Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Let's do it one more time
Jockey Mike Smith waits for the arrival of undefeated mare Zenyatta.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- This afternoon I stood out on the tarmac at Louisville International Airport and waited for Zenyatta to arrive. How can I explain the thoughts that were going through my mind? It's like we've been building and building to this moment, and the fanfare is just reaching its crescendo. The Breeders' Cup Classic is less than one week away.
I try to enjoy the moment, and for me, right now, these last few days are about soaking in the experience before Saturday is actually here. I tell people all the time that Zenyatta isn't even from here. It's like she was sent from heaven. She's a once-in-a-lifetime horse, and to get to ride her -- man, I'm so blessed.
Tactics, conditions, plans for the race -- I'll answer a hundred questions about those things before this week is up. If the other riders have a horse they think can beat me, I'm sure they'll try. It's my job to put us in a position where that's not going to happen. We'll pick our spots very carefully, and I do believe that given the opportunity to run her race, we could see her do something really special. I really do. Anything can happen in a horse race, but I think she can do something incredible.
The main concerns, of course, are getting through traffic. She'll come from last; that's always an issue. And how she'll handle the kickback from the dirt, I'm not so sure about that. But the long stretch at Churchill Downs will give us an advantage; that's definitely a plus for us. I think she'll really like running at Churchill and I think she'll get over the dirt better than she gets over synthetic surfaces. Don't take me wrong -- she'll get over anything, but I think dirt would be her favorite. It's certainly been her largest margin of victory. That has to count for something.
I'll go to the barn to see her tomorrow, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time around her in the days leading up to the Classic. She gets pretty excited when she sees me and she knows when I'm there that it's time to work or time to race. She knows when she sees me she's going to do something fun.
The other day, someone asked me how I'll get through the build-up and the pressure and the intensity that surrounds us this week. I told them I pray a lot. I just say a prayer: Let's do it one more time.