"A Bronze Zenyatta Joins Seabiscuit and John Henry at Santa Anita"

SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE  /  By Ed Zieralski  /  September 18, 2012

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Photo by John Chun

Photo by John Chun

Sculptor Nina Kaiser, who lives in San Diego, said she got it when it came to Zenyatta. She understood the fascination, the connection people, and not just race fans, felt for the legendary mare who rose up to be the Queen of Horseracing in 2010.

That’s why Kaiser felt such a responsibility to produce a realistic bronze likeness, 17.2 hands high and weighing 1,200 pounds, of Zenyatta. Santa Anita commissioned Kaiser to produce the statue of Zenyatta that will be unveiled Saturday, Sept. 29, the day after Santa Anita opens for fall racing. Zenyatta won her greatest race when she beat the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2009, “considered by many to be the greatest moment in Santa Anita history,” accoriding to Santa Anita president George Haines.

“People love Zenyatta so much,” Kaiser said. “I wanted to produce a likeness that would give them a feeling that she was in their presence. That’s asking a lot, I know. She had such an amazing aura. I just hope I achieved it. I did a small sculpture first and showed it to (trainer) John and Dottie Shirreffs and (owner) Jerry and Ann Moss. They gave me permission to sell it in limited edition.”

Kaiser said she had long talks with John Shirreffs prior to measuring Zenyatta after her loss by a mere head in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic to Blame, her only defeat in 20 starts after winning 19 in a row.

“She was just so super as an individual, so super as a racehorse,” Kaiser said. “She had an awareness and gentleness about her. When I talked to John about her, he said, ‘You get it.’ People adored her. She was America’s horse. I went to see her every chance I had.”

Zenyatta’s statue will join the sculptures of the great Seabiscuit and John Henry in the Santa Anita Paddock Gardens adjacent to the grandstand during the unveiling ceremony Sept. 29.

Kaiser, who also sculpted the John Henry bronze, lives in Del Dios on the border of San Diego and Escondido.

Raised in Northern California, Kaiser spent her early years working at racetracks. She was a hot walker, exercise rider and assistant trainer before deciding to follow her love for art.

“I was always an artist, even when I was galloping horses,” Kaiser said. “But when I quit riding, I decided to get serious with art. I figured there were probably enough painters and not enough sculptors, so that’s the direction I went. It started with me seeing some sculptures and saying, ‘I can do better than that.’”

Zenyatta was named after the Police’s album, “Zenyatta Mondatta,” by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Moss. Zenyatta drew fame for her incredible record, 19 straight wins and one defeat, and for her showmanship in the paddock when she danced like one of the Rockettes on stage. She was voted the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year in 2010 and earned $7,304,580.

Zenyatta, now 8, is a broodmare at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky. She has given birth to a colt, called Baby Z, by Bernardini. She currently is in foal to Tapit for 2013. She has her own Website, and Facebook page,