Jerry and Ann Moss' Zenyatta didn't know, and her fans didn't care, that their beloved mare had lost the Breeders' Cup Classic. They still turned out in droves on Sunday morning.
Trainer John Shirreffs took down the barricades that had lined Barn 41 all week and allowed media and fans to get up close and personal with the great mare, who now retires with a 19-1 record. Those who couldn't gain access to the Churchill Downs backstretch lined the fence along Longfield Avenue and looked in as Zenyatta grazed grass in between stopping and posing for pictures.
Shirreffs was still clearly disappointed on Sunday, but obviously very proud of Zenyatta, who came out of her race “very well.” When asked if he had watched the replay, he replied, “Well, maybe later. It was her last race. It's all over. Why watch it again.
“She'll go back to California,” Shirreffs continued. “She'll be there for about a month. That's the thing about horse racing. As a trainer you have to learn to let go. Heck, she's been a champion for three years and she's going to a great place.”
When asked what he said to jockey Mike Smith after the race, Shirreffs replied “What could I say? I just patted him on the shoulder. He was devastated. It's unfortunate that she drops so far back. There were two groups in that race – the lead group and another group about three lengths behind that group. It left her too much to do. You always have that hope that she'll get there when you see her lower her head and start stretching out.”
Shirreffs said that his best memory of his experience with Zenyatta has been the fans and the love and support they have shown and that he hopes that racing finds a way to allow more people access to the horses as a way of building on her legacy.
“The big thing the sport needs to do is let fans get closer to the horses,” said Shirreffs. “I don't know how you do it because some horses don't allow it, but when you have horses like Zenyatta that do, it's important to let the fans share that.
“The thing is when people just watch races on television, you don't get a feel for the Thoroughbred. As a trainer, I like for people to come out and see them up close. How often do people get a chance to get close to a horse like Zenyatta? It has to be very special for them.
“It's been a fairy tale and you want all fairy tales to come true,” Shirreffs concluded.
The Mosses, Shirreffs and his wife Dottie Ingordo were scheduled to leave Louisville and return to California at 3:30 p.m. Zenyatta was to return to California on a Tex Sutton chartered flight, departing about 8 p.m. Shirreffs said that no breeding plans have been made yet for Zenyatta.
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