Photo: Hollywood Park
Trainer John Shirreffs sat calmly in his stable
office in Barn 55 South during a pleasant sunny Thursday morning before
entering Zardana in defense of her crown in the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap
Sunday and hosting more than 50 guests admiring and photographing Zenyatta
before her farewell ceremony here, also on Sunday.
Adoring fans from as far away as West
Virginia and Missouri
watched every move Zenyatta made outside the barn as she was given a bath by
groom Mario Espinoza before grazing on her favorite lawn.
“She’s going to a better place,” said exercise rider
Steve Willard to the crowd. “She’s going to be seven years old; time for her to
be a mama.”
Zenyatta, two-time champion mare, will be flown to Lexington, Ky.,
Monday to join the broodmare ranks at Lane’s End Farm.
Zenyatta exercised on the training track under
Willard earlier in the morning. “She jogged and galloped about a mile and a
half,” said Willard. “About three-quarters of each. We just got to give her
some exercise to keep her legs stretched out.”
Zenyatta, who won 19 of 20 races and earned more than
$7-million to become the glamour queen of racing, will be honored between the
sixth and seventh races with her connections: Shirreffs, Willard, Espinoza,
jockey Mike Smith, owners Jerry and Ann Moss, racing manager Dottie
Ingordo-Shirreffs and hot walker Carmen Zamora.
“All I’m thinking is how she is going to eat tonight
and whether she has a full bucket of water,” said Shirreffs of his thoughts
during his final days with the superstar mare after nearly four years of seeing
her in stall 85.
“There are so many great memories,” said Shirreffs.
“When she came here as a 2-year-old, she looked a lot like the others. But she
just continued to grow.
“She’s such a physical presence,” continued
Shirreffs. “There is nothing about her that is not extraordinary. Yet she’s so
refined, not coarse.
“Mario will accompany her to Kentucky and stay a couple of days to
discuss her habits and idiosyncrasies,” added Shirreffs. “After she gets off
the plane in Lexington,
she will first go to Keeneland for a public viewing to avoid a media frenzy at
Overshadowed in the Zenyatta adulation was Zardana,
another 6-year-old mare attempting to become the fourth horse to become a
two-time winner of the Bayakoa, a Grade II test for fillies and mares at 1 1/16
miles on Cushion Track.
Zardana drew post three in a field of eight in the
Bayakoa, which will go as the eighth race.
Shirreffs said that Zardana was coming up to the race
as good as last year, when she rallied from just off the pace to win by 1 ¼
lengths in 1:42.24.
Manistique, Starrer and Star Parade are the two-time
winners of the race.
She is the starting highweight under 118 pounds,
three more than she carried last year.
Shirreffs has won the Bayakoa a record five times
while jockey Victor Espinoza seeks a record-equaling fifth victory in the race.
Washington Bridge, winner of the Life Is Sweet Stakes in her last
race, blew out four furlongs in 49.40 seconds Thursday for trainer Jerry