Zenyatta’s first foal due in February

Zenyatta is racing toward motherhood.

The Horse of the Year is pregnant, according to Zenyatta.com, which is run by Zenyatta’s racing manager Dottie Ingordo Shirreffs, wife of trainer John Shirreffs.

The news comes a bit more than two weeks after Zenyatta was mated with 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini. She will be scanned twice over the coming month to monitor the development of the embryo. The gestational period for horses is around a year, meaning Zenyatta would be due sometime next February.

While it’s still early, Dottie Shirreffs, writing as Zenyatta said, ”everything looks fabulous and solid.”

Zenyatta. now 7 years old, was retired in November after a career in which she won 19 times in 20 starts. Her only defeat was to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in her final race.

She was shipped from her racing home in Southern California to Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky in December and sent to nearby Darley at Jonabell Farm to breed with Bernardini.

The pregnancy marked the second high-profile baby announcement this week. Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, is in foal after breeding to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Her expected foal date is Feb. 1, 2012.

The timing of the pregnancies extends one of racing’s most potent rivalries.

Though the sport’s two leading ladies never met on the track during their careers, they have spent more than two years vying for the title of racing’s queen.

Rachel Alexandra’s victory in the 2009 Preakness helped her beat Zenyatta for Horse of the Year honors. She retired last summer, however, after struggling to regain her form as a 4-year-old.

Zenyatta’s popularity, however, only continued to rise. She became arguably the sport’s most transcendent figure since Secretariat during her winning streak, and her valiant duel with Blame is considered one of the greatest races in recent memory.

The foals for both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra could one day lead to lucrative numbers in the sales ring, though it’s unclear if any offspring would be sold considering the close ties the respective owners have to the horses.

While Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra, said he had designs on creating a ”super horse” when he purchased her as a 3-year-old in 2009 and decided to breed her to Curlin, getting from the breeding shed to the winner’s circle can be a hit-and-miss proposition.

Secretariat and fellow Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk were mated in 1982, but the foal was stillborn and a second mating failed to produce a pregnancy. Genuine Risk produced only two foals during her broodmare career, and neither offspring made it to the track.

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