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A Week With Zenyatta Provides Lingering Memories for Veteran Trainer Penrod
ZENYATTA EXPERIENCE LEAVES LASTING IMPRESSION ON PENROD – Trainer Steve Penrod has been stabled at Churchill Downs for more than 20 years, most of the time in Barn 41.
He has seen a lot of top horses walk that shedrow, but nothing prepared him for last week when he shared his barn with Zenyatta.
“There have been a lot of horses here that people knew about like A.P. Indy, Fusaichi Pegasus and Sunday Silence, but I have never seen anything like that and I doubt we will ever see it again,” Penrod said. “It was just the right combination of the horse and the connections.”
Zenyatta arrived at Churchill Downs last Tuesday and returned to California on Sunday night after her runner-up finish to Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). Wherever she went, traffic came to a halt.
“I had no idea it would be like that until the first day she got here with the police escort and 200 to 300 people just waiting to see her,” Penrod said.
On Sunday, trainer John Shirreffs brought Zenyatta out for extended periods of time to graze near the fence that runs along Longfield Avenue so that people, both inside the track and those on Longfield, could see the mare.
“People were asking John if they could get their picture taken with Zenyatta,” Penrod said. “He told me that if he could have cut a hole in the fence, he would have let everybody in. She would do anything. The Mosses (owners Jerry and Ann Moss) were signing autographs and posters and so was John. It was incredible. People were coming out in taxis to see her.”
Another trainer who was stunned at the Sunday gathering was Tony Reinstedler.
“I came back to the barn about 4:30 to help Drew (Coontz) get his filly (Askbut I Won’ttell) ready for the Cardinal (Handicap), and I saw cars parked all along Longfield,” said Reinstedler, who was an assistant to Shug McGaughey when 1988 Juvenile champion and beaten 1989 Kentucky Derby favorite Easy Goer was in the barn. “Easy Goer was fan friendly, but I never saw anything like this.”
THERIOT SAVORS BREEDERS’ CUP RIDING DOUBLE – Jockey Jamie Theriot still was beaming Wednesday morning, four days removed from completing a Breeders’ Cup riding double over the weekend.
Have you come down yet?
“Nope, not yet,” said the 31-year-old Louisiana native, who earned his first Breeders’ Cup victory on Friday with Dubai Majesty’s 2 ¼-length victory in the Filly & Mare Sprint (GI) and came back the next day to win the Turf Sprint on Chamberlain Bridge by 1 ½ lengths.
"I have been fortunate enough to ride in these types of races and do well,” said Theriot, one of three riders to earn their initial Breeders’ Cup victories over the two-day Championships at Churchill Downs. “You work 363 days a year for days like that and then it is back to Ground Zero. There are a lot of people involved and it is great to be able to compete in the event.”
What made the victories even sweeter was that both horses were trained by Bret Calhoun.
“I have been riding for Bret for eight or nine years,” Theriot said. “To see people from Louisville do well was very gratifying.”
HOMEISTER ENJOYS FAST START TO EXTENDED CHURCHILL STAY – One rider who has gotten a fast start out of the gate at the meet is Rosemary Homeister Jr., who has notched four victories from just 13 mounts, including a riding double on Sunday.
The 38-year-old Florida native is riding at Churchill Downs on a full-time basis for the first time in her career that has been spent mostly at Florida and Mid-Atlantic region tracks.
“My agent Steve Elzey has my book at Tampa and he suggested I come to Kentucky after Delaware Park ended and ride the mini-meet before going to Florida,” Homeister said. “It’s a good opportunity and I’ve had a good start.”
Homeister’s first trip to Churchill Downs came in 2003 when she rode in the Kentucky Derby on Supah Blitz, who finished 13th behind Funny Cide after breaking from the No. 1 post position.
“I was on the one horse the other day and it felt like I was back at the Derby being the first one on the track,” Homeister said. “Churchill Downs is such a prestigious track. When I come back next spring for the Derby, I will feel like I have this track down pat.”
Also coming to Churchill Downs from Delaware Park is Irwin Rosendo, who also is represented by Elzey.
The Delaware Park meet ended Saturday and Rosendo will see his first local action Thursday when he is named on three mounts.
A 31-year-old native of Venezuela, Rosendo finished fourth in the rider standings at Delaware Park with 81 victories and previously has ridden at Tampa as well as at tracks in Ohio.
BARN TALK – The portable fencing around Barn 45 that served as one of the quarantine barns during the Breeders’ Cup is scheduled to begin coming down Wednesday according to track superintendent Butch Lehr. However, the fencing around Barn 42 will remain up.
“We are going to use it again next year, so we will just leave it up,” Lehr said. “There are gates, so horses can still to back there to graze and the horsemen like it because it will keep people back from their horses.”