In the spring of 1988, Marshall Jenney of Derry Meeting Farm began sending mares to Winter Quarter for the breeding season. Among them were REIKO (dam of TIKKANEN), the sensational FRAN’S VALENTINE, MRS. JENNEY, and a middle-aged FORLI mare named FOR THE FLAG.
FOR THE FLAG was a strong, beautifully balanced mare owned by Eric Kronfeld’s Maverick Productions, Ltd. She consistently produced well-made foals, the best of which was by ROBELLINO. Contemplating the end of her production career, Kronfeld decided to send her to KRIS S., who was the best ROBERTO line sire at that time. This mating produced VERTIGINEUX, FOR THE FLAG’s tenth foal. VERTIGINEUX was a large, leggy, good-boned filly with a magnificent shoulder. Winter Quarter consigned VERTIGINEUX as a yearling at the 1996 Keeneland September sale. She failed to meet her reserve at $120,000 as her remarkable size seemed to caution some buyers.
Broken that fall at the farm, VERTIGINEUX continued training in Camden, SC under Mickey Preger. Preger took his time with the big-shouldered filly and observed that her ankles would require extra care. VERTIGINEUX moved on to make three unsuccessful starts at three before moving to the care of Michael Dickinson. Dickinson discovered a filly with tons of talent, but quite unsound. She quickly won two starts at four and retired to Winter Quarter after failing to earn black-type.
Barren her first year, VERTIGINEUX produced an imposing first foal by neighboring Shadwell Farm’s first year sire ALJABR. This filly was so large as a yearling that buyers saw her as time consuming and risky, she fetched a rock bottom $4,000 at the Keeneland September sale. Named WHERE’S BAILEY, she immediately caused her breeder to take notice when she won a stake on the grass in June of her two year old year.
The next mating, a conscious downsizing for the big mare, resulted in the lovely, appropriately named BALANCE. Purchased at the Winter Quarter Keeneland September consignment for John and Jerry Ammerman, this filly fetched the top price of 2004 for a THUNDER GULCH yearling ($260,000). She went on to become a multiple grade 1 winner. Kronfeld chose STREET CRY(IRE), Darley’s sensational runner, for VERTIGINEUX’s next mating. The cross carried a different mix of MR. PROSPECTOR than BALANCE, through MACHIAVELLIAN. This would become one of the most successful matings of all time.
Zenyatta is Born
The April 1, 2004 delivery was uneventful, though the foal was long and leggy, as had become typical from the big mare. “Long and leggy” was the normal description of ZENYATTA as a foal and more so as a weanling to early yearling. Throughout her youth she continued to grow more up than out. She did not have the perfect match of hip and shoulder of her younger sister BALANCE. ZENYATTA’s balance was more difficult to see, but clearly her shoulder was massive and magnificent. ZENYATTA’s attitude was superior to all of VERTIGINEUX’s babies. While displaying plenty of temper, she was always very reasonable for a young thoroughbred.
As she was prepared for auction during the summer of 2005, she demonstrated intelligence and great manners, but couldn’t overcome her physical immaturity. In hindsight, Don Robinson described her as an 8th grade girl over 6 feet tall who was certainly big enough to dominate at basketball, but nonetheless awkward and unfinished.
The Moss team, beginning with David Ingordo, spotted hip 703 of the Winter Quarter Keeneland September consignment immediately at barn 26. Ingordo looked at her carefully and cautiously, with full attention. ZENYATTA was viewed by numerous others (mostly curious about STREET CRY’s first crop) who, nearly without exception, stopped her in mid-stride with a “thank you very much.” It was clear to the consignor and to Kronfeld that her reserve must reflect her immaturity and dull reception.
ZENYATTA barely met her reserve, bringing $60,000 in the Keeneland sale ring. The consolation to the seller and breeder was that the filly had found a magnificent home in the stable of Kronfeld’s old friend from the music business, Jerry Moss. The rest is history.