They waved “Girl Power” posters. They sought autographs from the jockey, trainer and owner. And they cheered loudly as the queen of thoroughbred racing in California, the unbeaten Zenyatta, made an encore appearance Sunday at Hollywood Park in appreciation of her adoring fans.
The 5-year-old mare who’s 14 for 14 in her racing career and headed for retirement in Kentucky was paraded up and down the stretch after the seventh race before 9,814 people, the largest crowd of the 27-day autumn meeting.
Her fans still haven’t forgotten the excitement she provided, going from last to first earlier this month to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and becoming the first female horse to pull off the feat in the 26-year history of horse racing’s world championship.
“Thank you for keeping her racing,” a fan told owner Jerry Moss.
Zenyatta’s jockey, Mike Smith, tried to explain her allure and legacy.
“What she’s done on the racetrack has proven how special she is,” he said. “I’ve never been on something like this. It just doesn’t seem real. Whatever is in front of her, she seems to pass and do it with incredible ease, and in doing it, she has this personality.”
Smith added: “I think the fans appreciate the show she puts on. She’s so dramatic. She seems to give everyone a head start. She’s always come from last. And she’s been unbeaten coming from last. Do you know how hard that is passing every horse without getting stopped? She overcomes everything and does it with such grace and ease that it’s incredible.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the winner’s circle to honor Zenyatta, who could receive a similar send off next month at Santa Anita.
A turf star in the making
The Usual Q.T. is developing into one of the best sons produced by the prolific California-based sire Unusual Heat after winning his fifth consecutive turf race with a 1 1/2 -length victory over Battle of Hastings in the Grade I $300,000 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/4 miles under jockey Victor Espinoza. Acclamation finished third.
Trained by James Cassidy, The Usual Q.T. was coming off a victory in the Grade II Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and is the first California-bred horse to win the Hollywood Derby since 1985.
“He’s an absolute amazing horse,” Cassidy said. “It’s a shame he’s a Cal-bred because they kind of look down their nose at Cal-breds, but he beat an awful good field today.”
A nose loss in the 10th race cost one person from winning $249,255 in the pick six. There would have been one winning ticket if Quiet Invader had won. But because Domonation won by a nose, there were no winning tickets, producing a big carry over for Wednesday’s races.