consecutive streak.
posted by annathea at 10:23 PM on June 13, 2010

Thanks! I don't follow horse racing, but I do love horses. What a character. And she's huge at 17 1/2 hands! Her finishes are unbelievable... A win looks impossible until all of a sudden she's, um, winning! Wow, just wow.
posted by bread-eater at 10:32 PM on June 13, 2010

Oops, you say 16 1/2, video says 17 1/2. No matter though.
posted by bread-eater at 10:39 PM on June 13, 2010

John Shirreffs posts his own videos of life at the track on YouTube. He's one of the nicest guys in racing, always kind to humans and horses. So is Zenyatta.
posted by grounded at 10:56 PM on June 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was there, and it was an amazing day. She did her usual dressage moves in the paddock before the race, and apparently got her usual Guinness afterwards. I swear that horse knows where the wire is... she was a little late making her move, but Mike Smith said that he thinks she thought it was a longer race. St. Trinian's ran the race of her life, but it wasn't enough. Zenyatta is like nothing I've ever seen.
posted by OolooKitty at 11:09 PM on June 13, 2010

Wow! What a horse! I usually follow the seasons pretty closely, but this time around I've been busy. I remember hearing about her last year, and thinking that will be a horse to watch, but wow!

And she's so beautiful! What an elegant horse! You can tell she knows she's something special.
posted by strixus at 11:29 PM on June 13, 2010

I can't believe how far back she was, and still pulled it out. And she went all the way around the outside, the longest possible path. She just sort of.... lounges, and then with barely any visible change, she's suddenly running the other horses down.

It did look like she was really muscling it at the very end, though... St. Trinian's almost got her.

I don't know if it's myth or not, but the stories I read about Seabiscuit claimed that he was so much faster than the other horses that some of them never raced well again after facing him. Apparently horses can be humiliated, too.
posted by Malor at 12:56 AM on June 14, 2010

Good God! She's fun to watch.
posted by Trochanter at 5:42 AM on June 14, 2010

Thanks! I don't follow horse racing, but I do love horses.

If you love horses, then you shouldn't follow horse racing. Look into more than just that blog. Animal abuse is rampant. I would consider going to the horse races just as bad as going to a circus.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:10 AM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Aw, but Mr. Frisky is an awesome name.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:20 AM on June 14, 2010

If you love horses, then you shouldn't follow horse racing.

Figured that would probably come up in the thread, but didn't want to semi-derail since Zenyatta is probably not being abused... But yes, that's a good reason why I don't follow horse-racing. I'd go to an equestrian/dressage show over a race any day. There are some magnificent animals in the racing world though.
posted by bread-eater at 7:34 AM on June 14, 2010

The old grey mare just ain't what she used to be.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 7:40 AM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Horse racing is another brutal, cruel industry that chews up even it's "stars" and spits them out. I will never go to a horse race.
posted by chance at 7:45 AM on June 14, 2010

If you love horses, then you shouldn't follow horse racing. Look into more than just that blog

Look into more instead of that blog, I'd say. Because while there's a good case to be made that racing in its current manifestation is often pretty cruel, 'Thoroughbreds can hardly support their own weight' is not that case. Sure they can support their own weight; the breed isn't damaged by being descended from a small number of Arab stallions in the 17th and 18th centuries, and getting horses to go fast isn't, in and of itself, harmful. Starting them at a very young age that makes them prone to injury and lameness, that's harmful - sending huge numbers of low-end racehorses who aren't winning any more to slaughter, that's harmful - racing them on dirt tracks which increase the likelihood of injuries, that's harmful. But they're not going to inevitably 'literally implode' simply because they go fast a lot.
posted by Catseye at 7:53 AM on June 14, 2010

If you're concerned about the treatment of post-career thoroughbreds, the organization CANTER had a huge presence at Hollywood Park yesterday and took the podium in the winners circle several times to talk about their work re-homing retired racehorses.
posted by annathea at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2010

If you think there's no abuse in the dressage world, or any other discipline, you're kidding yourself. There's a huge controversy going on in the dressage world right now over what some see as an abusive and unnatural method of forcing horses to carry themselves via restrictive tack and use of hands.

The Thoroughbred industry is working hard to police itself and take care of its own. It's not perfect, but it's much better than it used to be, and getting better. I'd take the average racehorse owner over the average Tennessee Walker owner with their casually abusive everyday practices with chains and soring of show animals.

Many owners work closely with horse rescues and retirement farms, and they're doing everything they can to make sure that retired and injured horses are cared for.

And the Mosses are some of the best, most responsible owners out there. They take care of their horses, whether the horse is a Zenyatta or not.
posted by OolooKitty at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2010

Wow. Got the same feeling watching her in the Handicap as I did watching Secretariat in Derby. The way she turns on the speed and power at the end. Incredible horse.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2010

Her finishes are unbelievable... A win looks impossible until all of a sudden she's, um, winning!

What makes Zenyatta so special is that her favoured running style actually puts her at a disadvantage in several ways.

A come-from-behind horse or "closer" like Zenyatta is completely dependent on the pace of the race in that it counts on the pacemakers to set a fast pace, then tire, allowing the closer to catch up. If the pace is slow, the pacemaker will have enough energy left to hold off any late challenge. If the pacemaker is too fast, or simply doesn't tire, it won't be caught.

Also, a closer and its jockey must make their move at just the right time to be effective. Move too late and they won't catch the leaders before the finish. Move too soon and they risk tiring after they take the lead, leaving them vulnerable to other, even later closers.

Finally, a closer must avoid getting caught in traffic. If it finds itself with slower horses in front and on either side, it doesn't matter if it can break speed records over that final quarter-mile -- it's not going anywhere.

For these reasons, even the great closers in racing history like Stymie or Silky Sullivan lost more races than they won. But Zenyatta remains undefeated. She somehow is able to adjust her style to the race, regardless of the pace or what any of the other horses do. The Apple Blossom Stakes earlier this year, for example, featured a dawdling early pace -- jockey Mike Smith simply asked her for speed a bit earlier, and it was otherwise business as usual. Zenyatta's success as an undefeated closer is unprecedented.
posted by e-man at 10:59 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you love horses, then you shouldn't follow horse racing. Look into more than just that blog. Animal abuse is rampant. I would consider going to the horse races just as bad as going to a circus.

Horseshit -- and anybody who relies on that blog article to inform him/herself about the "realities" of horse racing steps in a pile of it.

I do not deny that there are examples of abuse within the sport -- Michael Gill and Ernie Paragallo are two blatant examples. But the small minority of greedy and/or ignorant "horsemen" should not be cited as examples to discredit the thousands of dedicated owners, trainers, jockeys, and grooms involved in the sport. You might as well insist that all hockey players are toothless thugs or that all tennis players are spoiled brats.

Anybody who is interested in reading balanced coverage of issues surrounding modern horse racing and the Thoroughbred breeding industry can browse The Paulick Report, or read Jim Squires' Headless Horsemen.
posted by e-man at 11:28 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

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