I asked Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who’ll analyze the Breeders’ Cup races Friday and Saturday for ABC and ESPN, if there’s any backlash to the fact that there’s been so much about Zenyatta in the media lately:
“That’s why this is such a great sport. These athletes don’t read the press clippings. She’s not asking for a raise. She’s not asking for an extended contract. She has no idea in terms of print media what she’s getting. She does understand the attention she gets from cameras around her and people around her…
“I think she’s one of the unique kinds of champion thoroughbreds that actually embraces it. She plays to the camera and I think she enjoys it…
“In terms of Mike Smith, he’s been to this dance before. I have to give him credit for extending himself in a lot of areas…he’s the kind of guy that knows when to lock in…he will do what it takes to be focused when the time comes.”
With a small group of reporters on the conference call today featuring Bailey, analyst Randy Moss (not the NFL player) and ESPN vice president of studio productions Mike McQuade, the question was put out there: Has this Zenyatta story really pierced the nation’s consciousness? Is it as big a deal as we’re lead to believe?
Said McQuade: “One of the things I use as a barometer is our (ESPN) newsroom and our own newsgathering team. In the last three weeks, it’s really picked up steam. Diehard sports fans know we’re in the middle of the NFL and college football season, but when they see her record, how she wins, people are starting to get captivated.
“Will we get a 20 rating? No, but one of the best things that happened (back on Oct. 2 during the Lady’s Secret Stakes at Hollywood Park) was how we exposed horse racing to a college football audience with the 12 minutes of Zenyatta’s race, showing her great comeback win.”
Zenyatta’s appearance in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic comes at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, the last of the 14 races over two days.