INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It’s time to bid farewell to a legend.
Zenyatta, who has captured the hearts of racing fans worldwide through her remarkable career of 19 wins in 20 starts in the last three years, will be paraded between races at Hollywood Park on Sunday as part of Zenyatta Appreciation Day, a day before she is flown to Kentucky.
Sunday’s ceremony “will be all about the horse,” said Hollywood Park president Jack Liebau. “She’s the attraction.”
Zenyatta’s loyal fans are expected to show in force at Hollywood Park on Sunday, and most will come armed with cameras of all sorts. They will line the paddock and racetrack for a last chance to see Zenyatta in Southern California. Many will be sporting pink and green signs and clothes, in honor of the racing silks of owners Jerry and Ann Moss.
Zenyatta was retired last month by the Mosses, and will be bred in 2011. She will reside at Lane’s End Farm, near Versailles, Ky., beginning Monday evening.
For Sunday’s ceremony, Zenyatta will be paraded in the paddock after the sixth race. She will then be walked onto the racetrack and paraded in front of the grandstand and clubhouse.
The Mosses, racing manager Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, trainer John Shirreffs, jockey Mike Smith, exercise rider Steve Willard, groom Mario Espinoza, and hotwalker Carmen Zamona will be recognized.
Zenyatta will not be ridden by Smith or Willard, Shirreffs said, but will only be walked. For her supporters, just seeing Zenyatta another time will be satisfactory.
Sunday’s ceremony will be much different than the retirement ceremony held on Thanksgiving weekend at Hollywood Park last year, or the one held at Santa Anita last December. Fresh from a win against males in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita earlier that month, Zenyatta was ridden onto the Hollywood Park track by Willard, jogged before the crowd and then ridden by Smith into the winner’s circle for a ceremony that included California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In early January of this year, the Mosses reversed their retirement decision, announcing that Zenyatta would stay in training this year.
Through the day on Sunday, videos of Zenyatta’s races will be shown on the closed-circuit television system. At 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, Smith will be available to sign autographs in the paddock.
In October, Hollywood Park attracted a crowd of 25,837 to see Zenyatta’s 19th win in the Lady’s Secret Stakes. Last year’s retirement ceremony drew a crowd of 9,800. Predicting how many people will appear on Sunday to watch her being paraded is more difficult, Liebau said. “I don’t know how many people to expect as far as numbers,” he said.
For Shirreffs and his team, the week leading to Zenyatta’s departure has been filled with final opportunities to collect memories of the 6-year-old mare’s day-to-day life at the barn – watching her jog during daily exercise on the training track, grazing in the afternoons, and just having her as a presence around the barn where she has been the stable’s focus since winning her first stakes in early 2008.
Along the way, Team Shirreffs has been inundated with guests, and crowds of well-wishers visiting the stable to see the mare each morning. That will come to an end when Zenyatta leaves Monday.
“It will be a little different,” Shirreffs said of Sunday’s ceremony. “It’s going to be obvious that she’s leaving. It’s not that I’m in denial, but it’s imminent. You think tomorrow will never get here, but it’s here.”
Sunday’s ceremony is not the last of its kind. After arriving in Lexington, Ky., on Monday afternoon, Zenyatta will make a public appearance in the paddock and walking ring at Keeneland Racecourse at approximately 4:10 p.m., Eastern, before being shipped to Lane’s End.