In Zenyatta’s mating game, pressure builds for Mr. Right

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VERSAILLES, Ky. — Zenyatta has had her nails done and been visited by Capone, a teaser stallion with a not very romantic name. He will never have her, though. She is destined for a more pedigreed mate and, as in all arranged weddings, the days before will be fraught with the anxiety and stomach-turning expectations usually directed at the union of British royals.

Who it is may be known as early as Monday, after the award for Horse of the Year is announced and Zenyatta’s owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, tell the equine world which stallion is Mr. Right.

How Zenyatta will fare in her new career as a broodmare at Lane’s End Farm is anyone’s guess. She was a once-in-a-generation princess on the racetrack, winning 19 of 20 starts, with her lone defeat coming in her final race and against males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was a heart-stopper. After spotting the field 20 lengths, Zenyatta bounded down the stretch, only to come a half-head short of catching the colt Blame.

Breeding, however, is more magic than math. For every Personal Ensign, a mare who retired undefeated in 1988 after 13 races and became even more appreciated for her knack of passing on her talent to a bevy of high-class stakes horses, there is a Genuine Risk. She won the Kentucky Derby in 1980, one of only three fillies to do so, but produced just two named foals, neither of which made it to the racetrack.

The Mosses and the people they have entrusted Zenyatta to know that the odds of coming up with another horse like her are long. They have been encouraged, however, by how Zenyatta has adjusted to being just a horse since arriving here a little over five weeks ago.

The way that she crunches through the snow here like a downhill skier — a really big one — it is hard to imagine that she has spent virtually all her life in sunny California.

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