Zenyatta is an American champion Thoroughbred racehorse. She remains undefeated in her 17 starts, her successive victories is current tied with Hong Kong sprint horse Silent Witness. Zenyatta has defeated Grade I or Group 1 winners Gio Ponti, Twice Over, 2009 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird, Colonel John, Richard's Kid, 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, Rip Van Winkle, Einstein, Ginger Punch, Hystericalady, Life Is Sweet, Tough Tiz's Sis, Romance Is Diane, Double Trouble, Sealy Hill, Cocoa Beach, Santa Teresita, Carriage Trail, and Music Note. She has won 17 races from as many starts, 15 of these being Graded stakes races including 11 Grade I events. She is one of only a few undefeated horses in American Thoroughbred racing history, which include Colin and the late "super filly" Personal Ensign.
Breeding and Background
Zenyatta was sired by Street Cry, who also sired in the same crop 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, multiple Group 1 Australian Weight for Age (WFA) champion Whobegotyou, and 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking. Out of Vertigineux, the filly is half sister to multiple Grade I winner Balance. Her damsire is the outstanding stallion Kris S. She was named for Zenyatta Mondatta, by The Police, who were signed to A&M records by Zenyatta's owner, Jerry Moss. Zenyatta was purchased as a yearling by Jerry & Ann Moss for $60,000 at the Keeneland Sales in September 2005.
Trained by John Shirreffs, California-based Zenyatta did not begin racing until she was 3 years old, making a winning debut in late November 2007 at Hollywood Park. She followed that up with a win in an allowance race at the same track on December 15. She was ridden by David Flores in both races.
Zenyatta (1) did not make her first start until November of her 3-year-old season. She won 1st time out, a maiden race going 6 1/2 furlongs on the cushion track at Hollywood Park Racetrack in Race 6 on November the 22nd Running time was 1:15.22. She was ridden by David Flores 122Lbs and won by 3 lengths with a purse of 42,000 with Zenyatta earning 25,200. She paid 13.00 to win, 9.20 to place and 6.00 to Show. Her next (2) and last start of 2007, she won a allowance race at 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park Racetrackin Race 5 on December the 15th Running time was 1:40.97. She was ridden by David Flores 119Lbs and won by 3 and 1/2 lengths with a purse of 48,000 with Zenyatta earning 28,800. She paid 4.40 to win, 3.20 to place and 2.80 to Show.
She began her 4-year-old season by winning the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes (3) at Santa Anita Race 9 on January 14, 2008, Purse was 150,000 with Zenyatta earning 90,000. She went 1 mile and 1/16 in 1:40.16 She was ridden by David Flores 116Lbs and won by 3/4 lengths. She paid 4.40 to win, 3.00 to place and 2.40 to Show. In her next outing (4) she won her first Grade 1, the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park Race 8, on April 5, 2008. The victory marked the first of 14 consecutive wins with Mike Smith on board, She went 1 mile 1/16 in 1:42.64. The purse was 500,000 with Zenyatta earning 300,000. Mike E. Smith carried 116Lbs and won by 4 and 1/2 lengths. She paid 5.60 to win, 3.60 to place and 2.20 to Show. Returning to Hollywood Park Racetrack. , she won the Milady Handicap (5) (Gr 2) on May 31, 2008 in Race 5. She went 1 mile and 1/16 in 1:41.17. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith 122Lbs and won by 2 and 1/2 lengths. The purse was 175,000 with Zenyatta earning 110,580. She paid 2.60 to win, 2.20 to place and 2.10 to Show. She won the next race (6) in the Vanity Handicap (Gr 1) on July 5, 2008 at Hollywood Park Racetrack. . She went 1 mile and 1/8 in 1:49.51. The Purse was 300,000 with Zenyatta earning 180,000. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith 124Lbs and won by 1/2 length. She paid 2.60 to win, 2.10 to place and 2.10 to show.
In the Clement L. Hirsch (Gr 2) win at (7)Del Mar on August 2, 2008 in Race 9, Zenyatta set a track record of 1:41.48 for 8.5 furlongs on the new polytrack. The Purse was 300,000 with Zenyatta earning 180,000. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith 124Lbs and won by 1 length. She paid 3.20 to win, 2.40 to place and 2.10 to Show. She then won the (8)Lady's Secret Stakes (Gr 2) at Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita Park. on September 27, 2008 in Race 5 and in that race ran each quarter faster than the one before. Her splits were :24 4/5, :23 4/5, :23 1/5, :22 3/5, and a final sixteenth in :06 flat. She finished the 1 mile and 1/16 in 1:41.17. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith 122Lbs and won by 2 and 1/2 lengths. The purse was 175,000 and Zenyatta earned 110,580. She payed 2.60 to win, 2.20 to place and 2.10 to show.
In her final outing of 2008 (9), she was sent off as the 1-2 favorite for the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (Gr 1) at Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita Park. in Race 7 on October 24 of 2008. Zenyatta traveled at the back of the pack until the final turn, where she made a breath-taking move to capture the lead with 200 yards to go. She posted a 1½ length victory over second-place finisher Cocoa Beach in a time of 1:46.85 at 1 mile and 1/8. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith 123Lbs and earned 1,080,000 of the 2,000,000 purse. She paid 3.00 to win, 2.60 to place and 2.10 to Show. After Curlin's defeat in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Zenyatta was a strong contender for Horse of the Year. She was awarded the Eclipse Award as American Champion Older Female Horse for 2008.
On May 23, Zenyatta made her much anticipated reappearance, winning the (10) Milady Handicap (Gr 2) at Hollywood Park Racetrack. in Race 8 on May 23, 2009 while carrying 126 pounds. In that race, she defeated her highly-touted Grade I-winning stablemate Life Is Sweet. She finished the 1 mile and 1/16 in 1:42.30 and was ridden by Mike E. Smith. She earned 90,000 of the 150,000 purse. She paid 2.40 to win, 2.10 to place and 2.10 to show. In her next outing (11), on June 27, 2009, she won the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park Racetrack for the second straight year. She carried 129 pounds, spotting her rivals from 13 to 18 pounds, and became the first horse to win under such a weight assignment since 1977. She earned 180,000 of the 300,000 purse and was ridden by Mike E. Smith. She paid 2.60 to win and 2.10 to place. In 2008, she won the Vanity under 126 pounds.
Her next start was her second Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (12)(now a Gr 1) on August 9, 2009 at Del Mar in Race 8. Coming from last, she was forced to circle the entire field six wide behind a slow pace. She won by a head, although the media frequently incorrectly set the final margin as a nose. She finished the 1 mile and 1/16 in 1:43.24 and was ridden by Mike E. Smith. She earned 180,000 of the 300,000 purse. She paid 2.40 to win, 2.20 to place and 2.10 to show. On October 10, 2009, she won her second Lady's Secret (13) in her typical come-from-behind fashion. She was ridden by Mike Smith 123Lbs and won by 1 and 1/4 lengths. She earned 180,000 of the 300,000 purse. She paid 2.80 to win, 2.40 to place and 2.10 to show.
On October 28, it was announced that she would take on the colts in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. No filly or mare had ever won the Classic since its inception in 1984.
On November 7, 2009, Zenyatta became the first female to win the Breeders' Cup Classic (Gr 1)(14) and the first horse ever to win two different Breeders' Cup races, improving her winning record to 14 of 14. Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike E. Smith 123Lbs, she triumphed in a field of 12 horses including 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and 2009 Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird. She finished the 1 mile and 1/4 in 2:00.62 and earned 2,700,000 of the 5,000,000 purse. She paid 7.60 to win, 5.60 to place and 3.80 to show.
After a shaky start Zenyatta trailed the field for most of the race. Jockey Smith said, "At the half-mile pole, I thought, 'Oh God, they're stacked up. There's no way I'm going to get around all these horses.'" And Zenyatta was still ninth, 7 lengths back, at the quarter-pole. But her pace quickened and her stride lengthened, and Smith guided her two paths wide, past five horses before the head of the stretch. Smith then swung Zenyatta outside into the clear. Suddenly, she was even with the leader, Gio Ponti, then in front. With her ears pricked forward, she sprinted to a one length victory. Her official time was 2:00.62. Said fellow trainer Bob Baffert, "What a thrill seeing history being made by Zenyatta. It was the only time in horse racing that I didn't mind getting beat in a big race. And the way she won. I've never seen a crowd so captivated. It felt like a horse winning the third leg of the Triple Crown."
On November 24, 2009, Santa Anita Park. announced the renaming of the G1 Lady's Secret Stakes, a race Zenyatta won in both 2008 and 2009, after the unbeaten champion.
Zenyatta was the runnerup to tennis player Serena Williams in the voting for the 2009 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
On December 26, 2009, opening day of the 75th year of Santa Anita meet, Zenyatta bid farewell to her admirers with a jog around the grandstand and her patented dance moves in what at the time looked to be the final parade of her horse racing career.
On January 16, 2010, it was announced that she was not retired, and would return for another season.
On January 18, 2010, Zenyatta won The Eclipse Award for top Older Female of the 2009 season.
Early in 2010, it was announced that Zenyatta would finally meet Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who had not raced since winning the Woodward on September 5, on the track in the Apple Blossom Invitational on April 9 at Oaklawn Park Race Track and will not race in the Dubai World Cup. The Apple Blossom Handicap was changed to an invitational for this renewal of the race. There was also talk about having a series of three races over the 2010 racing season in which Zenyatta and Rachel would meet, almost like a Triple Crown revolving around the two horses. However, the day after Rachel Alexandra lost the grade III 1/16 miles $200,000 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans on March 13 to Zenyatta's stablemate Zardana, her connections announced that she would not run in the Apple Blossom Handicap saying that she was healthy but not running in top form.
On March 13, 2010, Zenyatta weaved through traffic to capture her 15th straight victory in the Grade 1 $250,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita Park. Zenyatta earned 150,000 of the purse. Zenyatta ($2.60 win) (2.20 to place) (2.10 to show), assigned 127 pounds and spotting her 7 rivals from 11 to 16 pounds, was last, as usual, in the eight-horse field before beginning her late charge. She completed 1 1/8 miles on Pro-Ride in 1:48.20. She was again ridden by Mike E. Smith. . She was featured on the cover of Stride Magazine and inside the publication after the comeback win. A $2 win parlay on her 15 races now stands at $15,727.31.
On April 9, 2010 Zenyatta increased her record to 16 for 16 by romping in the Oaklawn Park Apple Blossom Handicap in Race 10 at Oaklawn Park. With the win, she tied Cigar, Citation, Ormonde, and Ribot for the most consecutive number of victories in major stakes competitions. She completed the 1 mile and 1/8 in 1:50.71 and earned 300,000 of the 500,000 purse. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith 123Lbs and won by 4 and 1/4 lengths. She paid 2.10 to win and 2.10 to Place.
Shirreffs then said Zenyatta would make her next start in the June 13th Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park Racetrack. . On June 7, 2010, Zenyatta was assigned to carry 129 lbs for the second consecutive time in that race. On June 13, 2010, she won her 17th race in a row when she took the Vanity in Race 8 at Hollywood Park Racetrack. . She finished the 1 mile and 1/8 in 1:49.01 and earned 150,000 of the 250,000 purse. She was ridden by Mike E. Smith. 129Lbs and won by 1/2 length. She paid 3.00 to win and 2.10 to place. She tied with Silent Witness in unrestricted stakes races, and tied Rock Of Gibraltar's record of seven consecutive Grade I races.