“I’m sure I speak for everybody when I say that we all want to win this race but if we can’t that she’s the one who beats us,” said Louisville hometown boy Dale Romans, who entered his two best three year old colts in a quest to win the race that “certainly would be the highlight of my career.”
And then Romans added this: “She is the X factor. You can’t look at numbers, you can’t look at anything. She just finds a way to win.”
When the pills were pulled at Tuesday’s post position draw at Churchill Downs as seen on BreedersCup360.com, Zenyatta drew post position 8 and was installed the 8-5 morning line favorite by Churchill Downs line-maker Mike Battaglia to repeat last year’s history making score in this event.
“Post eight goes pretty well with us,” said owner Jerry Moss who, with his wife Ann, arrived from Los Angeles just in time for the draw. “Eight is considered to be a lucky number,” said Ann, who laughed in agreement when her husband said that “[Zenyatta] shipped better than we did.” “But we got here in time to see her get off the plane, which was very exciting,” she added.
“This race has always been our goal,” answered Ann’s husband was asked about her campaign. “To get her to the championship races undefeated. This is where the big action is.”
Moss, the ‘M’ in A&M records, along with his partner, the musician Herb Alpert, named Giacomo after the son of the their good friend, Sting. The named Zenyatta, of course, after half the title of the breakthrough Police hit record album, Zenyatta Mondata. That’s some pretty good karma right there.
But, as Romans said, Zenyatta’s rivals are all in the Classic to win, including second favorite Blame at 9-2, a three-time winner at Churchill including the prestigious Stephen Foster.
Third choice Quality Road (5-1) drew the rail and protem three-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky drew the extreme outside position and was made 6-1 fourth choice.
“It’s not what we were hoping for,” said Todd Pletcher dryly regarding his rail draw. “You have to get position leaving the gate and then hope someone gets aggressive and gives him a target.
“It’s a bit of a negative but less so in a 12-horse field as compared to the nightmare it would be in the Derby. We have complete confidence in Johnny Velazquez and how it all works out is up to him.”
Bob Baffert didn’t make himself available at the dais but he had to be relieved even with the extreme outside draw. Baffert, of course, was quite vocal about the rail position for Lookin At Lucky in his pre-Kentucky Derby draw comments.
From his mouth to the devil’s ear. Lucky was anything but as the Derby field raced beneath the twin spires for the first time.
Pletcher was asked how would handicap the field and the voting for Horse of the Year.
“This is the whole concept for they had in mind,” Pletcher said. A quality field like this, Zenyatta going for immortality, I can’t see a better scenario than this.
“I’m hoping the dirt will help us. On his best day [Quality Road] can run with anybody. It’s perfect. A neutral site; no advantage to the East Coast guys, no advantage to the West Coast guys, and the cooler weather helps the Europeans who don’t have to ship in to a warm climate.”
Then added: I’m a fan of a rotation [scenario]. Have it in California one year, New York the next year, Churchill Downs the year after that, then a wildcard slot. That would be fair for everyone.”
Over the course of the two days, there will be 13 other championship events and all were drawn Tuesday at a few minutes after 1 p.m. Here’s how some of the early line favorites fared at the draw, with attention to positions that could have an impact, either negatively or positively.
Rightly So, 3-1 in the F & M Sprint, must come away running from post 13 to establish early position. If not she might get hung on but some of the speedy inside fillies.
Midday, the co-heaviest early line favorite in the 14 races, drew a neutral 7 slip for the F & M Turf.
A Z Warrior (3-1) must establish early position from post 8 going a mile and a sixteenth in the Juvenile Fillies.
Blind Luck, 9-5, drew #10 of 11 Ladies Classic starters. A rally type, it’s not that detrimental if Joel Rosario can drop her over to the inside before reaching the first turn. With the longer run at nine furlongs, he should have sufficient time to do so.
Girolamo, 3-1, was wrangled back hard at the start of the Vosburgh from an inside post and has drawn #2 of 12 here. Big Drama, 7-2, wasn’t dealt any favors with a pole draw.
Chamberlain Ridge, co-second choice at 6-1 for the Turf Sprint at 5 furlongs, had better break sharply from the pole position.
Uncle Mo, a strong 7-5 favorite for the Juvenile (Boys At Tosconova, post 2 at 5-2), is in post 7. “I love my position with Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty (#6),” said Pletcher. It’s perfect position with plenty of speed inside.”
Goldikova, co-heaviest favorite at 6-5, drew #10 of 11 in the Mile. With the short run to the turn, the draw did her no favors in her quest to become the first three-time winner in Breeders’ Cup history. She did win from the 11 slip last year, however.
Morning Line, a shocking 7-2 favorite for the Dirt Mile, drew #10 of 13 out of the chute. With his tactical speed, that should suit very well.
The Arc winner, Workforce (7-5), and beaten Arc favorite Behkabad (9-5), are alongside each other in the #6 and #7, respectively. Interesting but neutral in the three-turn Turf. What is worrisome for the Europeans is the ground. Trainer Michael Stoute could eventually scratch if the ground on race day is not to his liking.
And, finally, lucky #8 for the Big Mare‘s emotional finale. Said Jerry Moss: “These races are tough, for the fans, the owners and the horses. But we think she’s up to it.”
Said Ann Moss: “She enjoys what she does; she dances, she poses. Every day with her is a celebration.”
Or, as Romans put it: “She came along to help racing when we’ve needed it the most.”