Tall, dark and absolutely gorgeous, Zenyatta is the "It Girl" of America.
But the 6-year-old came up a head short at the Breeder's Cup Classic yesterday in her bid to go a perfect 20-0.
Still, even finishing her career 19-1, and she's accomplished things no other racing horse ever has. She won last year's Breeder's Cup Classic, the first mare ever to do so. Surprised? Her jockey isn't.
"It's as if you're in a Ferrari on the freeway, " said Mike Smith, "and everyone else just isn't."
The absolute mistress when it comes to a dramatic finish, Zenyatta's known for being slow out of the gate, then whipping around that final corner, passing the rest of her competitors on her way to yet another win. It's always a wild ride according to Smith.
"She's not in no (sic) hurry to go anywhere, and man, when she decides to; she can turn it on like no other," he said.
That's what happened today, but after making her move out of the pack on the stretch, she just couldn't overtake Blame.
An imposing 17.2 hands and weighing more than 1,200 pounds, Zenyatta stands out from the crowd, when she's not working her adoring crowd. ESPN analyst Randy Moss says the horse seems fully aware of her star power.
"When the fans are around her and the fans start cheering, she actually has a little dance step that she does with her front legs," said Moss. "I've been around horse racing for 3 decades or so now and I've never seen a horse with the magnetism, animal magnetism, that Zenyatta has."
That magnetism exploded far beyond the track after her win at Churchill Downs. Zenyatta was featured in W magazine and was even named to O Magazine's 2010 O Power List, for her power of heart. It's what trainer John Shirreffs loves best about his mare. Shirreffs said, "What people really see in her is her heart, her determination, her ability to get to the wire when it really counts."
This symbol of girl power also likes to kick back with a cold one. Guinness, to be exact. Shirreffs treats her to a pint (served in a Tupperware bowl) after a hard workout.
Those workouts should have ended a year ago. Owners Jerry and Ann Moss were planning to retire Zenyatta after last year's Breeder's Cup, but changed their minds after seeing how popular their thoroughbred had become. "She was successful last year and there was no doubt that this was where we wanted to come," Jerry Moss said.
Riding for a Perfect Record
Zenyatta has her critics. Some said she's rarely been tested against her top competitors and that most of her wins have come against other mares.
Moss said she would have her chance to prove them wrong today, when she ran her final race.
"If she can win on dirt against the boys one more time in the final race of her career against the toughest field she's ever faced," Moss said, "a lot of those detractors will have to eat crow."
Before the race, Smith said there was no doubt in his mind he would be riding Zenyatta to the winner's circle once again.
"Can you imagine going 20-for-20, winning back to back breeder's cup classics?" Smith asked. "Beating the boys? You can't ask for anything more, can you?"
She may not have been able to pull out the race and finish with a perfect record, but she definitely proved she belonged in the field.
However, the man who has been at Zenyatta's side since she began her career said he isn't ready to accept that there won't be another race.
"We know it's coming," Shirreffs said, "But it's not something we, you know, think about or dwell on, or think about what it's going to be like after."