Throughout her legendary 19-race win streak, the Corridor of Fame mare Zenyatta had quite a lot of shut calls the place she seized victory from the jaws of defeat. It was to be anticipated – her late-running fashion often ensured that she took the lead very late in her races, leading to heart-pounding finishes that each involved and delighted her quite a few followers.
However it’s hardly a coincidence that three of Zenyatta’s closest finishes got here in her three races at Del Mar, a monitor that then featured an artificial racing floor that might be unpredictable relying on the climate and time of day. With this in thoughts, it’s all of the extra exceptional that Zenyatta went undefeated at Del Mar, scoring three straight victories within the prestigious Clement L. Hirsch Handicap.
Her first triumph in 2008 was actually the least dramatic. Coming off of a hard-fought win within the Grade 1 Self-importance Handicap, some had been questioning whether or not Zenyatta – then unbeaten in six begins – was susceptible to an upset. As well as, the weights assigned within the Clement L. Hirsch required Zenyatta to hold 124 kilos, 5 to 12 kilos greater than her seven rivals. However with common rider Mike Smith within the saddle, Zenyatta unleashed an amazing rally within the closing furlong to win by a size whereas eased up.
Issues wouldn’t be as straightforward in 2009. Whereas Zenyatta trailed the sector as standard, staying proper inside placing vary of her fundamental rival and fellow late runner Life is Candy, the leaders had been waltzing alongside by gradual tempo fractions of :48.84 and 1:13.64. Turning for house, Zenyatta had a number of floor to make up, however with Smith using confidently, Zenyatta received up within the final stride to win by a head.
“She actually was operating straightforward,” Smith advised BloodHorse after the race. “Her ears had been pricking forwards and backwards and he or she was simply loping. … I knew we needed to get busy on the end. After we received proper close to the wire she hit one other gear. Then after we crossed and I stood up she hit one other gear. On the gallop out she was drawing away. … After we pulled up she was hardly blowing in any respect.”
Though the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes has been run constantly for the reason that early Seventies, till Zenyatta got here alongside no mare had succeeded in successful the race thrice. However Zenyatta’s try at a three-peat was not with out pre-race drama; as advised by Steve Schuelein within the Aug. 14, 2010, version of the Thoroughbred Instances, “Coach John Shirreffs fretted all week a couple of floor over which [Zenyatta] survived her narrowest margin of victory in the identical race final yr … and created suspense as as to whether she would begin.”
However begin she did, and after reaching the lead sooner than standard – swooping into competition on the high of the stretch and taking command simply previous the eighth pole – Zenyatta received by a neck whereas seemingly holding one thing in reserve.
With historical past full, Zenyatta paraded in entrance of the 32,536 followers that had turned out to witness historical past and get a have a look at one of many best mares to ever grace a racetrack. Even Eric Reed, the coach of the narrowly-beaten runner-up Rinterval, thought of the day to be successful. “It was a fantastic day for me and my horse,” Reed famous within the Aug. 14, 2010, version of BloodHorse, “and a fantastic day for the champ.”
This story was first revealed in 2017 and has been up to date.