Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Brush With Greatness

Everyone's written tributes about Zenyatta and I suppose this is going to be another one to add to the thousands already out there in the blogosphere.   I can't help myself.  I got to see her in person and once that happens there's no going back.

Matt and I went to Keeneland to brave the cold with many other fans.  It was single digit wind chills.  I had all my northern Michigan gear on including snow pants.  People came from all over the country for this occasion and had been waiting to see their superstar.
Keeneland's outdoor sales pavilion with 1,200 Zenyatta fans in waiting.

It felt like there were delays after delays.  Keeneland seemed to continue to announce "another 10 minutes."  Perhaps the diva was busy getting her hair brushed just right for her adoring fans.  Then the moment arrived...

She knows she's a diva

There were flashes going off as if there were strobe lights turned on to add more effect to her diva appearance.   

My friends and readers of this blog know that Matt and I have a special attachment to Blame.  The only horse to ever beat Zenyatta.  We love Blame and I will say that I hope he wins "Horse of the Year."  That's not taken anything away from Zenyatta.  In fact Zenyatta is BIGGER than a "Horse of the Year" title.  Make no mistake, she's "Horse of a Lifetime."   I think handing her "Horse of the Year" wouldn't give her the credit she really deserves.  What she has done for the sport of racing can't be put into an award that represents a single year.   I think every racing fan recognizes her greatness transcends horse racing and certainly a single year.

Part of her popularity has a great deal to do with her people and handlers.  They always seemed to be right in step with her all of the time.

And they made her accessible to everyone.  Even here at Keeneland, John Shirreffs would stop Zenyatta and let her fans touch her for a moment.

The fan reactions were like nothing I've seen before in racing.  Just amazing and moving.  And she continued to put on the dance.  We loved it! 

 I was lucky I caught a brief moment where Mike Smith, her jockey, ran out to hug her goodbye.

Mike Smith runs out to hug Zenyatta Goodbye...
Keeneland even gave her a gift.  I suppose it could be a housewarming gift as she heads over to her new home at Lane's End.  They made sure to include her Guinness in the package.
Guinness Stout!  YUM!

I felt so lucky to have been a part of what I consider an historic event in racing.  I saw only one of her races in person and my pick won but she caught me up in her greatness.   Thank you Zenyatta for being you and best of luck to you in your new home and career.


  1. What a cool experience to see her live. Great photos. She looks metallic and gorgeous!

  2. Wow. I mean, the only thing that comes close to that scene, for me, is when a true celebrity is nearby. Not just any celebrity, but a Superstar. Photo #3 is great, but Photo #8, you get that feeling. Fans came out in ridiculously cold weather to see, and hopefully to touch...A HORSE. I mean, not just any horse. It was Z. But seriously, how many people would come out in that weather to see (insert sports star). Tiger? Maybe. Michael Jordan is his prime? Probably. Who else? Amazing...

  3. Incredible.

    That girl definitely knows she's famous.

  4. My heart absolutely broke for poor Mike Smith when she lost at the Breeder's Cup. That race (and Zenyatta) will go down in history -- how cool that you got to share that experience!

  5. How cool! It must've been something to see her in the flesh like that... Thanks for sharing your photos!

  6. Zenyatta will be a wonderful mom, I am so happy for her...

  7. The setting and pictures are beautiful. Probably very cold, but beautiful :) I've never seen a facility like that (with the track) being more of an amateur dressage person.
    Her story certainly electrified racing. I first read about her in Vogue magazine of all places.
    Great post.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing Wendy! The photos are wonderful and what an awesome opportunity. Oh, and thanks for the link to Capture the Light Equine... I'm definitely going to follow that too and learn some of y'all's tips!

  9. Everything picture wise was awesome. I'm from PA so, I am an East Gal too. The only thing I disagree with is Blame for Horse of the Year. He is a great horse, but Zenyatta not only deserves Horse of the Year, but Horse of the decade as Mike Smith said last year. She was overlooked last year,:( to a title she so richly deserved, do not let it happen again. Sorry, But The Queen has done more for horse racing single hoofedly than Blame ever will! Give this horse the credit she richly deserves. 19 & 1 come on now. And if it because she lose the BC this year, then once again, she should have got the title over RA last year! Do right this time! Gee whiz!

  10. Oh wow, Oh wow, Oh wow. Thank you for making my day. In photo #6, she looks like she belongs on a Greek wall, etched in stone. How velvet beautiful!

    I'm a new reader; can you tell us more about your family's attachment/connection to Blame? There's nothing wrong with being devoted!

    Thanks again for letting us see the big moment. I hope she has a healthy & happy retirement/motherhood (those are two words you don't usually see together! lol)

  11. Thanks for all the comments today!

    @Allison - I should have written a post about Blame! In a nutshell he won the Fayette Stakes the weekend I met Matt (my husband now) for the first time. We have all his wins since then AND on our wedding day we got a call from Blame's assistant trainer to let us know Blame was going to work. So we went out and shot his workout then got married that afternoon. Crazy! We sure did make an impression with Dell Hancock and Glenn Brookfield, the asst. trainer when we told them we had to go and get to our wedding. Blame just seems to be tied to us and so we hold a soft spot for him and his gritty style of running. He'll always be special to us!

  12. The first picture of the crowd and Zenyatta almost looks like a drawing. I adore the picture of the gift basket, too. Peppermints, candy canes and Guinness. Bless her heart!! She's got impeccable tastes.

  13. All I can say, is, Lane's End had BETTER let common folks, such as this one, come and take a look at Z. There is going to be a mass uprising if they don't! I couldn't make it to this retirement ceremony but I will most definitely be visiting Lexington again, probably next year, and I simply must see her. I know that is "never" done with mares, but darn it, Z is emphatically Not. The. Usual. Horse. Puuulllleeezzzzeee, Lane's End... Wendy, if you hear anything about this, please keep us posted! - Tracie

  14. Wendy, thank you ever so much for sharing these amazing photos. Zenyatta is such a strikingly beautiful horse, magnificient and magnanimous in her obvious response to the crowd. All hail the queen - Zenyatta!

  15. Wendy ! As always .. awesome pics! I wish I would have known you were there. Mom and I drove in that morning. Stopped by Old Friends and made a donation, took some gifts for Z to Lane's End and then waited for her at Keeneland. Mike Smith hugged her right in front of us, I got his autograph. It was so cold my batteries froze up- couldn't get many pics- but in your photos #9 and #10 I am right behind the blue and pink Z stick- I made a few to take and hand out to fans!
    It was absolutely an unforgetable evening and I am so glad to have seen her, she even danced in front of us ! Beautiful gal ! Thanks for posting your pics !!! Take care! Julia B

  16. Thanks for the photos and for sharing your experience.

    I can't believe the people who posted on here demanding things from Lane's End and HOY, etc. This is a race horse who is retiring soundly to a great home. While thousands of others wish for a fate half of what she is getting.

  17. Beautiful pics, and of course Z is stunning as always!

    Love the "care basket" for her... candy canes and Guinness, LOL!