Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Zenyatta aims for Classic repeat

5 November, 2010-2330 GMT & 6 November, 1750-2245 GMT
Coverage: At the Races (TV), plus regular updates on BBC Radio 5 Live

Zenyatta greets the crowds on arrival at Churchill Downs

Undefeated six-year-old mare Zenyatta has been drawn in stall eight for the $5m (£3.1m) Breeders' Cup Classic.

The first female Classic champion, she will face 11 rivals as she attempts to repeat her 2009 success in the mile-and-a-quarter race at Churchill Downs.

Zenyatta, trained by John Shirreffs in California, arrived at the course on Tuesday to be met by a crowd of 200.

Meanwhile, English-based trainers Sir Michael Stoute and Henry Cecil are lining up their own challenges.

Stoute will try to win his third successive Breeders Cup Turf with Epsom Derby and Arc de Triomphe champion Workforce, who showed his record win in the first of those two races was no fluke by his courageous defeat of Japanese rival Nakayama Festa in the Arc in Paris in October.

Barbados-born Stoute has won the Turf four times and was successful in each of the past two years with Conduit.

But there are some doubts over whether Workforce will run owing to the fast ground. The colt completed a lap of the seven-furlong oval under big-race jockey Ryan Moore, but connections were not thrilled with the conditions.


Stoute's assistant, Stuart Messenger, told the Racing Post: "I'm extremely disappointed with the ground, I'm going to have a serious discussion with the boss. The horse is too valuable to risk."

Moore added: "The horse is fine and in good shape. The ground is quicker than ideal. We'll see how things progress through the week."

Cecil's star is Midday, and the trainer is in red-hot form after enjoying an extraordinary day in mid-October when Twice Over became only the 11th horse to win successive Champion Stakes and Frankel stamped his mark as the best two-year-old in England to land the Dewhurst Stakes.

Midday won the Filly & Mare Turf when last year's Breeders' Cup was held at Santa Anita, and she is back to defend her crown.

Another star attraction will be Goldikova, sent over by French trainer Freddy Head. Now five, she is seeking to become the first horse to win three times at the Breeders Cup - no mean feat for a horse who failed to win in her first three races as a three-year-old. Her target in Kentucky is the Mile.

Jockey Mike Smith, Zenyatta's partner on all but three of her 19 career starts, referred to the mare as "the best thing that could have happened to US racing" as she posed and threw out her off fore as if showing off to the audience.

"She's done so much for horse lovers all around the world and we get letters from six-year-olds and old timers. Her appeal is immense and it's just wild.

"I'd say I'd give up anything I've achieved in my career for her to win this one last race. I have a job to do on Saturday and the rest will come after.

"As far as I'm concerned, with the way she performs on the track and poses and dances off it, she's become the ultimate entertainer and brought the spirit right back into the sport."

The Breeders' Cup takes place over Friday and Saturday, taking in 14 races in all. There are 10 Group 1 races, three Group 2s and one Group 3.

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