Zenyatta has enjoyed her daily, though fleeting, flirtation with Capone. He ambles down the broodmare barn here about 7:30 each morning with the sole mission of getting Zenyatta and the rest of the mares revved up and continually interested in male horses.
Still, they are not leaving their chances to nature. Lights in Zenyatta’s stall are left on until 10 p.m., partly to spur an amorous mood, or at least to fake spring. Mares are warm-weather lovers: their 21-day cycles of heat come more easily in spring and summer, but breeders prefer mating them in February.
“She is in her stall, but we let her get nose to nose with him,” Charles Campbell, the broodmare manager, said of Capone. “She’s really interested in him, and that’s not always the case with successful racemares, especially ones as big and imposing as her.”
Just as casual horse fans were seduced by Zenyatta’s prerace dance steps and charismatic bearing, the seasoned horsemen here have been mightily impressed by her gentle nature and outsize personality.
Bill Farish, who runs the farm founded by his father, Will Farish, a former ambassador to Britain, has been around champion horses all his life. Walk 40 yards in either direction from Zenyatta’s stall to Lane’s End stallion barns and a virtual who’s who of modern racing’s superstars stand ready for duty — the great A. P. Indy, the fashionable Smart Strike and the strapping Curlin are among them.
Still, Farish is dazzled by the mammoth 17-hand, broad-bottomed mare who can flash footwork as delicate as a ballerina’s.
“She’s a one of kind,” Farish said. “She’s intelligent, and everything she does is so nice.”
No one here is taking any chances with Zenyatta. Her trainer, John Shirreffs, grazed her outside his barn at usually sunny Hollywood Park for up to five hours a day. It’s a different experience to be turned loose in a 15-acre field in freezing temperatures.
For the first two weeks here, Zenyatta was hand walked by Lane’s End employees who cordoned off a smaller area beginning at 8 a.m. and passed her off to one another until it was time to return to her stall at 3 p.m.
Who inevitably gets the first dream date with the big girl remains a guessing game among the hardboots in the bluegrass as well as more than 58,000 Zenyatta followers on Facebookand the multitudes more who hang on her daily diary at zenyatta.com.
They have their opinions and well-wishes and offer them up by the screenful after each bit of news. Zenyatta’s jockey, Mike Smith, insists there is not a stallion out there worthy of the best horse he has ever ridden.
In reality, there is a short list headed by a couple of superstars that live at Lane’s End. Will the Mosses pay $150,000 to mate with the proven stud A.P. Indy, or offer up a mere $40,000 for the up-and-comer Curlin? If the Mosses choose to sell the baby, which is doubtful, it could fetch several million dollars.
No one is talking, of course. The Mosses, who live in California, are coming to visit Zenyatta on Sunday before heading to the Eclipse Awards in Florida on Monday.
“Everyone back there misses her,” David Ingordo confesses, not trying to hide his melancholy.
He is the son of Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, who is the Mosses’ racing manager and Shirreffs’s wife. Ingordo also is the bloodstock agent who had the foresight to pick Zenyatta out of a 2005 sale for a bargain-basement price of $60,000. He is the only member of Team Zenyatta based in Kentucky, and he keeps a close eye on the prize mare.
Zenyatta, however, is hardly alone. She has a new posse, three other broodmares by the names of Alyce, Pirate Queen and Sea Gull, who share her pasture. Unlike the racetrack, where she famously liked to be at the back of the pack, Zenyatta is the front-runner here, leading the girls all around.