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Nov 05, 2010

Zenyatta to go out a Champion

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - With her place in racing history secure, Zenyatta has one more start before she is retired to the breeding shed. One of the greatest racehorses in the last half-century will defend her title in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Following Tuesday's post position draw, the undefeated mare was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/4-mile race in which she will take on 11 male thoroughbreds.

"That is excellent. Eight is our lucky number," exclaimed owner Jerry Moss about his horse's post position. "We're very happy to be here. If we didn't think she was up to the task, we wouldn't have brought her."

Zenyatta, who is perfect in 19 career starts, is always ready to race and may well go off as the even-money favorite in her final start. The six-year-old will once again have Mike Smith as her jockey with trainer John Shirreffs giving the Hall of Fame rider a leg up.

"Every day that we are with her is special," noted co-owner Ann Moss on Tuesday. "She's having such a great time, that we're having a great time. She's so amazing to be around. We feel so blessed."

Last year even with her winning the Breeders' Cup Classic Zenyatta was not voted Horse of the Year, that honor going deservedly to Rachel Alexandra. However, this time around no matter the result on Saturday Zenyatta should be named 2010 Horse of the Year.

The general consensus, which I agree with, is that the Classic field is better this year than in 2009. Quality Road is fully expected to start after being scratched at the gate last year. Blame has become a major force among older horses and three-year-old Lookin At Lucky will probably win his divisional championship.

"The horse is doing very well coming up to the race," trainer Todd Pletcher said about Quality Road. "We're looking forward to giving it a try. We have to get some position coming out of there. We have to kind of play it by ear. I have a lot of confidence in John Velazquez. That's one of those decisions he's going to have to make."

Quality Road, with rider John Velazquez, drew the inside post in the field which is a good spot for a speed horse like the four-year-old who is the 5-1 third choice.

"It wouldn't have been one of my choices, but it is what it is," Pletcher said about the draw. "You don't get to choose. He was going to load in the gate first regardless, so that part of it doesn't change. It's probably less of a disadvantage in a 12 horse field than it is in the (Kentucky) Derby going a mile-and-a-quarter in a full field."

Like Zenyatta, Blame likes to come from off the pace, though not as far back as the mare. The four-year-old colt, the 9-2 second pick, will break from post five with jockey Garrett Gomez.

"How can you not be happy with that number." Blame's trainer Al Stall Jr. commented. "I'm not a big post position person unless you draw far to the outside, so it's one less thing to worry about. Post position number five is just fine."

Leading three-year-old turf horse Paddy O'Prado will start next to Quality Road on the inside with Kent Desormeaux in the saddle for trainer Dale Romans.

"I think Paddy O'Prado out of the two-hole, he's going to drop back and try to make one run anyway," noted Romans who also has First Dude in the Classic. Both colts are 15-1 in the program.

First Dude likes to be on or near the lead, as he was in the Pennsylvania Derby when he finished second to Dirt Mile early favorite Morning Line.

"I think First Dude is fast enough," Romans said. "He's going to break and the real speed will go to the lead. He'll be covered up by them and he'll sit as long as he can."

Breaking from the far outside will be Preakness and Haskell winner Lookin At Lucky. The three-year-old colt will have Martin Garcia in the saddle and is the 6-1 fourth choice in the program.

"It's better than the one-hole," trainer Bob Baffert said about his colt's draw. "He went to the extreme opposite from his Kentucky Derby post position. It's not that horrible, it's not the end of the world. I'm just glad he's out of the one-hole. If we'd drawn that I would have been getting bad vibes. I guess you could say it's a good thing that all the speed is inside of us. That's a joke."

Last year as the 2-1 favorite, Lookin At Lucky started from post 13 in the Juvenile and lost by a head to Vale of York.

The wild card in the race is Espoir City coming in from Japan. The five-year- old will be ridden by his regular jockey Tetsuzo Sato from post 11. A winner of 11 lifetime races, Espoir City is 20-1 in the morning-line, having won six of his last nine starts.

Also in the field are Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Haynesfield, Belmont Stakes runner-up Fly Down, Met Mile runner-up Musket Man, Oklahoma and Ohio Derbies winner Pleasant Prince and Monmouth Cup winner Etched.

There is so much speed in the race that it would appear to set up perfectly for Zenyatta. Smith and his mount have become perfectly synchronized. They know exactly when to begin their rally and, of course, have never lost.

The mare has won on real dirt and should not be bothered by the track.

Zenyatta is the pick to repeat in the Breeders' Cup Classic, get a third straight Eclipse Award as champion older female and be voted 2010 Horse of the Year.

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