Zenyatta bidding to bow out with perfect record
The ritual singing of the Star-Spangled Banner is not the only thing that will have the Churchill Downs crowd on its feet tonight. Some 168 horses are due to partake in this, the 27th Breeders' Cup, but as far as America is concerned it's all about one horse: Zenyatta.
The six-year-old mare, which is treated like a Hollywood A-lister, attempts to bow out with a perfect 20 wins from 20 starts by winning her second Classic. In the year that Disney has brought out a film about the last Triple Crown winner 'Secretariat', it is ironic that American racing has found a comparable racehorse-- and today, though retirement is not yet official, it says goodbye to her.
The back stretch at Churchill will be like a ghost town tomorrow, but her presence alone has filled it this week. She strode out for her public yesterday for the last time and even her trainer, John Shirreffs, had his camera with him.
So what stands in the way of her quest for perfection? Two horses are being put up, America's best three-year-old Lookin At Lucky and course specialist Blame.
However, first crack at a record -- no horse has ever won three Breeders' Cups -- goes to Goldikova, which is in great condition for the defence of her Mile title.
"She needs a good run and some luck," conceded trainer Freddie Head yesterday. "It's a tricky track with short turns, but I am very happy with her."
Her principal handicap with such a short run to the first turn is her wide draw. She overcame an equally bad stall at Santa Anita last year and it is hugely in her favour that she is so flexible tactically.
Paco Boy looks well for his last run and entering the spirit of the occasion, his owners had T-shirts printed with 'Get Goldi' on the front and 'Paco is the boy' on the back. He has a plum draw. "He's only been beaten small amounts by 'Goldilocks'," said Richard Hannon Jnr. "I don't like making excuses, but once it was the going, once it was the draw and once he was too far out of his ground. Maybe the luck will be with us."
Nobody knows whether or not Workforce runs in the Turf as the fast ground continues to cause concern. Threatening clouds have been full of empty promises, but officials have been unable to water due to the 40pc chance of rain.
Michael Stoute conceded that he was playing for time now as his decision -- which will be left as late as possible -- has a huge bearing on Workforce's future. "We're still concerned about the ground and what the weather will do," said Stoute. "We'll play for time and make a decision in the morning. The deadline is 7am.
"We'll also talk to Ryan (Moore) after he has ridden on the turf course today. You have to have concerns with a big heavy horse like him."
Should the Epsom Derby hero take his place, it's hard to oppose him. If he is scratched, John Gosden's Debussy and Brian Meehan's Dangerous Midge look lively outsiders. (© Daily Telegraph, London)