Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zenyatta's breeding: Oldies and goodies

I suppose you all saw Zenyatta's last race before retirement, which folks are lamenting as a loss. Well -- the better's loss, sure -- not ours. To me the race was one more example of the heart and power of this great filly. Bob said "if she had a longer snout she would have won." Although I wish I could dissuade him from using the word snout when referring to a horse's muzzle, I totally agree with him, and the "winner" of this race is a minor point. She ran this race like all the others, and it was beautiful to watch.

Jane Smiley, a Pulitzer Prize author, horse lover, and former racehorse owner, wrote about Zenyatta for the New York Times recently. To my delight she talked about Zenyatta's "old-fashioned breeding" which includes the amazing Princequillo (also in Harv's bloodlines). It's a great read...

Zenyatta Shows Old Ways Still Work

Zenyatta is by Street Cry out of a Kris S. mare named Vertigineux. Street Cry was a good racehorse and is a productive stallion. Kris S. sustained a career-ending injury but has also sired good offspring. What is distinctive about Zenyatta, though, is that the Native Dancer blood in there amounts to only a drop. Her breeding is old, old, old, and she looks like an old-fashioned horse — rangy and big, with good bone and enormous hooves.
blog it


  1. More testament to Zenyatta's old style breeding is her soundness, durablility and her stamina, qualities that many more of the early and mid-twentieth century racers had. They too often ran into their fifth and sixth years before being shoved off into the breeding shed...

    Zenyatta needed one half stride more to win her second Breeder's Cup Classic. This after a slower that usual start, being blocked inside and going four wide at the finish.

    I sincerely hope that the loss of one race will not take away from the legacy of this amazing race mare. She is a very, very special horse and deserves to keep the reputation she has worked so hard to earn in the last three years.

    Stepping off soap box now :)

  2. Rhetorically speaking, don't all the good ones have Princequillo? Sigh.
    I love my TBs

  3. Noted that in the film Secretariat, Princequillo's bloodline was what supposedly clued Penny Tweedy on to the classic distance stamina being passed down in Somethingroyal's bloodline to her colt.

    There is something solid in those older breeding lines. So many of the really good horses, like Zenyatta, come from that stock.

  4. Oh dear. I don't care for Jane Smiley at all. Her writing is clever, but it's less entertaining once you know that the famous filly who won her a Pulitzer had to be rescued from kill buyers. On the site you linked to is a dishonest and dishonorable article in which she explains why she favors slaughter - well, I can tell you why, it's how you get rid of mediocre racehorses after you've written about them! It's a shame that such a brilliant writing talent was given to someone who misuses it.

  5. Hi Allie,

    I am not sure the Fugly blog is a reliable source. I did read the Fugly account and like so much of her writing it is hard to separate emotion from fact. We don't know how many times the mare changed hands before ending up at auction. Fugly seems to suggest that JS should have kept her forever, but if JS placed her or sold her, and the mare was later sold, is JS accountable? Do we hold ourselves aacountable for animals we sell? I sold a Danish warmblood years ago -- I think I know where he is but I do not think of myself as responsible for his welfare at this point.

  6. Let's hear it for the real deal - Woo! I sure do wish more folks would go the real route instead of raising a bunch of high dollar, high maintenance horses (the world has WAY more than enough of those already! :o)

  7. I just can't get into anything about Jane Smiley. Ever since Jane, herself, wrote this on the NY Times blog called The Rail.

    She's not my kind of racetracker/horseman at all...

  8. I especially like the "large hooves" bit. I do not agree with breeding that reduces bone or foot to increase speed by reducing mass. Strength and stamina should always be the priorities and speed will develop from training the talent.

    I also love her dark liver chestnut color. She is an exceptional mare, "snout" and all!

  9. Jane's article in favor of slaughter is not on the Fugly blog. It's on the site you linked to. It is her own words.

    Also, it's more the reaction they got from her when she was contacted than the fact that Waterwheel ended up at auction that convinced me. And knowing that, when you read her writing, it becomes obvious that she very much has the typical race owner's idea that horses need to earn their keep or not let the barn door hit them in the behind. Racing is an inherently wasteful sport - 99% of horses are going to be losers, with no future within the sport and limited prospects outside it - and it's very difficult to be a humane race breeder. I love racing and wish this weren't true, but it's true.

  10. In the "old days" Zenyatta would have raced much more by now and race another season. I wish she would race another year. She will earn more in prize money and merchandising than breeding. More important, I am more interested in her performance and she still has lots to offer.
    I watched the Breeders cup for Goldikova even more than Zenyatta. (Three consecutive wins anyone?)Goldikova is not getting the attention she deserves because of Zenyatta. It was a banner day for fine mares at the Breeders Cup. :-)

  11. Waterwheel, Jane Smiley horse was not rescued from kill buyers. She was sold at Barretts TB auction. She was sold in foal to Roar a Forty Niner colt. In 2003 he was considered a hot new stallion in California. His stud fee that year was $5,000.00

    Waterwheel was sold for $1000.00. Hardly meat buyer territory.

  12. Jane Smiley's Pulitzer was won for _A Thousand Acres_ not for _A Year at the Races_.

  13. Thousand Acres is an amazing novel, as is Horse Heaven, as is Moo (Moo U?). Jane Smiley also wrote an article on the death of her thoroughbred in Practical Horseman.

    Her article on slaughter in the NYT is very sad, but she advocates regulating an industry that is here to stay, for reasons that become clearer as it becomes more expensive to keep horses. It's a pragmatic perspective and given the situation we're in, I can't fault it.

  14. Because of her breeding, stamina and soundness, I'd rather Zenyatta kept racing in order to prove the value of her breeding heritage. She has much value as an ambassador of sound breeding lines.

  15. She had been retired.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.