Imperfection Can Be a Beautiful Thing

Many wouldn’t agree, but there were no losers in that spectacular photo finish at the end of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

It was the race of a lifetime, one you never forget, even if the result wasn’t what the majority of those watching wanted or expected.

The Classic finish was one of only a few things I got right during this year’s World Championships. I believed Zenyatta would lose—but not by much.

I say “lose,” but all she lost was a photo finish. It disappointed her connections and the many racing fans desperate to witness perfection, but in my eyes she measured up perfectly.

It has been a few years since I’ve voted for the Eclipse Awards, but if I had a vote for 2010 Horse of the Year, it would go to Blame. The colt made the most of his limited opportunities against the best with only one loss, but the colt that beat him, Haynesfield, finished behind him in the Classic.

Blame will go down as the only horse to have defeated Zenyatta in her 20 starts, and that speaks volumes. If he is voted Horse of the Year, it’s no negative reflection on the mare, who won five grade I stakes against females this year and almost won her second Classic against males.

In my lifetime I’ve never seen a racehorse like Zenyatta, and the 19 consecutive victories are only part of the equation. To win 19 races in a row with a running style that immediately put her at a disadvantage for a host of reasons is phenomenal regardless of the competition. Any longtime racegoer knows it just doesn’t happen; the fact it happened at the upper echelon of racing is remarkable. Don't expect to see it again anytime soon.

Zenyatta ran her race in the Classic—no one should blame themselves for a loss that very well may have made her more endearing. Perfection is overrated and not earthly anyway; brilliance in loss under the toughest of circumstances is much more impressive.

Just remember that life is all about imperfection and making the most of it. So celebrate it. With Zenyatta, we all got our money’s worth.


Leave a Comment:


Well said. I hope the industry joins together and moves forward off the tremendous publicity generated by Zenyatta.

I agree about your choice for HOY as well.

07 Nov 2010 11:24 AM
Ian Tapp

Well said, Tom.

The loss really makes her more human, if that's possible. Like you say, perfection is "not earthly." She went down with guns blazing, and that earns my respect because--in the Classic--she did it against a quality field.

07 Nov 2010 11:38 AM

Thank you Tom for a well written article. I've been around long enough to know that anything can happen in racing. I keep reminding myself of an old saying, race them often enough and they will get beat. But, even in defeat. I think Zenyatta has returned a spark to racing that I haven't seen since the 70s. I hope the industry as a whole has learned something and builds on it. Support the equine superstars and the fans will come. Which has been evident everytime she has run. I was one of the 32K people who came to see her run at Del Mar a few months back. I'll never forget the excitment of the crowd and the cheering when she returned the winners circle. I'll always cherish the moment when I saw her in the paddock for the very first time at Hollywood Park in early 09. She was a vision of beauty and power. Thank you Big Z for all that you have done for racing and this passionate horse racing fan.    

07 Nov 2010 11:38 AM

Zenyatta should be HOTY. There are no stated guidelines for determining the way to vote, only one stipulation that the horse has to have one North American start. If statistics were the only determination, they wouldn't need humans to vote. Should Prove Out or Onion have have taken HOTY because they won Secretariat? Blame is now retired, he is a nice horse who won many good races and also lost some. Did he change horse racing as a sport in 2010?  Zenyatta did. Will he be remembered for decades by devoted fans? Zenyatta will. A nose victory does not make a horse HOTY. It is historic that Zenyatta's connections did not use her up these past 3 years, pushing so hard (the thing backward-thinking 'horse-players' seem to admire most) shipping and racing continuously so that they end up like Ruffian and Eight Belles and Rachel Alexandra. The public at large will no longer tolerate this, and Zenyatta's handling represents the only shot for a future that the sport has. The racing world should be bowing down and thanking Zen and her connections for putting a new PR face on their sport, and she IS in every sense, Horse of the Year.

07 Nov 2010 11:39 AM


07 Nov 2010 11:44 AM

The logic that winning the Classic deserves HOY -- didn't serve Z well last year -- now it automatically should secure Blame HOY?

Blame was on home ground. What is that worth? I'm not sure but likely more than a head. Z finally lost a race -- by a head.

I agree with all of the rest of your points -- Z's race was incredible -- her career has been incredible. In 38 years of following this sport I simply don't remember any horse with this kind of style having this kind of success. It's unprecedented.

So at the risk of sounding really repetitive -- the logic that Blame deserves HOY because he managed to squeak out a head victory -- while giving him a "mulligan" in his prior effort (lost by 4 but wasn't on his home track) doesn't feel right. It may sound right to Claiborne and Seth -- but not to those who are financially impartial.    

07 Nov 2010 11:50 AM

Well said, Tom.

A note to Draynay, in case he sneaks in to read your blog:

"QUALITY ROAD close up along the inside, moved off the rail on the second turn, and stopped after six furlongs."

07 Nov 2010 11:56 AM

Part of me wishes that Zenyatta had lost once early in her career. Maybe then her connections might not have been so focused on keeping her unbeaten and put her in a little tougher competition. I think if she had met better fillies in the East or run against the boys (even if she lost) in the Pacific Classic or Hollywood Gold Cup, she would have a much better shot at Horse of the Year. I love Queen Z, but it's too bad her campaign was so conservative. I feel she was cheated out of HOTY twice by her connections.

That said, I also think it's sad that the only two up for horse of the year had, what, 5 races this year? I remember Alysheba running 10 times in his 3 year old year and, I believe, 9 times at 4. Now, we're lucky to get 4-5 races out of them. I find it sad how our sport has declined.

07 Nov 2010 11:56 AM

Part of me wishes that Zenyatta had lost once early in her career.  Maybe then her connections might not have been so focused on keeping her unbeaten and put her in a little tougher competition.  I think if she had met better fillies in the east or run against the boys (even if she lost) in the Pacific Classic or Hollywood Gold Cup, she would have a much better shot at Horse of the Year.  I love Queen Z, but it's too bad her campaign was so conservative.  I feel she was cheated out of HOTY twice by her connections.

That said, I also think it's sad that the only two up for horse of the year had, what, 5 races this year?  I remember Alysheba running 10 times in his 3 year old year and, I believe, 9 times at 4.  Now, we're lucky to get 4-5 races out of them.  I find it sad how our sport has declined.

07 Nov 2010 11:56 AM

Good morning. You said what is in my heart & head this morning and I thank you for the article. I have been waiting impatiently for a blog--about yesterday's Classic.

I, too, voted against Z winning, but not because I didn't want her to win because I did. However, I agree with all your factors and those were mine as well, plus a few more. Before the race, I had Blame, Fly Down, and Z--all at the finish line by nose hairs. So I'm not perfect either . . . but that's horse racing. And that's what we saw yesterday . . . good old unpredictable, old-fashioned horse racing with its tragedies (Rough Sailing RIP, she was just a baby), Gomez' injury earlier that could have kept him from riding Blame, and the injury was painful throughout, but he had to keep on going, Life At Ten being pulled up and the drama that came with that, and its defeats.

Z is no less a winner--if she would have stuck her tongue out she would have won I think! If anything Z is now where she truly belongs and rightly holds her place with the greats, i.e.Cigar who had 16 consecutive wins and had his losses . . .

My concern is, how was Z after the race? It was the first time she didn't go into the winner's circle and hear all the clapping and kudos--I believe horses know when they lose. I saw her going back to the stalls and her head was hanging very low, nearly to the ground, she was filthy dirty and dead tired. She raced her heart out and I don't think it was an easy race for her at all.

I'm sure there is a lot of BLAME going around since yesterday after the race and into today . . . I wish Blame wasn't being retired to stud because I would have really liked to see what he could do. I "love" that horse. How ironic that the horse who beat the Great Z is named Blame. Have a fantastic day everyone.

07 Nov 2010 11:59 AM

Well put, Tom. I couldn't agree with you more.

HOTY award was decided on the track as it should, folks.

07 Nov 2010 12:01 PM
Race Fan

Zenyatta made history this year with her 19 consecutive victories. Citation couldn't do it, Cigar couldn't do it. Blame will be remembered as a good horse, but how can you put his accomplishments over what Zenyatta did for racing?

07 Nov 2010 12:01 PM
Kim F

Great article, however you said yourself "In my lifetime I’ve never seen a racehorse like Zenyatta, and the 19 consecutive victories are only part of the equation. To win 19 races in a row with a running style that immediately put her at a disadvantage for a host of reasons is phenomenal regardless of the competition. Any longtime racegoer knows it just doesn’t happen; the fact it happened at the upper echelon of racing is remarkable. Don't expect to see it again anytime soon."

So why wouldn't you vote for her to get HOTY??? She has done so much for this sport and like someone else said, winning BC by a nose does not make you HOTY! She totally deserves it!!!

07 Nov 2010 12:04 PM
Donut Jimmy

Photo finish cameras are totally objective. They don't care about who "could" have won or who "should" have won. They emphatically do not take anything into account other than who got there first. That is actually the salvation of racing. Blame won the 2010 BC Classic. Zenyatta did not.

Championships however are subjective, they are voted on, and you DO get to take circumstances into account. Who ran the more impressive race? That is something you can and should take into consideration in voting for HOTY.

Put it another way. Suppose that had not been a BC Classic, but rather a MSW on a Thursday afternoon at Anywhere Downs. Which horse would everyone have been talking about? Which horse would every bloodstock agent be scrambling to buy before its next start?

And if you are stuck on numbers. Blame won 4 of 5 starts, 3 Grade 1s all on dirt. Zenyatta won 5 of 6 starts, 5 Grade 1s on dirt and synthetic. The head to head showdown was on Blame's home track. Blame had a pretty good trip (he showed grit going through a very tight hole.) Zenyatta had a nightmare trip (partly of her own making) and was within inches.

Taking it all in, the same arguments that gave last year's HOTY to Rachel, should give this year's HOTY to Zenyatta.

07 Nov 2010 12:05 PM

2010 Record

Zenyatta 6 Starts 5-1-0 this year

Blame 5 starts 4-1-0 this year

LIFETIME? Don't even go there

HOTY - Zenyatta

07 Nov 2010 12:05 PM

Her second was as good as a win. She is forever worthy of the crown she so rightfully and gracefully wears on her head. Long live the queen.

07 Nov 2010 12:06 PM

Humm, Blame will go down as the only horse to defeat Queen Z. And that says......what? That SHE should be HOTY. He only beat her by a nose, and considering the horrible trip she had and the relatively easy trip Blame had in comparison, how can you even consider Blame for HOY? She had a horrible start, made up 20-25 lengths, dealt with dirt in her face for perhaps the first time, DEMOLISHED the rest of the field (including Haynesfield, who beat Blame, previously) and STILL only missed beating Blame by inches. HOW can that NOT be HOTY qualifications? Both horses lost one race in 2010, and in my book Zenyatta DID NOT LOSE in the Classic. As far as I'm concerned, at the very least, it was a tie, and given her trip, she may not have won the battle, but she definitely won the war. Blame was not the better horse in 2010, and his connections know that he is not a horse for the ages like our Queen. People will remember her MUCH longer than the trivia question's answer to "Who beat Zenyatta to deprive her of a perfect record?" And in retiring Blame immediately afterward, it just shows that his connections have nothing but money on their minds. Strike the iron while is hot, or whatever, I guess, and disparage the competition in doing so, instead of being gracious in winning. Zenyatta should be Horse of the Year, and her connections, including Mike Smith, should be given the equivalent of an Academy Award for her handling.

07 Nov 2010 12:07 PM

Thank you for that Tom. You have a lot of class and we should all take our cues from it.

07 Nov 2010 12:08 PM

Sorry Tom I have to disagree with you. Zenyatta was and will always be perfect. She is what a true champion racehorse, a legend is all about. In defeat, to me, she gave her greatest performance. She was perfect, it was her human companion who is not. Mike Smith is not perfect, and he has given her many bad rides that Big Z overcame, she just couldn't overcome this one. But at least she gave a better performance than Cigar when he lost and Curlin when he lost, and they still went on to become HOTY. So the best horse lost yesterday. It has happened many times before because of human error. Hey Man O' War lost to Upset because of human error. Zenyatta is perfect, Mike Smith is not.

07 Nov 2010 12:08 PM
Linda M

I have always thought it ludicrous, that the horse who wins the Classic is voted Horse of The Year. Not fair, and our Queen ran her guts out only to be beaten by a nose/half a head, got chunks of dirt thrown at her, naysayers saying she CAN'T run at Churchill. She proved everybody wrong, and what our girl has done for horseracing will go down in history.

ZENYATTA, you still are and always will be the best.

07 Nov 2010 12:14 PM

Nobody living today will see another one like her. No other horse in her predicament yesterday would have come close to winning.

07 Nov 2010 12:16 PM

One Race does not make a HOY. This horse Blame who I never heard of until a few weeks ago has done nothing for horse racing.

Zenyatta has won 19 races in a row and brought to horse racing what no horse has in many many years. She won the Breeders' Cup last year and was not made HOTY. Why would this year's Breeders' Cup make Blame HOTY?? It doesn't. Zenyatta is HOTY for 2010.

Horse racing will lose respect and followers if she isn't.

Believe it, as she is the one who brought horse racing to the front line this year, not Blame.She is the one who won 19 races in a row. She is the one who who has done more for racing. The voters better take note!

07 Nov 2010 12:17 PM

Good article Tom. Perhaps a share of the HOTY title would be fair this year since Zenyatta lost the big race by only a head in quite a spectacular renewal, in her only defeat. Blame also blotted his copybook in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in a humiliating defeat, therefore both horses have earned it. Zen's light campaign again will needlessly fuel controversy but enough has been said about that. Both horses captured the immagination of the fans and made headlines throught the year. Blame did all of his talking ON-THE-TRACK while Zenyatta had a host of crusaders and worshippers campaigning for her OFF-THE-TRACK. Notwithstanding, she is certainly one for the ages, definitely an all-time great one. It would still be nice to see her go run in the Dubai World Cup next March before paying one of the Urban Sea (broodmare) stallions Galileo or Sea The Star a visit in the breeding shed.  

07 Nov 2010 12:20 PM
Mary B in Md

Zenyatta was definitely the best horse on the field yesterday. How many horses could be 30 lengths back and loose by only inches? Certainly not Blame! Last year winning the BC Classic didn't count toward HOTY, and the HOTY Rachel Alexandra didn't even show up. Now this year, winning the BC Classic is the defining factor for HOTY. Does that make sense? Something is really wrong here.

It appears that there is an inclination to treat West Coast horses differently from those in the East. It hurt so much to see Mike Smith cry. And Seth Hancock from Claiborne showed no class at all in deeming Blame as HOTY. Zenyatta should definitely be HOTY. How can a horse that is 19-1 not be?

07 Nov 2010 12:21 PM

Zenyatta made her run to try to run down Blame. But Blame dug down and showed a lot of heart to hold off the Queen Zenyatta. To me he deserves HOTY because he did win aginst Zenyatta and is the only horse to do so. The reason why Zenyatta did not win it last year was because Rachel Alexandra did what no other 3 year old filly has ever done. This year the award was decided yesterday because there was no clear standout, unlike last year. So the winner of the race, Blame, should get HOTY.

Blame for HORSE OF THE YEAR!!!!

07 Nov 2010 12:23 PM

Mark: I TOTALLY agree with you, well said. Sienna: I don't agree with you. Why do people always want racehorses pushed harder and harder? Do you want more breakdowns on and off the track? Look how many great contenders we lost to injury this year alone. This much injury (and death) is unnecessary. Yes, our sport is inherently dangerous, but it doesn't have to be willfully so. This is what the 5 years of immaculate handling of Zenyatta has taught us, and it is the only future for our sport if it is to survive. 2010 America will not tolerate a sport anymore where horses are treated like machines. Just one more reason why Zen should be HOTY, she represents a new and BETTER way, the only way for the sport to continue.

07 Nov 2010 12:23 PM
Donut Jimmy


If not Zenyatta, then Goldikova.

Blame third.

07 Nov 2010 12:26 PM

A very good horse defeated a great horse that day - twas nightmare indeed for Queen Z's connections!

But being great is still better than being good!

A HOTY for Zenyatta this time!

07 Nov 2010 12:27 PM

Mark said-

"The logic that winning the Classic deserves HOTY -- didn't serve Z well last year -- now it automatically should secure Blame HOTY?"

Well said.

Zenyatta won on dirt this year. She won at different tracks in California. Blame had home court advantage.

What I found significant, is the cheering for Zenyatta when she came back. And these were predominantly East Coast people. Gomez tried like crazy to get people "up" for Blame when he came back. The response seemed politely tepid. Zenyatta won the hearts of many people yesterday by showing she's not a "one surface wonder" and putting her whole heart into it.

I've read that at the Churchill backside, people think Zenyatta was not used to the cold and should have been warmed up, not just do the same thing as in California, and that that was one factor. Obviously she needed to feel some kick back and the lack of a race in which she experienced that was an error in judgment.

But did she spit out the bit? No, she figured it out and came flying at the end, with too much ground to make up and after too much traffic in the way. People will remember that determination long after a win eeked out by a desperate nose by a horse beaten a few strides beyond the wire.  

07 Nov 2010 12:29 PM

Zenyatta deserves the title of HOTY.  She ran in six grade 1 races and won 5, ran second by a nose in the last. What other horse shows that record this year? I keep hearing everyone talk that Blame ran in tougher races this year, but do we already forget. Zenyatta showed up in Oaklawn to challenge the great Rachel Alexandra. Rachel did not. Blame ran in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and had a slow pace that killed any chance of him winning. Zenyatta had many races that the pace could have affected her too, but somehow, she managed to pull out a victory. She ran a sensational race yesterday and if she doesn't win HOTY, for a third consecutive year, I for one, will believe there is no justice in the business. She transcended the sport and brought more positive attention for a non-Triple Crown contender since... well I can't think that far back. She was on 60 Minutes, in O magazine, and had how many segments on Sportscenter during football season? I even had friends who know absolutley nothing about horse racing or ever been to the track actually stop watching their college football game on Saturday and turn the channel to watch Zenyatta race. Did they know who Blame was? No. Will they remember who Blame is 10 years from now? No.

Zenyatta did more for this dying sport than any horse since the great Secretariat. So why don't we honor her with what is duly hers and present her with a long deserved HOTY.  

07 Nov 2010 12:30 PM
Donut Jimmy

"What can you say? Everything went our way," Stall said. "A clean break, nice pace, made the lead, waited a little bit, held her off, and galloped off in front of her."

07 Nov 2010 12:31 PM

Zenyatta clearly deserves horse of the year. No doubt about it!! She is a horse that is spectacular, a rarity in the thoroughbred world! She deserves horse of the year, rightly so, and her trainer deserves the recognition as well.

07 Nov 2010 12:32 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

It all sounds great Tom, but it's painful today.

07 Nov 2010 12:32 PM

I have far more respect for Zenyatta now than I did before yesterday. I wasn't convinced she was a great horse because she hadn't beaten great horses; even the Classic last year didn't convince me because she should have won considering she was accomplished on the synthetic surface, didn't have to travel far to reach S.A., factors just the opposite of the best horses that showed up on that day.  However, in 2010 the tables were turned and she was awesome in defeat.

Regarding HOTY it seems people need to be reminded this is an annual award settled on the track. The fact Z won 19 in a row in her lifetime should have no bearing on the award for 2010. You've got to compare the records FOR 2010 of the best horses DURING 2010 and make a decision, who had the best campaign in 2010?  Blame's and Zenyatta's numbers for 2010 are very similar, but I think it's obvious that Blame ran in the tougher races against better horses and in the showdown race, Blame defeated Zenyatta. He should be 2010 HOTY.

07 Nov 2010 12:33 PM
New Orleans Lady

The BC Classic, or any other BC race, is not the determining factor for HOTY, and it shouldn't be. Otherwise, Goldikova would be HOTY; and, in that same vein, what if a foreign horse would've won the Classic? The HOTY is based on that horse's racing campaign for that year, not the year before, nor based on popularity. Blame has had a racing campaign that is worthy of HOTY. I luv Zenyatta as I do all horses, but it's her connections that 'sold her short' and did an injustice by not letting her out of her own backyard. Although they kept her safe and sound, it did her more harm not going outside her comfort zone and not letting us Southern and East coast fans see her.

This is only one of the reasons why RA won last year's HOTY and deservedly so, and Curlin the year before, and both had much harder campaigns; yet what do Zen's connections do? Give her an even easier campaign this year. Frankly, I couldn't believe that most her races were G1s based on the competition.

Zenyatta will definitely get the Eclipse for older female horse and she will get California's HOTY and go down in history as one of the greatest female Thoroughbreds. It is just unfortunate that she was coddled and handled with kid gloves by her connections. It is very dissapointing that she was given a weak campaign that discredited her and didn't fully showcase her awesome athleticism and talent.

Anyway it's all about the human ego because to her, she won't know or care about any award or accolades, especially after she has a few of her favorite drink, Guiness!

07 Nov 2010 12:35 PM

I've been a horse racing fan ever since my dad (who actually saw racing in the 1970s) told me stories about the great Secretariat when I was nine. Since that time I've been waiting for my own generation's Secretariat. Yesterday, while disappointing, may have diminished Zenyatta's chance for HOTY, but I do not believe it diminished anything she's done for the sport. Therefore, at this year's Eclipse Award ceremony, I suggest the Secretariat People's Horse Award. This would allow registered horse racing fans to have their say in the process and would keep the spark that Zenyatta reignited in racing fans alive by allowing people like me to feel like our opinion matters, too.

HOTY must consider races won, where they were, competition level, and the manner in which they were run. However, the Secretariat People's Horse Award leaves this analysis behind and considers horses that touched people who aren't specifically involved in racing. In this case, Zenyatta deservedly wins hands down.

Secretariat's groom Eddie Sweat said that he belonged to the turf and the public. I think Zenyatta will go down in history with the same sentiments. Let her have her moment. Let the fans say thank you. Create the Secretariat People's Horse Award and let Zenyatta's following dedicate the first inaugural award to her!  

07 Nov 2010 12:41 PM

Tom: Please you want to give horse of the year to a horse that did not even run a in triple crown race and won on his own home course by a nose!  

07 Nov 2010 12:41 PM
Karen in Indiana

I hate that HOTY talk has already started, but Seth Hancock opened that door yesterday. He has a strong financial interest in who wins HOTY. But winning the Classic wasn't the defining point last year when Zenyatta not only won it, but also became the ONLY female to do so. So why should having Blame win it on his home course be something that creates an open-and-shut case? Zenyatta has brought so much POSITIVE attention to this sport. Rachel brought a lot also, but she was saddled with a trainer who has had some horse medication issues and a loony owner. There has been only positives coming out of the Zenyatta camp and when was the last time the public was allowed so much access to a great racehorse? And, other than winning races this year and one big loss to Haynesfield (where did he finish in the Classic?), how has Blame benefited horse racing? Mr. Hancock's statements are self-serving. How much more would it raise public opinion of horse racing to have this mare who has done so much finally win the award she has earned?

07 Nov 2010 12:43 PM

Excellent article Tom; I completely agree with you. As for Horse of the Year, why is there even a debate? Blame won 4 of 5, 3 of them grade Is against open competition (including the big one, the BC Classic). He took his show on the road and took down the top horse in the country at the time in Quality Road (in the Whitney). Blame is a class horse and was the best horse this year. Zenyatta is an excellent horse, and she proved that yesterday, but she did not have a Horse of the Year campaign. Sorry, but that is a fact. Her wins this year all came in restricted races (to fillies and mares), with all but one of them on the friendly confines of the synthetic tracks of Southern California (she also failed to beat a grade I winner this year). She had her chance in the Classic and came up short. That is horse racing. One thing I do find amusing though is the argument every single Zenyatta fan made last year of why their horse should have been the 2009 HOTY (win in the BC Classic), they are now turning that argument around saying one race does not win that award. Last year, it didn't, because Rachel had that great of a year, but it was well documented that if one of the big 4 (Zen, Blame, QR, Lookin at Lucky) won the Classic, they would be HOTY. Zenyatta lost. It is OK. She had a great career. Unfortunately, the way she was campaigned the last 2 years limited her chances for securing the top award. Team Z put all their eggs in one basket and it didn't work out, but regardless, she ran a terrific race and she showed her class and greatness in defeat. Even without a HOTY award to her name, she is still a champion.

07 Nov 2010 12:45 PM

Mary B in Md,

You shouldn't make ignorant comments about the HOTY selection. It is always very possible for an outstanding horse that is given an enterprising campaign to lockup the HOTY title before the Breeder's Cup. Holy Bull did it in 1994 without controversy and Rachel Alexandra did it last year with much controversy because of the ignorance or sentimentality of many who fail to see that the emphasis is on horseRACE. If a good horse is saved for only one big effort while another takes on all the tough challenges successfully, including shipping to various different tracks accross the country, the difference ought to be clear when HOTY selection time comes around. Be honest about it.  

In 2008 Curlin lost the BC Classic but still captured the HOTY crown, and rightly so because he 'danced every dance' among the best in open company with more success than all his competitors including Zenyatta.  

07 Nov 2010 12:52 PM

Sometimes true greatness can be exposed in defeat.

Zenyatta proved her true greatness, determination, and courage last night in the Classic.

Giving up so much ground, on an unfamiliar track and surface, against such good younger male horses (in a much better field than she faced last year IMHO) - and still coming so heartbreakingly close.

If the great mare is not named HOTY this year, it is not because of anything she has done or not done - it will be because her human connections failed her in not getting her as ready as possible for this race.

Yes, they kept her sound, sane, and healthy over a long career - but in not bringing her East at least once in her career (knowing all this season that this race was coming) to face a top (or even mediocre) field on dirt (preferably at Churchill) they did not do all that they could to get her ready for this race. Substitute just one of her California races this season with a prep at Churchill, so she could get a bit of experience on the track and feel dirt hitting her face, and the outcome might have been different last night. And it probably would not have taken too much out of her, either.

As it was it was close - so very very close.

Hopefully even the biggest Zenyatta naysayers saw her greatness on display last night.

07 Nov 2010 12:54 PM

From the writer: Folks, remember this. Awards, like perfection, are completely overrated. Forget about that and be thankful you had the chance to witness a remarkable horse. It really doesn't matter who gets Horse of the Year.

07 Nov 2010 12:54 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

I disagree that Blame should be voted HOTY. While he is a talented and athletic horse, Zenyatta has done a tremendous amount to boost racing and all in G1 company for the last two years. The argument has been made that she stayed in CA for most of her races and all but two races in 2010 were on synthetic. Zenyatta is being held at a double standard again.

Zenyatta lost by a long nose or short head (depending on who you talk to) in what has been called the strongest Breeders' Cup Classic field in at least a decade. Either way that is hardly a disgrace. If she had finished far back or off the board in the Classic I could partially understand the debate. Blame had to work for his win.

John Shirreffs has been far more open with the races Zenyatta has been targeted at than any other trainer in recent memory. Did the Eastern based horses get sent to challenge Zenyatta? No. Even the Apple Blossom couldn't draw the Eastern horses. I never heard of any track in the East court Zenyatta to race there. Only Oaklawn made an offer and the expanded purse was only offered IF a certain other horse also showed up.

Personal Ensign (one of my all time favorite horses) rarely left a 100 mile radius around New York and, except for the Whitney, only ran against her own sex. Thankfully, she was never criticized for her campaign.

Tom Amoss' rant on TVG about the HOTY was right on the mark. Because of Zenyatta, people who don't know the difference between a furlong and a footlong went to the races and watched the Breeders' Cup this year. For a struggling industry to add thousands of people to its fan base is a tremendous achievement. I seriously doubt any of the new fans were watching because of Blame, Quality Road, Lookin At Lucky or any of the other horses in the field. They were there to watch the great mare!

Zenyatta is a once in a lifetime horse and has earned the HOTY in 2010.

07 Nov 2010 12:55 PM
Donut Jimmy

Quality of competition?

OK, almost all those "better" horses that finished behind Blame this year, finished behind Zenyatta yesterday.

It is still a question of whether Blame proved he was the better racehorse based on yesterday's race. Otherwise the campaign is either irrelevant, or goes to Zenyatta since Blame lost the JC Gold Cup by a whole lot more than a head.

07 Nov 2010 12:58 PM

As amazing as Zenyatta and Blame are, my vote for Older Female and HOTY would be for Goldikova. She didn't almost make history, she did it, and resoundingly. She faced the best at 3, 4, and 5 in Europe and here and won going away.

07 Nov 2010 12:59 PM

I braved the cold yesterday at Churchill Downs to witness history. And, that's exactly what happened. Even though she was overlooked by all of the hype surrounding Zenyatta, Goldikova delivered. She won her third BC Mile. As her jockey Oliver Peslier said, "She is the best filly in the world."

I like Zenyatta but she is not the GREAT horse everyone makes her out to be. Zenyatta is the Poly Princess, not the Queen of Racing.

Last night, Blame earned HOTY. He took down the Queen.

To donkeyhotey and Clyde - HOTY is about who had the best season not who had the best career. And Blame had a much better season than Zenyatta.

07 Nov 2010 1:00 PM

Every race Zenyatta was in she won from out of it, and it would almost give you a heart attack! She will be surely missed, America's Sweetheart. I vote for you!

07 Nov 2010 1:05 PM
Virgil Fox

Ditto the Good Doctor.

Right now it hurts and I could care less about the award.

- Peace

07 Nov 2010 1:05 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


Very well said, and I am very thankful that I shared in Zenyatta's remarkable journey. It was thrilling beyond belief, and she is The Queen. Her greatness has been proven to any reasonable naysayer. And yes, HOTY is way overhyped and overrated. It doesn't matter much to me. I value performances in big races--win or lose, heads, and noses is horse racing, I don't give any value to a vote.

07 Nov 2010 1:06 PM
VA Horse Lover

The only reason anyone remembers a horse named Onion is because he beat Secretariat. Did that make Onion HOTY? No.

07 Nov 2010 1:09 PM

When the race was over, I felt that Blame should get HOTY because he won...but then, Seth Hancock opened his mouth and, then, I realized that HOTY is chosen by voting opinions made away from the track. I think Seth's horse is going to get a lot less votes than he thinks and he only has himself to blame.

07 Nov 2010 1:09 PM

She's an amazing horse. She runs her own race; seemingly impossible coming up from so far behind each time. Makes you wonder what goes through her mind. She's strategic, athletic, independent, graceful. Truly someone I respect. Wish I knew more people like her.

07 Nov 2010 1:09 PM

We will never see another Zenyatta in our lifetime. A brilliant mare with the beautiful heart of a champion. She is the Queen and a true star like none other, and that is what history will reflect I believe. Blame a very good quality horse indeed whose crown of glory will be that he beat the great Queen - Zenyatta. But, to the public at large, they will only remember the greatnes that is Zenyatta. Also, the non-racing public at large will not respect the decision to make any horse but Zenyatta Horse of the Year. This decision makes the racing world lose credibility in the eyes of the masses which is one of the reasons the sport suffers from an image problem. We may or may not agree with that, but it is a reality.

I hope that they really do retire her now for she has truly earned the right to live the good life.

I think that she will enjoy being a mama - wonder who her first true love will be? Maybe Blame?

07 Nov 2010 1:10 PM

Zenyatta STILL deserves Horse of the Year. Is this going to be the second straight year she has been denied those honors? Come on, now. Even the most hardened racing fan can attest to the fact that Zenyatta is a unique, awe-inspiring thoroughbred who would melt their heart in a minute. She has done SO MUCH for the sport when the sport needed it the most. Sure, she tasted defeat, but by only a nose! She didn't finish sixth, seventh or last - she was second by a nose!! Mike Smith is beating himself up for not giving her a good ride? Mike, you have nothing to be sorry about. You're a great jock and the Mosses have entrusted you to ride their wonderful mare for 18 races! Nobody else could have been teamed up as well!  Zenyatta is the IT horse for 2010! I wish the fans could vote. I would surely drop my ballot in the "Zenyatta" box!

07 Nov 2010 1:10 PM
Karen in Indiana

Dancer'sGirl: I love that idea. If the industry wants fans to be involved, they need to make a way for us to be and your idea is perfect. Now, who do we need to contact to make that happen?

07 Nov 2010 1:11 PM
Monika P

Are there really people out there who believe that Blame deserves the HOTY award, rather than Zenyatta? What, exactly, has he accomplished that makes him superior? Let's not forget about the 2010 record, not to mention lifetime accomplishments. Even in defeat, Zenyatta ran a spectacular, memorable race, demonstrating the indefinable quality that defines greatness. Who will remember Blame 10 years from now?

07 Nov 2010 1:12 PM


A win in the Classic sometimes earns a horse HOTY, but it depends on the supporting campaign.

Zenyatta had more GI wins, but every single one of those GI wins came against females, and to add to that, zero of those fields contained a GI winner.

So when people make claims that if Rachel didn't need the Classic to win HOTY then neither does Z, they are wrong because they are not factoring in the depth of overall campaigns.

Blame had multiple GI wins against the best males the nation had to offer. Zenyatta had zero wins against the nation's best males.

How does that add up to HOTY for her? Beating Rinterval, Dance to My Tune and Switch were not enough to outdo Blame's season.

Don't get me wrong either, I think she proved more in defeat than in all 19 victories. She looked like Silky Sullivan in the stretch. It was beyond impressive and memorable.

Having said that, you cannot deny Blame the award he earned all year on the track facing the best and travelling, and clinching it by beating the mighty Zenyatta.

Don't feel bad for her, I'm sure she will earn an award for her career, but the biggest reward is what she proved out there on the track yesterday. She can hang with the best, and if only they started her in a couple of more challenging races leading up to the Classic, she might have earned HOTY.

It's a shame for her, but not for Blame, who will be HOTY.

07 Nov 2010 1:16 PM
Junior Gators

I hope that we all keep in mind what happened yesterday.  My 16 year old sat with me, eyes glazed over sitting on the edge of the couch watching what I believe is the best mare of my lifetime, and maybe of his as well.

We watched like she was one of our own fillies, hearts pounding, and hopeful beyond words.  

We cheered for her, we screamed to the tops of our lungs, and I don't think either one of us will forget what we witnessed.

To the connections of Queen Z.  Thanks for giving my son and I a memory that many (Including myself) thought would never come to pass.  Thanks for sharing your great mare with us!  

Mr. and Mrs. Moss, your mare has been denied HOTY 2 times now, and some say this should be a 3rd time.  I want to thank you, and she has my vote for HORSE OF A LIFETIME!!!


07 Nov 2010 1:17 PM

In even defeat, her less than ideal trip and closing furlongs could have only been accomplished by a horse that is one of the best in the world. She was clearly the best horse. I overestimated Blame's abilities (he had the best trip a top jockey can give and he was more lucky than good) and gained more respect for Zenyatta's. I do not want to hear any more from Eastern pencil jockeys about her ability to run on dirt.

07 Nov 2010 1:18 PM

I don't want more horses to break down - of course not! But I do want a return of the tough horses from previous decades that could run more than 3-5 times a year without fearing for their lives. Which means, no drugs on race day, better breeding practices, changes in training etc. Other countries have managed to do this -- Australia and Germany come to mind. So why can't North America?

07 Nov 2010 1:20 PM


I disagree with every word you wrote. Zenyatta brought great attention to our sport. Have you seen the sports page of the NY Post? Forget HOTY, Zenyatta probably lost SI Athlete of the year. The media attention she drew cannot be replaced.

Blame got a great trip and ran on to the wire. I think HOTY will be close. Blame's JCGC was not a good race and I hope voters remember that.

07 Nov 2010 1:22 PM
YankeeIn Texas


Blame won 3 Grade 1 races- THAT is HOTY? He had the perfect trip in the BCC- Zenyatta lost, but she is the HOTY.

Blame is an excellent horse, BUT Zenyatta beat all of the BEST males in the United States in the BCC- EXCEPT Blame- by a head.

I think she was done wrong via the ride Smith gave her- BUT- the next jump after the finish she passed Blame.


07 Nov 2010 1:25 PM

Zen HOTY !!

07 Nov 2010 1:26 PM

From the writer--again: For the most part, awards (in any sport, field, etc.) are political, be they by vote or whatever. The all-time leading trainer in Thoroughbred racing isn't in the Hall of Fame because of politics. ... He did, however, get something called the Eclipse Award of Merit because the industry was somewhat embarrassed. If she doesn't win Horse the Year--and like I said, not important in the grand scheme of things--you can bet she'll get some sort of recognition from "the industry."

Move on folks. This blog is about celebrating a fine racehorse, not about HOTY. That is in the blog to make a point: THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER!!!!

07 Nov 2010 1:31 PM

I,too, would have loved to see Zenyatta win. But there is no shame in losing when you gave it your all.

Defeat does not diminish the positive attention she brought to a sport that badly needs a shot in the arm.

To all the naysayers a reminder that even the greats of the past lost at one time or another. She certainly will go down as one of the best.

07 Nov 2010 1:35 PM

To previous poster: the industry can only move forward in a meaningful and lasting way if those who control horses become as classy, decent and caring toward theirs as the Zenyatta people have been toward her, and if racing changes to get rid of the greedy, abusers and cheaters by seriously protecting all horses, big and small, the glorious and fallen ones.

07 Nov 2010 1:36 PM


your the one who mentioned your vote for HOTY not us!

I still think the JCGC is a major scar on Blame's resume.

07 Nov 2010 1:41 PM

I have read your comments and I like your sentiment, but I must wholeheartedly disagree with your choice for Horse of the Year. Yes, Blame beat Zenyatta in the Classic and he has won some grade 1s in his short career but I feel that this award should be given to a horse that has done something for the sport not one that has won a prestigious race and made money for his owners. Hard core bettors know Blame but the children who love Zenyatta and feed her apples, the parents who bring those children to see a once in a lifetime horse don't know him and it is not a horse like Blame that does anything to promote this sport to the masses. If the voters ignore Zenyatta again after all she has done for this sport they should be utterly ashamed of themselves. We won't see another her like again and she deserves more than older horse of the year.

07 Nov 2010 1:43 PM

The Classic last year did not determine the HOTY, so it doesn't have to this year either. Zenyatta won 5 grade 1s in 2010, Blame only 3 (not counting the BC). Maybe it is a reflection on her greatness if some say she didn't race 'the best'. She raced who showed up. And given a little better trip (not blaming anyone), she would have won the Classic this year. I don't see Blame as the better horse more deserving to win HOTY just because he won the Classic.

07 Nov 2010 1:44 PM

So many people keep harping that Zenyatta never faced much.Well, hey, it was the competition that avoided her. She ran in Grade 1 stakes; if other Grade 1 caliber fillies and mares chose not to run against her, that's not Zenyatta's or her people's fault. Grade 1 races are the hardest ones to win, that's why they're Grade 1.

Zenyatta should be Horse of the Year. She did do more for horse racing than any of those boys. I agree that Quality Road and Blame are nice colts, VERY nice colts. But they didn't bring out the crowds. They didn't end up in magazines and on TV shows, Queen Z did. Horse racing needed her and will continue to need horses like her to stay alive.

I'll miss seeing her run and I look forward to her wee ones racing in the future. Thanks Zenyatta, Mr. and Mrs Moss, John and Mario, it's been a helluva ride.

07 Nov 2010 1:44 PM

Brian Zipse has it right. Blame was not the best horse last night. Zenyatta was. And Brian picked Blame to win.

Zenyatta will easily win the HOTY.

07 Nov 2010 1:46 PM
Doc Bar


You obviously are not much of a racing fan if you haven't heard of Blame! He beat older horses three times as a 3 year old, including two G2 wins.

And perhaps maybe he should not be HOTY for winning the BC Classic, but he SHOULD be 2010 HOTY for putting together a campaign that includes wins in the Stephen Foster, Whitney and BC Classic, and 2nd in the JCGC. Overall he had the best campaign in 2010.

07 Nov 2010 1:52 PM

You have to observe the miracle that was Zenyatta, including her last race... not in terms of her losing by 3 inches, but rather closing WITHIN 3 inches from WAY, WAY back. That's it.

07 Nov 2010 1:57 PM
Gary at Rough Creek

To Ranagulzion...

Blame and Zenyatta share HOTY....what? Zenyatta deserves HOTY hands down.

07 Nov 2010 1:59 PM

Little more track? Zenyatta. No contest.

07 Nov 2010 2:01 PM

Personally Zenyatta is one of the greatest of all time. I hate to see her lose but it happens. As for HOTY Blame should get it. While Zenyatta has done more for the sport's publicity, Blame put together the better campaign and Zenyatta ran against good but not really good horses. I say let Zenyatta decide what she wants to do (I would bet she would like to run more) and if she doesn't want to retire run her next year where she belongs.

07 Nov 2010 2:04 PM

@Karen in Indiana: thanks for your support of my idea. I have no idea who to contact and I'm doubtful it will actually happen, although I hope it will. I've had the privilege of seeing Zenyatta run 5 times in California (including last year's Breeder's Cup) and I think she's spectacular.

I also think that HOTY awards are important because as horses like Zenyatta bring popularity back to the sport, people begin to pay attention. Part of what makes racing so exciting for me is the pomp and circumstance of the sport of king, and HOTY awards add to that.

I think if the racing world is serious about wanting to increase the fan base back to the way it was in the days of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Ruffian, and Affirmed we need two things: superstar horses with media appeal and opportunities to get involved. Here, Zenyatta is a superstar and I believe that's something her fans and critics can agree on. The only problem is that people need a chance to get involved. Horse racing today is at an advantage with the internet because, as seen in this blog post and comments, people can say what's on their minds. There needs to be a way to recognize Zenyatta if, for nothing else, the sake of her fans. She's done a lot for the industry in this past year - heck, she's been spotlighted by Oprah and 60 Minutes. The industry cannot pass up an opportunity to capitalize on this.

I'm a big Z fan, but I also recognize what HOTY considers. Like it or not, HOTY will be hotly contested until the day it's officially announced. I don't believe she'll win it, but I do believe she'll get at least some of the recognition she deserves. Zenyatta for People's Horse Award!

07 Nov 2010 2:07 PM

I have to agree with Cynthia here. The real queen was not the filly who ran in the Classic but the filly who ran in the Mile.

Goldikova has gone five for six this year, all grade (group) ones. She won her Breeders' Cup race decisively while being the first to make it three in a row.

Her record is far and above both Blame's and Zenyatta's.

07 Nov 2010 2:08 PM

Tom, I quite agree, perfection is not earthly. There is no reason to say anything beyond thank goodness she is still sound and healthy and seems as cheerful as ever. Follow her lead.

07 Nov 2010 2:09 PM

They should make a new award and give it to Zenyatta....HORSE OF THE DECADE!

07 Nov 2010 2:20 PM
Saratoga AJ

You can say that Blame deserves HOTY because he had a great year topped off by beating the best horses in the country. And you are probably right.

But I’m a believer now. Zenyatta is even better than I thought and I thought she is one of the best fillies or mares ever. Now I say she belongs right up there with some of the best horses ever. And if she gets HOTY, no one should complain.

Her running style was always risky. She got away with it and was always able to run down other mares no matter how far back she was. It is a lot tougher with colts. It’s hard to say if she would have ran off 19 straight wins against a steady diet of colts. Probably not. But that in no way minimizes what this mare has accomplished. Definitely one of the best ever. Racing needed her.

07 Nov 2010 2:21 PM

If there ever was a horse of the year or of the century for that matter it should be Zenyatta. How could anyone question this?

07 Nov 2010 2:21 PM

If imperfection truly is, to this blog's author, a beautiful thing -- as it surely is in Zenyatta's case -- why does the author, who makes that case so well, conclude that Blame should be Horse of the Year and not Zenyatta? Blame had a much better trip in the Classic, not just on his accustomed surface but on his home track, and only just managed to edge out Zenyatta. And while Blame had one terrific year, he still lost in New York to Haynesfield, who is hardly a world beater.

The blog's author doth protest too much when he proclaims that HOTY DOESN'T MATTER!!!! He writes this after suggesting that awards, in any field, are largely political and stating that he'd give the nod to Blame if he had a vote.

It would not be a political gesture, though, to award HOTY to Zenyatta.The HOTY award to Zenyatta would simply and fittingly recognize that she demonstrated again this year -- with but one imperfection -- that she is one of the greatest thoroughbreds ever.

07 Nov 2010 2:22 PM

Tom - Regretfully the Pendora's box has been opened. Yesterday, by a question to Seth Hancock and his less than tactful answer and you this morning, by giving your opinion on the matter. An opinion to which you are certainly entitled and so is everyone commenting on your blog.

After last year, when I thought the award should have been shared, I don't give a flying fiddle about the whole controversy. I know who MY HORSE OF THE YEAR has been for the last three years and I want to celebrate her, her amazing career and the connections that made it possible. Thank you Zenyatta!!! You have thrilled me like no other. I love you and admire you more than words can say. Unforgettable, formidable, great big beautiful mare with the heart of a true champion!!!

P.S. Mike Smith, get a hold of yourself... you did nothing wrong! John Shirreffs, Anne and Jerry Moss, thank you for sharing her with us.

07 Nov 2010 2:30 PM

Horse of the year will go to Blame. In 2008 and 2009 this award has gone to the second best horse which is very sad and really shows that horse of the year is not about the best horse but is completely political. Blame can have horse of the year. Zenyatta will be voted into the Hall of Fame.

07 Nov 2010 2:34 PM

She's not going to know the difference if she wins or not. She's a horse. All she'll care about is some green acres to graze and romp in while us silly humans squawk over trophies...

07 Nov 2010 2:46 PM

Would it be blasphemy to even suggest that now that the Quest for Perfection is over that Zenyatta continue to race if she's still happy doing it? Now her connections don't have to worry about being undefeated anymore and could go after the boys AND some of the hotshot fillies that are out there now a bit more aggressively. It wouldn't take away from Queen Z's greatness... she'd probably beat them all anyway!

I dunno, just a thought....

07 Nov 2010 2:50 PM

Zenyatta is a great horse who accomplished great things. I do think Blame deserves HOTY just on the fact I base my opinion on the campaign of that year...not of the entire career. I also agree that Zenyatta deserves an Eclipse Award of Merit for what she did for the sport.

I do have to say one thing though about the Classic and the Breeders' Cup and championships. It was the Mosses themselves I beleive that said last year the Breeders' Cup is where championships should be decided. Take that how you will, but all the players were there, the race was one for the ages, and Blame came away the victor. He deserves HOTY. Who knows if we see Zenyatta race again, but if we do, I would implore her connections to make good on their promise of a year ago and showcase her to the country. You serve no purpose to the sport or the mare really running her in a cushy campaign in California all year long again. In my opinion, that might almost detract from her legacy if they did that.

07 Nov 2010 2:50 PM

Zenyatta is a once in a lifetime experience and I am so happy to have been able to witness what she has done even if it was never in person. ;Her race yesterday was incredible and to come as close as she did, showed just how amazing she is! She will be in the Hall of Fame I am sure. What a shame in my opinion if she has proven great enough for that honor, but not for a Horse of the Year award!

07 Nov 2010 2:52 PM


Why does it anger you that Mr. Hancock was asked a question, and he answered it like a proud owner? He spoke the truth and was extremely gracious about it.

Shirreffs also commented about the award and said she still deserves it. Does that bother you equally because it should based on what you wrote about opening his mouth or however you stated it.

Mr. Hancock SHOULD BE PROUD of Blame. Wouldn't you be? And should he have refused to answer the question?

Sheesh...let the guy be happy his homebred took down a great horse in Zenyatta and after a solid year against the best, earned the title. Please be fair and let others have happiness too, not just team Zen.

07 Nov 2010 2:53 PM

Of course it matters, Tom. Very much. Just ask Seth Hancock. And if you really wanted to write a blog to celebrate Zenyatta, you wouldn't have brought up the HOTY award. That is just rubbing salt in still-raw wounds that now may never heal.

07 Nov 2010 2:56 PM

Blame will be Horse of the Year. Zenyatta will end up being the horse of the century. I have to agree with those who said that her connections are the ones who ultimately undermined her position as Horse of the Year. But in the long run, it won't matter. Does anyone remember Horse of the Year of 1974 off the top of their heads? How about 1993? Or even 1999?

The point is that Zenyatta has transcended a yearly award. She's bigger than all of that, and while I wish she could have won yesterday, I'm glad the curtain came down with a hell of a flourish.

07 Nov 2010 3:07 PM

I think Zenyatta should win Horse of the Year. If winning the Classic is the criteria, why did she not win last year? No horse has caught the eye of the public in the way that she has since Secretariat. She has put fire back into the blood of the sport.

She ran on a track she was not familiar with, Blame raced there often, she raced on a surface she was not familiar with, she ran at night under the lights for the first time, and she lost by a nose. One more stride and she would have nailed it. Come on! Zenyatta is perfection!

07 Nov 2010 3:29 PM

Zenyatta should absolutely be Horse Of The Year. She has done more for the sport than any other horse since Secretariat. People who never paid any attention to racing now do. In a sport that has in the past been riddled with scandal, she has been an uplifting and positive image, like no other horse.

Zenyatta has been a stellar ambassador for horseracing. She deserves all the accolades the sport has to offer.

Zenyatta totally deserves Horse of the Year, and perhaps Horse of the Decade.

07 Nov 2010 3:32 PM

I must add a special thank you to Mike Smith for his part in Zenyatta's story. You did nothing wrong. You truly love her and were heartbroken by this upset but you two ran a great race. You have nothing to apologize for. The two of you will go down in history with the great ones.

07 Nov 2010 3:33 PM

Zenyatta was awesome. I've never seen a horse move that fast. It's too bad she had to be so sluggish at first. I guess it took her a while to get a feel for the track. Even though she missed by a nose, she's still a winner. And she sure put away QR and LAL, the two horses most handicappers were picking to win. Blame was great too. He and Zenyatta are by far the best horses out there. It's too bad they couldn't have a rematch before they retire.

07 Nov 2010 3:34 PM

Sounds like a lot of political jargon to me, Tom. The same argument didn't stand with Z last year or the previous year. Cigar won HOTY w/o a BC, John Henry won HOTY w/o a BC, Azeri won HOTY w/o a BC. Z ran 6 G1s, lost 1. Blame ran 4 G1s lost 1. If I am not mistaken the number of G1s had been a factor in determining Rachel's win last year. I had no problem with Rachel winning last year; sadly she wasn't the HOTY material voters thought she was in her 1-hit wonder efforts of this year. How sad if Blame were to come back next year like Rachel did? Your article is polite, Tom, giving Z credit for not losing in a loss, but your argument for HOTY is weak.

May Blame get great stud fees for Claiborne farms. Isn't that what horseracing is really about and why fans have left this sport by the droves?

07 Nov 2010 3:47 PM

From the writer to Zen4Zen: Get over it. Enjoy the mare for who she is and what she accomplished.

07 Nov 2010 3:55 PM
Driftin' Sage

It isHORSE OF THE YEAR, not 'horse of the race.' Zenyatta IS the horse of the year.

07 Nov 2010 3:56 PM

Zenyatta should be Horse of the Year. First off Stall must be worried he would not get it to start this talk so early. Zenyatta is the queen of racing, what she has done for the sport is incredible. Also she won the Classic last year and the award was given to Rachel who did not compete in the Classic, so why does Blame deserve it? He is a nice horse and has won a few nice grade one races but has lost key races. He is not a Triple Crown champion either, just a nice horse who has won a few good races. Zenyatta has given a record of grade one victories of multiple surfaces with high quality contenders. She has made history. Let's finally give Zenyatta the award she deserves. Her connections deserve a ton of credit for racing her again this year. She is a beautiful horse who has changed racing - let's recognize and reward her accomplishments, not look for excuses to deny her and racing the opportunity it deserves. Thank you so much Zenyatta, John Sherriffs and the Mosses.

07 Nov 2010 3:57 PM

I was there yesterday and even thought blame would win. then i saw that big mare come flying down that long stretch at chirchill downs. just steam rolling it took my breath away. i have more respect for her in defeat than in victory. just a great effort i will remember for decades to come. my hat is off to you big mare. thank you for a great memory never to forget. just awesome

07 Nov 2010 4:02 PM

To Sherpa from the writer: I brought it up because:

1. It would have come up anyway.

2. I believe it.

3. These responses again show how people miss the point and what is really important about racing.


07 Nov 2010 4:03 PM
Bet Twice

For all the reasons I think Zenyatta should have won HOTY last year, I think Blame should get it this year. The point of a championship race is to decide it on the track (as personally hard as that is for me to say.)

I think horse racing is shooting itself in the foot by continually changing the rules about what constitutes a great year and maybe more significantly, what constitutes a great race horse. Zenyatta is a great race horse - Blame, Looking at Lucky, Quality Road are not. They haven't done enough to merit being called great.

The Mosses should be celebrated for bringing her back at 6, for bringing thousands of new people to the sport and for having her show up on the biggest day. They won't, because she raced in California and because she didn't race enough in open company

Its a fair criticism, but maybe the industry should also value stars who stick around rather than horses who are campaigned into the ground and retired before the general public has ever heard of them.

07 Nov 2010 4:07 PM

From the writer to Sushyne: I think you just made my point about why HOTY means nothing in this case. Who cares what I think, even if I did vote? Enjoy the damn mare for heaven's sake and get over it.

07 Nov 2010 4:08 PM
Barbara W

Yesterday was a tough day for many of us. First, Rough Sailing went down, and despite our hopes of nothing seriously wrong, he had to be put down. RIP beautiful, beautiful one.

My heart goes out to Mike Smith for his broken heart. Hindsight is always a teacher, but no one could have done a better job or loved her more. My hat is off to all Zenyatta's connections for giving us the horse of a lifetime. Goldikova is remarkable, but no horse connects with the public like Z does. In 30 years, which horse will we remember? Blame or Zenyatta?

I do hope her connections let her have a little time before shuffling her off so that her public can see her and say goodbye. I will miss her as if she had been my own. What a horse to have missed HOTY three years in a row!

Just one question on another topic: why would tying up keep Life at Ten from being sold? Does anyone know? I thought they said she was fine afterward.

Thanks for letting us let off some steam.

07 Nov 2010 4:09 PM

Blame HOTY No Way , Run Blame and Queen Z in a Match Race and Z Wins ALL 10 ! As for Seth Hancock's plug for Blame he only cares about the Stud MONEY He'll see next year .

Blames a real Good horse , The QUEEN is a GREAT HORSE ! The QUEEN  Will go down as the Greatest Female Horse in History ,

Blame will be a foot note as the only horse to EVER Beat her  !  No Contest Queen Z for HOTY


07 Nov 2010 4:10 PM

Amen Sushyne!!!! You nailed it.

07 Nov 2010 4:13 PM

HOTY has become an absolute joke. So if Z doesn't win it, I won't be shocked OR disappointed. She IS truly Horse of the Decade.

tlamarra- zen4zen hit the nail on the head- you can't handle the truth.

07 Nov 2010 4:14 PM

Tom - Thank you for editing my comment. I did get carried away a bit, didn't I? :)

07 Nov 2010 4:14 PM

Thanks Tom. The HOTY award doesn't really mean that much. It is like the Heisman. A Blame/Zenyatta mating wont happen but it is amazing when you study their bloodlines. Arch, the sire of Blame, is by Kris S. Zenyatta's broodmare sire is Kris S. Zenyatta's sire line goes back to Mr Prospector and Blames dams' line does as well. Also Uncle Mo's broodmare sire is Arch. Who stands Arch and now Blame? Claiborne Farm, the final home of Secretariat. Seth made up for his comments later. Breed for distance and durabiliy as in Rock Hard Ten (by Kris S) and Arch with a little speed thrown in as in a Storm Cat son.

07 Nov 2010 4:18 PM

This is why I think awards should be determined by points, not by subjective voting. Awarding points for graded stakes victories, with grade 1s getting the most all the way down to restricted stakes recieving the least amount of points, at the end of the year, the horse, jockey, owner and trainer with the most points wins the award. Simple.

If there is a tie in points, the tie-breakers would be number of grade 1 wins, grade 2 wins, etc., on down until the tie was broken.

07 Nov 2010 4:19 PM

Bob Baffert just issued a statement that said Zenyatta was the best and most impressive horse in the Classic last night and deserves the HOTY.

07 Nov 2010 4:30 PM

When I think of all time great sports team partnerships, I will also think of Zenyatta and Mike Smith in that paring. I think that he did a tremendous amount of good work with the horse and truly admires and loves her. I like what Tom the writer of this article says. Sometimes true greatness can be exposed in defeat. I think it makes you appreciate the acomplishments all that much more. For all of us who truly love and honor horses, we discover they each have their own story - their moment to live and just be in the moment. Zenyatta's story is very meaningful. So is Blame's and many many others. I suppose because she is so beloved and the event so fresh in our minds, it has steered up a lot of passions about the subject of Horse of the Year. It will pass in time and we will just recall that we all lived to see the great Zenyatta do what she does best - run with the heart of brilliant champion. Independent and graceful in winning and in defeat. We should all be a little more like her.

07 Nov 2010 4:34 PM
Bet Twice

Tom likes brevity, but I'm going to include it again. It's worth remembering that Ruffian never won HOTY and it hasn't tarnished her legacy.I think Zenyatta's performance yesterday assures her place in history - HOTY or no HOTY.

07 Nov 2010 4:35 PM

From the writer: OK, time to call the audible. ... This blog was written to celebrate a mare who, in my opinion, is one of the best racehorses I've ever seen for reasons stated previously. I appreciate those of you who get it and commented accordingly, and I will continue to post future comments directed to the point of the blog. This is not about HOTY--one could argue, in fact, the mare transcends such a vote, which is decided by several hundred voters in an industry with hundreds of thousands of fans--so let it go. Comments solely related to HOTY will not be published. This blog was heart-felt--I truly haven't seen a horse like her--and the reference to who I would vote for for HOTY was designed to make a point: That in this particular case it doesn't matter. If you're hung up on awards, don't bother submitting a comment. It actually does the mare a great disservice.

07 Nov 2010 4:39 PM

I have a question that I'm hoping someone here can answer. I was at the race and mesmorized by Zenyatta from the moment she appeared with her police escort for the walkover. Actually, that's not true as I've spent most of the last week reading the press, watching videos, etc. I had not had the privilege to see her race in person before (and went to the BC this year because I thought I had to see her in person before she was done). ;To me she seemed even more keyed up on the walkover, post parade, etc., than she does in the videos. Seemed to me that Mike was sitting on a bomb. I was then surprised that she wasn't warmed up at all. One of the posts above suggested that this is her normal pattern, but I would appreciate if someone could address this.

As for the debate above, I was an enormous Rachel Alexandra fan last year and think her campaign was one for the ages, but look what the outcome was (and I do applaud her connections both for the campaign and for bringing her back this year). Such a shame that RA and Z never met, but no one's fault.

I was not in the Zenyatta camp and I didn't see last year's Classic until I returned from a trip to India a week or so after the race. However, something about that race captured my imagination and has continued to do so over the many repeat viewings (even prior to this week).The commentary about how many children became racing fans on that day was exactly on point.

I am a horse person (I compete show hunters) and a lifelong racing fan. I tear up every time I see Secretariat's Belmont. A huge thrill was attending the 1993 Belmont where Secretariat's family was very present and they showed his races between that day's card.

Zenyatta's Classic last year (and I suspect this year's once I've watched it a few more times) is in that same category of life-long memories that never fail to bring on the emotion.

I think we all owe a huge debt of gratitute to Zenyatta and her connections. They are classy people and she is amazing. I love the mare and her intelligence and her connection with people coupled with her competitive fire is truly a gift. I love the bit about her putting her head on Ann Moss's shoulder at Keeneland. She is the embodiment of what is special about animals in general and horses in particular.

07 Nov 2010 4:41 PM
Zen's Auntie

Zenyatta ran a race like freaking Disney Pixar couldn't dream up - cheese and rice peeps the zebra in stripes had a better trip, the Black Stallion didn't spot the competition as many lengths.

That kind of come from behind rally through traffic to come within 6 inches is the stuff Hollywood puts in the can. And we all got to see it LIVE.

I love Blame (his pedigree is quite similar to Z's and the up and coming juvenile star Uncle Mo's as well) and he is a fine colt. I wish they would run him more but I certainly understand the desire to retire and breed him. Who can argue with that; his book will undoubtedly be full.

Blame did it - he held her off by inches props to him, and his connections.

Saratoga AJ you demonstrate well how even in narrow defeat Zenyatta has proven herself leaving no doubt and can now be touted as one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

No excuses, no Poly (as if Stacy... your offhand remark sounds so silly) she left nothing to be questioned.

No matter what Zenyatta's future plans and whether she gets HOTY or not she has done more for racing than any horse in recent memory.

It has been my privilege to watch her. She is truely remarkable.

07 Nov 2010 4:43 PM

I think Mike Smith feels so bad because he genuinely loves this horse. I'm sure he wished he had her a little closer to the pace (even just a length) and she would have one since she lost by 1/4 length or less.

I also wish the Moss's would let her compete another year. She could be a great ambassador for the sport. There could be Zenyatta Days at various racetracks where she would run or perhaps just visit. People could pay to have their picture taken with her. All proceeds could go to help other thoroughbreds who haven't had so successful of a career maybe through Rerun or Thoroughbred Charities. Perhaps there could be a couple of drawings where people who won could spend a day with Zenyatta. She seems to like people and the attention. Even if she never won another race she is so special that I think many people would get interested in the sport just to see her.

07 Nov 2010 4:55 PM
al bundy

this is a game for gamblers not fans.

gamblers bet with their brains and fans bet with their heart.

fans make statements like how could blame be hoty if he did not win any triple crown races.

gamblers know crown is for 3 year olds.

fans say what did blame do this year.

gamblers know about the history of the foster and whitney vs. open company.

haynesfield caught all jockeys sleeping in the gold cup. zenyatta never would have been close to him either.

and one last thing if the fans are right then where is peppers pride's horse of the year award.

the gamblers know where it is.

07 Nov 2010 4:58 PM
Diane P

It was a great race ! While I wanted to see Z repeat, I did not feel cheated or even sad, she was a bullet coming down the stretch but Blame was just able to hold her off. My own feeling is that ,as much as for her record, the interest Z has generated in horse racing ( and a POSITIVE interest) should get her the HOTY, but as a previous poster stated...Z won't know the difference if she does not get the award. Pour her another Guiness and tell her thank you.

07 Nov 2010 4:58 PM

This is a message for Mike Smith if he reads Tom's blog: You and Zenyatta are still the greatest! Look at who she ran down in the race: Quality Road, Lookin At Lucky, Gio Ponti (again!), Paddy O'Prado, Haynesfield, Musket Man, Espoir City, Fly Down, First Dude, Etched - all the boys the naysayers said she couldn't stand up against - LOL! Another fraction of a second she would have passed Blame! The race takes nothing away from her or you Mike - it only showed how truly great she is. The racing community has said this is the toughest field assembled for the classic and a long, long time.

I think she is and will always be great, her name and record will stand the test of time as long as racing exists. ;Blame is a very good horse, but he will become a footnote to the Breeders' Cup Classic statistical history.  

She on the other hand, is the Great Queen Zenyatta and you are her great jockey!

Peace be with you!


07 Nov 2010 5:01 PM

For myself, Zenyatta's perfection is illustrated in the love that people have for her. Has any horse in our lifetime captivated us both on and off the track? Horse of the Year? That is an award that is simply insufficient when one compares it to the scale of this remarkable horse. I am certain that I am not alone in how my love for this horse grown. Despite a narrow margin of defeat. Her perfection will be measured by the enormity of her grace and talent, and not merely by her race record. To complete a career where only one horse finished in front of you is simply remarkable. Zenyatta, I will never forget you, nor will I forget the wonderful memories that you provided these last three years. They are memories that I will always cherish, and you will forever hold a place within my heart and memory.

07 Nov 2010 5:03 PM
Paula Higgins

OK Mr. LaMarra, time to call the audible...... from one of the public. I think your last post is truly unprofessional. YOU made the comment about HOTY. If you don't want comments of that nature, don't open the door and not expect comments submitted. That is as dishonest as it gets and completely disningenuous. Since you chose not to post my comment I won't bother posting on any of your blogs. Essentially this is a temper tantrum from a writer I expected better from. By the way, no one loves this mare more than I do, with the exception of her connections, certainly not you, who gratuitously throws in a line about how you think Blame should be HOTY (ostensibly to make a point, but I am not sure what that was however and my reading comprehension is quite good). The award IS important to her connections and they love her more than you or I ever could.

07 Nov 2010 5:05 PM

Zenyatta made up an incredible amount of ground...just phenominal...amazing...what a wonderful mare.

07 Nov 2010 5:05 PM

Zenyatta was awesome yesterday. Give Blame HOTY. I think Z needs to be honored for what she has done for racing. Create a new Eclipse---Horse of the Decade. Give it to Zenyatta. Honor her and all of her connections for the beautiful way they handled this mare. It would be an absolute shame if this mare did not get recognition at the Eclipse awards.

07 Nov 2010 5:07 PM

Pandora may have been successful in closing the box (actually a jar) but did she get what she released back into the darn thing? Good luck with that Tom... Shades of the blog where things got off on the wrong foot about Brass Hat.

No matter how well you state your point, there are some buttons that are better left covered up. Good article, by the way! I understood your perfectly made point.

07 Nov 2010 5:11 PM
Mike Relva



07 Nov 2010 5:13 PM
joe p.

Zenyatta proved in the Classic, on dirt, how great she really is. She not only handled the dirt, but demolished Quality Road, Haynesfield, Lookin @ Lucky, just to name a few. Hats off to Blame for running a great race after getting his but kicked by Haynesfield in the last one. Forget horse of the year, Zenyatta IS horse of the Century!

07 Nov 2010 5:14 PM

Who cares about an overrated, overhyped award?? As long as it is awarded after voting and not an objective points system I couldn't care less who gets it.

And Seth Hancock's comments straight after the race only made it clear that HOTY is not about achievements only. It's also and always about money and personal agendas.

I have said it before, you can keep the award; I'll take a horse that retires happy and healthy after a great, injury-free career in a sport too often marred by disastrous injuries. And lets face it, that's what turns a lot of people off to our sport.

Zenyatta has a been one of the greatest things ever to happen to a struggling sport which should embrace its stars who attract new fans.

Zenyatta has earned her place in history, in defeat yesterday she proved more than any other horse in the field.

I will never see another like her and I will also never forget her.

I wish her a happy retirement and a trouble-free breeding career. Here's to your offspring mowing the opposition down in the near future and thank you for the thrills!

07 Nov 2010 5:17 PM

From the writer: As a follow-up to my earlier comments, here's some background. Before I dropped out of the National Turf Writers Association, I voted for Smarty Jones for HOTY for 2004. I believe he had earned it, and went a bit further--I thought he had captured the imagination of people and had gotten them interested in racing. Smarty Jones lost HOTY to Ghostzapper; I don't criticize people who voted for Ghostzapper even though he ran only 4 times, but he won all 4 races, including the BC Classic, and earned it. But ask yourself the question: Who do you remember, Smarty Jones or Ghostzapper? ... Racing again dropped the ball with Smarty Jones, especially Pennsylvania, which did nothing to capitalize on the attention despite hundreds of millions of dollars in slots money for racing. My point? Don't worry about HOTY. If you believe Zenyatta has opened the door for new fans, take the initiative yourselves, because in my experience the industry won't. Make your case, contact organizations, whatever. Just keep the focus. ... and to continue a theme from a post by al bundy, yes, this is a gambling game. Rather than wasting your time obsessing about HOTY, go to your local track and put some money through windows--if you have it. Racing needs it.

07 Nov 2010 5:20 PM

CAM, the horse of the year in 1974 was Forego, I believe it was Kotashaan in 1993, and in 1999 it was Charismatic. So at least someone can tell you off the top of her head. Yes, I know that wasn't the point. Personally, I believe Zenyatta should be horse of the year this year for the exact same reason I thought she shouldn't be HOTY the last two years: one race does not make one HOTY. If QR or LAL had won that race, then I would say HOTY should go to them. But since I think Zenyatta's campaign is actually comparable to Blame's, she should win HOTY. I'm upset that my QR didn't run his race, and seeing people make fun of him just makes me feel worse, so I'll probably just comment sporadically until that fades away.

07 Nov 2010 5:21 PM

Zookeeper, (re: 07Nov2010, 2:30pm)

As always, your thoughtful and wonderful words are appreciated! It was painful to watch the outcome. My heart goes out to Mike Smith, I hope his faith will see him through the disappointment he feels. Both he and Zenyatta have not lost anything. They ran a great race, as stated before - look at the field she beat! II'm finding solace in that fact. Mike and Zenyatta, the Mosses, John Sherriffs and his entire team will always be remembered as the greatest team in racing, because it was based on love. They deserve the kudos and congratulations for bring this finest, most beautiful horse into our lives and memories forever.

07 Nov 2010 5:22 PM

When the Blood Horse does their Greatest TBs of the 21st century, there will be 2 mares, not 2 colts, that will top the list...Zenyatta and Goldikova. Those two beautiful athletes did something that will be VERY hard to repeat in modern history. Both have owners that are true horsemen, and trainers that have made these two horses for the ages. HOTY? That isnt good enough!

07 Nov 2010 5:23 PM

I was at the track yesterday to see my first Breeders Cup in person. I wasn't there because of Zenyatta, but it was amazing to get to be a part of history. Although 99.99% of the time I would agree with the logic that Blame should get HOTY, I have to disagree this time. Yes, it is an award that should be decided on the track. But this year is different, this year we had a horse who FINALLY went past the track and brought new fans to our sport. She deserves it.

07 Nov 2010 5:26 PM

Before everyone gets carried away with giving Zen HOTY title let's remember she never hooked the boys till BC day and Blame has won 3 Grade Is.

Hey don't get me wrong, I think she's an amazing mare. She spotted them 5 out of the gate and got beat a neck. She will go down as one of the great race mares of all time. Horse of the year is not decided on one race as much as all of us would like to think it is. Give the winner his due, she came to him and he dug down and held her off.

07 Nov 2010 5:29 PM

Z fired - it was a thrilling race and she was as magnificent in defeat as in victory. Thanks to her connections for taking such good care of her and sharing her with us all.

07 Nov 2010 5:31 PM

Yesterday as I watched the endding of the Classic I was so upset and crying. Then this calm came over me and I said what am I crying for and then I lifted up my eyes to the sky and said thank you Lord for this great horse you have allowed us to have all these years and for letting them all stay safe no breakdowns.I am happy now; we will probably never see another one like her. I know I won't in my lifetime. I give my thanks to all the connections to all the horses for keeping them in shape and sharing all with us. Zenyatta will not be forgotten; if anything she will be loved more as she goes to her next career if they can find a worthy sire for a Queen.

07 Nov 2010 5:34 PM

The only one doing a disservice is the author. His bias is annoying at best.

07 Nov 2010 5:37 PM

From the writer: Look, this isn't about me or you. If you want to pick fights on the Internet, go elsewhere. If you want to speak to me directly, my work phone is 859-276-6795. I will be happy to explain the point of this blog to you during regular work hours.

07 Nov 2010 5:40 PM

Blame will probably get horse of the year, and in doing so be the weakest Handicap horse to receive such an hour.

Give him the trophy who cares. He will be forgotten within a year. It's like the Nobel Prize. It means nothing.

Zenyatta is horse of the the last 30 years. She doesn't need any trophy to prove what we had the pleasure of watching over the last 3 years.

07 Nov 2010 5:41 PM

Claiborne Farms--an American institution--100 years--what an accomplishment! Perhaps Seth isn't a good public speaker--but don't BLAME him for that.

In my case, Barbaro did more for horse racing since my love affair with Secretariat, and then along came Z and RA. Barbaro was a warrior in many different, difficult ways and sadly, nearly already forgotten. Barbaro who?








Two things rang very true to me after reading these blogs. The first one is, yes, retiring Blame to stud is one of the things that has driven a lot of fans from horse racing--not being able to see our idols over and over again--my father an avid fan, that drove him from the sport which was a shocker.However, Barbaro brought him back before and after his illnesses, because they had dying in common.

Secondly, the Mosses coddled Z in her races all year and I, too, didn't even realize she was in G1 races because she had no competition and frankly I didn't watch her race this year because it was BORING. So then, the Mosses put Z in a race with competition and she didn't win. Didn't surprise me. Gomez still had more horse at the finish line and Z was finished. Perhaps the Mosses weren't going for the $, but definitely for the prestige and they will get their $ from foals. They aren't any better than Seth or Jess or any of the others that came before them and will come after them. that's horse racing, folks!

Lastly, thank you RobinM for stating how HOTY is configured.

Final word from me--GOLDIKOVA should be HOTY.

07 Nov 2010 5:42 PM
joe c.

Zenyatta put racing and the BC in newspapers in the deep south, pushing aside stock cars and football. Zenyatta led the morning news shows. She WAS the BC and she WAS the racing year. Does HOY really matter against her impact?

07 Nov 2010 6:07 PM

Z is the greatest athlete ever. Not once in her career did she:

*complain about the food and refer to it as crap!

*hold out for a better contract!

*not feel like practicing!

*fail to show up and give everything she had on game day!

*make excuses when things didn't go her way and lost a gut wrencher!

07 Nov 2010 6:11 PM

NancyP - Thank you for the kind words. Your comment was great. As fans of Zenyatta we sure can go on and on, can't we?


Some have only recently jumped on the bandwagon. It's a little late but...hey better late than never!

As a horse-lover, I resent the unkind comments made about the other horses in the race. (God knows it's been done enough to Zen!) Especially Quality Road, who is a much better horse than what his performance indicated yesterday. This is what happens when a true great horse shows up in a race, the competition always looks pretty lame in comparison. All may not shine on any given day, but they all deserve our respect.

07 Nov 2010 6:15 PM
Jason Shandler

The Zealots need to leave Tom alone. He wrote a nice article about the mare and many of you are stuck on the HOTY award.

Let me save you the frustration, she shouldn't and won't win the award. But this blog is not about that. I will explain to you people why she doesn't deserve it tomorrow. For now, let Tom get some peace and quiet. He worked hard this week.

07 Nov 2010 6:19 PM
Hickory Wind

Great! JShandler-One of Zenyatta's biggest doubter gets to explain why she doesn't deserve HOTY once again.

Stay tuned, his spin should be as formidable as Draynay's.

07 Nov 2010 6:38 PM

Notrealquiet...clearly you watched a different race than the one Zen was racing in. Blame was beaten with one more stride. was obvious to the entire rest of the world except you. Furthermore Jshandler and keep throwing out your digs and then wonder why you get attacked by the bloggers. You just did it again. No one needs your explanation as to why Zen won't get HOYT unless you plan on being brutally honest and calling it what it is..Bias an horse cr@P....

When we consider what it means to be Horse of the Year, here are a few more thoughts about our leading contenders' campaigns.

In 2010, Blame won three Grade 1s at two different tracks: one at Saratoga and two at Churchill Downs (his home bas...e). Zenyatta won five Grade 1s at four different tracks: two at Hollywood Park (her home base) and one each at Santa Anita, Oaklawn Park, and Del Mar. She traveled farther than Blame did, raced more times, and in the Breeders' Cup trounced the horse who beat Blame by 4 lengths in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (of course Blame resoundingly turned the tables on him, too).

In the handicap ranks, Zenyatta, with 129 pounds up, became the first horse to win the Vanity Handicap three times. In her season opener, she carried 127 to victory in the Santa Margarita, spotting her opponents 12 to 19 pounds.

Blame began his season by winning a Grade 3 stakes, then was co-highweight at 120 when winning the Stephen Foster. He carried 121 pounds to Quality Road's 126 when he won the Whitney Handicap.

Despite his narrow Classic victory, was Blame the best American horse in training this year? And do his 2010 accomplishments actually outweigh Zenyatta's? Please...give me a break.

07 Nov 2010 6:40 PM

I have more respect today for Zenyatta than I ever have. I think she ran an incredible race and should go down as the best female race horse of all time!

But to Zenyatta's fans: I have no respect at all. Wow! Talk about spoiled milk. Pick up your toys and go home!!!!!!!!

07 Nov 2010 6:46 PM

From the writer to Karen2: Your comment has been posted again, but please take note. I have been news editor here for more than 12 years and have a developed a reputation for being objective. You should spend more time reading about the issues I cover rather than worrying about this stuff, which, ultimately, means nothing to the longterm health of the horse industry. Educate yourself. Racing needs educated fans, not people who call others biased without revealing their identities. Enough said. You want to attack, go elsewhere.

07 Nov 2010 7:09 PM
Bob Bright

Mr.tlamarra, Obviously this HOTY question does matter, according to your bloggers. The best racehorse of 2010 should win the award. Zenyatta demonstrated in defeat she was the best. Her loss by inches validated her 19 wins. The problem is most of the voters picked Quality Road to win the BCC, and they don't have a clue. There is a huge disconnect between the fans and the turfdom elite voters who calculate greatness with a slide rule, calculator and Beyer Speed rating. Throw in a little East Coast basis. Didn't you pick Quality Road?

07 Nov 2010 7:15 PM
Bill Daly

What a great race! Zenyatta has truly proven - as if it were necessary - how great she is. Winning 19 of 20 if not too shabby. There was another horse I remember who only lost one race by a very narrow diminishing margin back in 1953: Native Dancer. Not bad company.

07 Nov 2010 7:22 PM

Wonderful column. As a die-hard closer, Zenyatta's should never have been able to compile such an amazing record.  t is a testament to her matchless strength, ability and heart. What she did Saturday only shows how gallant she is.

I have ridden and shown horses for years and I was scared to death at the sheer insanity that surrounded the was obvious that all the over-the-top screaming and cheering had put her on edge. Zenyatta's "dancing" after all is really an expression of nervous energy. The fact that her groom, trainer, and most of all, Mike Smith, were able to help her hold it together was a miracle. It is just frustrating that the miracle came up a nose short.

As for HOTY...I would love to see Zenyatta get it but it requires only one North American start so...let's be really fair and give it to that other amazing mare, Goldikova!

07 Nov 2010 7:23 PM

Thank you to Tom and I am waiting for your blog, Jason. If it werent for you guys there wouldnt be a place to vent. On the news tonight they mentioned Z returning to her barn at Hollywood Park and even dared to mention the possibility that she may run again. What do you think of this?

07 Nov 2010 7:27 PM

Zenyatta made me happy, she made me laugh, she won me money, she dances, she is gorgeous and she loves the crowd and races like the wind. Horse of the year....of course, my horse... she is the one that brought the crowds out at the racetrack... she changed racing... and if people continue the way they are with the snootiness, the handle in racing is going to go down.... it already is, so trainers and owners watch out....this is a new generation and we want to know our athletes and love then and be close to them. Jerry and Ann Moss, John Sheriffs, Mike Smith all are to be comended on what they have done and how awesome they have been to the crowds. Zenyatta is the Queen.

07 Nov 2010 7:27 PM
Saratoga AJ


I could not have said it better.

The majority of the left coast loony fans were always way over the top. They will never understand that it's almost impossible to go undefeated when you go against the best horses in the country consistently all over the country at different tracks.

And like you, I respect Zenyatta even more after her BC defeat.

Nevertheless, she is one of the greats of all time. I have seen all the greatest in the last 50 years...since I was 12 yrs. old and got into the "Sport Of Kings."

And I will say this...she's is the most consistent deep closer I have ever seen. And certainly one of the best horses of all time.

07 Nov 2010 7:29 PM

I have to admit that my respect for Zenyatta rose because of her gallant try on Saturday.

However, re: HOTY, in my opinion the Moss's are now reaping the result of their tentative campaign for their great mare this year. They ran her at the same tracks against the same horses that she beat last year -- maybe in an attempt to protect her unbeaten record? Who knows?

But if they had tried her once or twice outside of THEIR comfort zone -- against males or against other than the California fillies or more than once outside of her own racetracks in California, and if she had shown -- which she probably would have -- the guts she showed Saturday, even with a loss or two, I could have considered her for HOTY.

They didn't want to do this, for whatever reason.

So, she's not 2010 HOTY. You don't give it because she had a great career. You give it for a great season. Her's, in total, was not.

Also, it really bugs me how Goldikova was not given her due respect on the telecast. Sure, they said she was wonderful but it was all-Zenyatta, all-the-time.

PLEASE NOTE: I am NOT dissing Zenyatta and I KNOW that she broke through into the regular media for our sport but still, I would have presumed that those of us supposedly in the know would give the French mare a little more respect!

And speaking of exposure in the regular media: could someone PLEASE explain ESPN's cut to a gawdawful college football game in overtime when the 2YO race was supposed to go? Would they have done this to the Super Bowl or some goofy (sorry, fans) NASCAR race?

07 Nov 2010 7:41 PM

I've been to a whole lot of Breeders Cups, including the last three. After last year, I screamed that Zenyatta should be Horse of the DECADE.  I still think that way based on her body of work and, more importantly, what she has done for racing.  But HOTY?  I'd have to go with Goldikova.  All it takes in one race in North America.  She beat a solid field of horses handily and she beat the best the world could offer all year long.  Yesteray she beat the boys like a drum and made it look like just another day at the office.  

07 Nov 2010 7:44 PM

(Sorry BloodHorse Guys: I just saw there were so many posts and figured I'd get my 2 cents in but I should have read Jason's 6:19 pm post -- Maybe you can transfer my comments to Jason's blog tomorrow?

BTW Tom: I REALLY, REALLY get working hard and being exhausted doing good work and then getting slagged!  Kick back - have a brandy / cognac / adult beverage of your choice and let it slide.

07 Nov 2010 8:06 PM
TB Dreamer

I've found that reading these posts, with the support and love shown for Zenyatta, has been very healing. I grieved right along with Mike Smith yesterday -- for the fairy ale that wasn't to be. But Zenyatta is an example of what can happen when a horse is allowed to grow and develop to her full potential. How many more horses would be superstars if not raced hard at two and three, and then sent to stud?

I have nothing but admiration for the incredible job Zen's connections have done with her. I wish her HOTY only because it seems so important to the Mosses.

And, I secretly hope she goes on racing :)

07 Nov 2010 8:13 PM
Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

After the dust settled Saturday night at Churchill, emotions were still running very high. As we waited for our car, I heard several interesting comments regarding HOTY. One struck a nerve and it is why I feel compelled to write on this blog. This will be my one & only entry. I will reserve my final opinion for when it counts. Zenyatta's critics have been quick to point out that she was poly specialist and would not be able to close on the Churchill dirt. They belittled her for racing against less than par competition She was faulted for never venturing far from her home base of California. The connections of the 2010 Classic winner stated that HOTY was decided at the Churchill wire Saturday. Since I make my living by being objective & stating the facts, I will now. Zenyatta traveled twice from her home base of Calfornia-both races on the dirt. Blame raced in his home base of Kentucky and traveled to New York for the others. If you look at the distances traveled in 2010, I believe Zenyatta has a definite edge by going to Oaklawn and Churchill from California.

Addressing the issue of not being able to close on dirt, Blame won the race by a headbob-no more. He had a perfect trip over his home track and only won again by a headbob. Although she is a closer and has done so all her career, Zenyatta ran Blame down on his track & a surface that all the "experts" said she couldn't. Although she lost that headbob, look who she left in her wake-a who's who of Grade 1 winners.

Both horses will end this year with one loss. Zenyatta's was by a headbob after she mowed down the eventual winner's lead in a gut wrenching sustained drive no other horse could have done. Blame's four length loss to Haynesfield-a horse that hasn't won since & didn't perform up to expectations on Saturday.

Blame had a exceptional year in 2010. I am disappointed he was retired & thoroughbred racing lost another champion to the stallion barn. For three years, Zenyatta & her connections brought fans & class back to our sport. In 2010, she did what no thoroughbred had ever done & her fans adored for it. On Saturday, I watched a six year old mare (the oldest horse in the race) almost do the impossible. Somehow I think it will be a long time before we see another champion like her, if ever.

Maybe, it is time we listened to our fans. After all it wasn't those Zenyatta critics that brought those fans back, it was Zenyatta, the Mosses, John Shirref's, Mike Smith & all that are Team Zenyatta.

07 Nov 2010 8:19 PM

Remember the last scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"? That was Zenyatta in the Classic. I will never see her equal, nor do I want to.

07 Nov 2010 8:22 PM

Well said. I did not feel she lost. We can analyze the race forever with the coulda shoulda wouldas. She was moving like a rocket, overtaking many graded winners and she had Blame in her sight. She should be HOTY for many reasons. She won the Breeder's Cup last year and she was not named the HOTY. She lost it this year but won the hearts of many fans and non-fans alike. This is what makes racing and the sport memorable. She is not only HOTY but Horse of a Lifetime. Thank you, Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful, Zenyatta!

07 Nov 2010 8:23 PM

It is not fair to lose horse of the year and probably the best horse ever by a photo finish. The filly is more than just the horse of the year.

07 Nov 2010 8:24 PM

I saw someone post a comment that Blame wouldn't be remembered. He will always be remembered as the horse who beat Zenyatta, as well as a deserving champion. Now, first off I love Zenyatta, I don't worship her like many of you seem to do, but I see her for the gifted and brilliant mare she is. We were lucky to have her. I won't speak much on HOTY but will say, that going into the classic, there were 4 contenders. Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, and Lookin at Lucky. Blame has now beaten QR 2 times, Lookin at Lucky, and Zenyatta. None of them have ever beaten him. He had a great campaign, Zenyatta's was soft. I hate to say that, but it's true. Before the classic, who did she race? Who did she beat, and in many cases she barely won. Also, remember guys, its Horse of the YEAR. Not horse of the last 2 years, or horse of the last 18 months. Only what has been done THIS year will be taken into account. If Zenyatta wins it, and I don't believe she will, that's fine by me. My vote goes to Blame for the reasons I listed above and others.

Also, I want to congratulate the connections of both horses for a great race and one that will be remembered for years to come. Best of luck to these 2 champions in their careers in the breeding shed.

I don't participate in many of these blogs because there are just too many people that are rude, unobjective, and who openly attack others who don't share their opinions. Different people have different opinions, but there is no reason to be uncivil in anyway. I am sure I will be attacked for voting Blame HOTY. No comment ever posted on a blog shows more truth in what I just said, than the writer who made the wise crack about Jason Shandler in this very blog. Jason has an extensive knowledge of this sport, is a great writer, and works hard to share his love and knowledge of this sport with everyone. Please keep that in mind.

In closing, I do want to say that I enjoy reading those of you who are open minded, willing to see more than one side, and fair about things. This sport has been part of my life for longer than many of you have been alive. Great article Tom!! Thanks for taking the time to read my humble opinions everyone and until next time, let them all come home safe.

07 Nov 2010 8:29 PM
My Juliet

   "...brilliance in loss under the toughest of circumstances is much more impressive." Very well said, Tom.

I think I gained more respect for Zenyatta coming in 2nd yesterday than in her past 19 wins. What that mare did was amazing, what a game race she ran. So far back coming into the first turn I thought it was too much ground to make up. First time under the lights. The dirt kickback the whole race (I read that Mike went thru 6 pairs of goggles). I almost couldn't believe her making up that ground, passing the top colts in racing. She almost did it, too.

A close 2nd, and in that race, in this year's Classic, on dirt, some experts called it one of the toughest fields ever. What a race.

07 Nov 2010 8:30 PM

Do us all a favor, please. Wait one more year before starting to vote in the Eclipse Awards again.  

07 Nov 2010 8:46 PM
Bet Twice

Al Bundy,

Cashing a ticket on Blame is for gamblers,

Secretariat's 31 lengths is for fans.

Knowing Smarty couldn't hold his speed in the Belmont is for gamblers,

Affirmed's legs nearly buckling after winning the Belmont in the greatest racing rivalry of all time is for fans.

Watching Quality Road fold yesterday was for gamblers,

Seeing Rags to Riches eyeball Curlin and beat him was for fans.

Blame going to the shed is for gamblers,

Zenyatta staying at 6 and giving her all down Churchill's stretch is for fans.

Esky wrapping it up before the Derby is for gamblers,

Brass Hat winning at Keeneland is for fans.

Wanna know why the BC broke attendance and handle records yesterday?


She's for fans.  

07 Nov 2010 8:57 PM

The big girl is a remarkable mare. She deserves as many awards as she can possibly get. She gave us another hero to revere, and was courageous in her 2nd place. She lost nothing....for she has all of our hearts.

07 Nov 2010 9:05 PM
Mike Relva


I believe that you respect Zenyatta.

07 Nov 2010 9:45 PM

Zenyatta didn't lose the classic, the ride she was given lost her the race. Why was she allowed to drop back that far? The best horse did not win that race. Zenyatta was running down Blame very easily. If she had received the ride she deserved, she would have won by daylight.

She should have received horse of the year last year. They will never give to her this year. But that's OK; 20 years from now if I asked someone on the street who Zenyatta is they will know. How many will remember Blame?

Congratulations to Goldikova!

07 Nov 2010 9:45 PM

Zenyatta is truly a wonderful horse.

She has made EVERYONE HAPPY, those that have recognized her for what she has been all along in all 20 races, and the detractors, who got what they wanted in her defeat and now know what everyone else knew all along (a horse for the ages, forget the subjective bias waste of time called HOTY).

Personally I think Blame is a good horse, but I'm not sure that beating up on a female who gave him a big head start and two 3yr. olds is much to brag about, especially since Zenyatta has been labeled inferior because of her previous competition. And who of consequence did Blame beat that wasn't in the Classic behind both horses? And who traveled farther to more racetracks and more Grade 1s (and yes despite what you say, the committee says they are grade 1s for good reason)? And who is dodging the competition? A certain horse who had won on plastic before that didn't show up for the classic last year or the dirt at OP. And a horse that stayed at his hometrack (CD) last year that also has won on plastic at KEE. Yes Zenyatta stayed on her circuit for a good part of the year, but she didn't dodge all the competition like they did her. By the way, who did Goldikova beat? Is Gio Ponti only something when Goldikova beat him, but not when he avoids Zenyatta because she already beat him?

We can argue 'til the cows come home. We just have different opinions and we are all right and all wrong.

In the mean time lets take a cue from Zenyatta and have a cool one and chill.

07 Nov 2010 10:09 PM

thanks "somethingroyal" and "Hickory Wind" for giving voice to how I'm thinking about the HOTY situation. And it's true - Zenyatta's legacy was cemented long before the horses were loaded in the starting gate yesterday.  

07 Nov 2010 10:14 PM
Karen Lamb

She is the greatest. She is big in body and spirit and heart. She connects with humans because of her intelligence and she feels and reacts to their admiration with dignity. Her owner and his lady,the trainor, and above all her jockey are like 3 fine knights who let her develop as she should, and Mike rode her well, always striving to have her win but never with the thought that winning was more important than her safety was.

I know nothing about training horses but it seems Shirreffs did everything right. None of the 3 knights ever put money or even fame above the welfare of this wonderful mare who has brought so much joy to this world of racing.

I am always reminded of the great Citation and all he endured so the owners could make him the first horse to win a million dollars. I found that very sad.

I am inspired to see a group of 3 fine men and Mrs. Moss who show respect for these horses. Thoroughbreds are national treasures of the finest caliber and they leave me in awe every time I watch them.

Zenyatta may not get HOTY and all that will do is to promote disgust in the hearts of those who have watched her from the beginning and who know that there are no horses that get A marks for physical beauty, social skills, mental ability, and racing ability.

When you add her ability to bond and communicate her spirit or personality to the adoring public......I just don't think she will ever be forgotten. God Bless Mike Smith. It is wonderful to see such a talented and sensitive man with such honesty. We wont be forgetting him either.

Zenyatta is HOTY. If she doesn't get it this year there are many of the new fans brought to the sport by Queen Z, who will be too disgusted to stay. I too believe that this East Coast/ West Coast rivalry is interfering with the voters' judgement. If her skill was not so superior to anything else on the track I would not believe she should be HOTY. To judge any horse as a better racing thoroughbred is ludicrous. Bias could be the only reason she wouldn't win and it would be a terrible injustice. I cannot think of anything more disgusting.

07 Nov 2010 10:26 PM
Horsin Around

Zenyatta and Blame are both deserving of HOTY but...there is only one horse I know of that can win 19 in a row.

07 Nov 2010 10:29 PM

I am still upset.

But not at Mike Smith, nor Zenyatta.

Watch the Classic again. In your lifetime, you will never ever see a horse put out the run that Zenyatta did in the Classic.

Blame ran a great race, but ZENYATTA is a great horse. I am just grateful I've been able to witness such greatness; usually only found in books or in movies.

What a champion. What power.  

You sports writers do whatever you need to do.

The fans were there too. Too bad they don't get to vote.

07 Nov 2010 10:36 PM

Oh what a brilliant, brilliant race!

Although I have spent the last 24 hours trying to wrap my head around Zen losing, Respect to Blame & Go-Go for that well executed run! This weekend was full of oddities & flukes & yes, disasters.

By the time the Classic runners went to post & felt an upset coming. But really, when I saw BLAME hit the front I was like, Oh NO!! That's all I could say, even though Zenyatta was rolling like a freight train! Blame had my respect going into this. I just felt that Zenyatta was the better horse. Still do.

Thanks to Go-Go for giving her props as she passed him on her way home. And yes, Blame deserved so much more of an ovation than he got.

I was waiting for the announcer to ask for a special round of applause for Zen's game effort, as they often do when someone gives HER a fight. That would have been cool.

Mike, I know that you love her - probably more than anyone could imagine. I have loved horses that I have groomed with such intensity that they were all I woke for. She doesn't blame you. WE don't blame you. God only knows why this time she didn't make the wire. BUT, as my sister said, it only made us love you both much more fiercely after such a heroic & valiant run!

No other horse would have made up that ground - NO ONE. You didn't make mistakes. You did what seemed best at that split second you had to decide & I respect that. May God lead you out of this with the understanding that we still love you both & that Zenyatta will still forever look for her guy to come & take her for her run - no hard feelings, you were in this together - as one.

Zenyatta has been our Horse Of the Year EVERY year. Thank you to all involved with her for such a special opportunity to know this mare. Wonderful job! She always seemed so happy & that is a great credit to you all! You're my hero, Mike!

07 Nov 2010 10:40 PM

Not going to argue HOTY but saying Churchill is Blame's home track would be like saying Hollywood Park is Zenyatta's. Blame calls Keeneland home.

07 Nov 2010 10:54 PM

lets put it this way, no matter if Zenyatta looked like a she was not interested in the race, because as the gate opened she just did not want to race, then when mud started getting in her face it was worse. Finally when it looked she would throw in the towel she roared & all Blame could do was prey for the wire to pop in front of him.

Blame is a great horse, but, because of the circumstances of the race he survived. That dosen't mean he was dominating.

Zenyatta for a deep closer's style was dominating (striking fear in her opponents & she did that to Blame too).

Smith did a decent thing to admit it was his fault, but, part of the problem lies with the connections who decided the schedule for Zenyatta, they should have altered her races so she could get used to getting hit in the face with dirt (in recent times).

Seth Hancock is promoting Blame's cause of trying to increase Blames value as a stallion by his comments.

07 Nov 2010 11:01 PM

Blame should be given HOTY since he was the official winner of the Classic, even though Zenyatta was the best horse. Zenyatta doesn't need any award anyway. She already got her award all year long from all the fans who came to see her race and cheered her on. Nobody cheered for Blame, so give him the award. He needs it more than Zenyatta.

07 Nov 2010 11:05 PM

I was honestly skeptical about Zenyatta, yesterday, who pulled a Silky Sullivan race and just missed. I did not think she would win, not for lack of talent, but because there was so much pre-race noise about her that I thought she really had to lose. Clearly, she was too far back to win, and a length or two less farther back in the early stages would have made the difference. Secretariat lost to Angle Light, Onion, and Prove Out and his star never dimmed. This mare sailed from so far back, that one needed binoculars to see her. Had she tired and finished 8th, that would have been different.

In gambling, people should quit while they are ahead. That was my concern with running her yesterday. Too much pressure for the jockey...

However, the Breeders' Cup also shined a light on Uncle Mo, who earned a 108 Beyer for his efforts. I knew he would win, because logically, he was much the the best, and the other colts were just filling up the race. I more or less felt content to watch Zenyatta be beaten for the right reason, and for Uncle Mo to win in a Seattle Slew performance. From the end of one career comes the beginning of a potential Triple Crown winner.

07 Nov 2010 11:05 PM
Bob Z

I agree with Zookeeper... that answer was a little rough... a little more tact might have been appropriate...

"Tom - Regretfully the Pandora's box has been opened. Yesterday, by a question to Seth Hancock and his less than tactful answer and you this morning, by giving your opinion on the matter."

08 Nov 2010 12:14 AM

First and foremost, I believe that Zenyatta ran an incrdible race yesterday, and to me the added dimension of courage was added to her repertoire. She's amazing.  In a few years she'll be in the Hall of Fame, and someday after that she'll be at the top of the list of greatest horses of this century.

Blame won't be in the hall of fame. Few people who saw the Classic believe he's a better horse than Zenyatta.

I want to point out that in 1978 Exceller beat two Triple Crown winners in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.  He won what, 8 grade 1 events that year?  He didn't win a single championship that year, though he won in top company on dirt and turf.

Seattle Slew also beat Affirmed in the Marlboro Cup, but Affirmed was voted Horse of the Year. Exceller finally made it to the Hall of Fame, but Seattle Slew and Affirmed are both considered far greater horses.

My point is, if you take one race as the single championship event, Exceller beat both Triple Crown winners in a single race and had a great year. Yet he didn't win the Eclipse.

Horse racing isn't just an objective sport  It's about opinions and charisma and feelings as well.  Love isn't objective either, and I just love Zenyatta. If we want non-fans to just love racing, we need to keep finding Zenyattas and promoting them.

08 Nov 2010 1:34 AM
Dawn in MN

today I will sit in my cubicle, on the 8th floor of a 30-floor building in a big city...

...I am looking forward to my work friends asking me about Zenyatta "losing" I encouraged them to watch the Breeders' Cup to see history being made

...if they watched and if they watch horse racing again I can say that Zenyatta, her connections and Mike Smith have been gracious ambassadors for the sport I love

Zenyatta, Goldikova and Uncle Mo's races were the ones that impressed me, they were thrilling...

Zenyatta's place finish was as spine-tingling as her win last year...

37 years from now I will mention her in the same breath as Secretariat...

...I couldn't care less who wins HOTY

and neither do the people where I work, they have no idea what HOTY is anyway...

I cried when it was announced that Rough Sailing would be euthanized...

I cried tears of joy when Goldikova won...

I was thrilled with Uncle Mo's beauty and his long stride...

So, I lost 40 dollars, it was well worth the thrill...

Zenyatta is a champion for the ages, I doubt that I will see another one like her in my lifetime...

08 Nov 2010 6:06 AM

Tom - Kudos for having the stones to tackle what is clearly for some a very emotional topic so soon after the race, even if kicking off the horse of the year debate wasn't your intent.

The level of ignorance displayed here by so-called fans of the sport is disheartening at best. Whether it's a fundamental lack of understanding about the award itself (it's American Horse of the Year, which is why Goldikova isn't in the conversation), or suggesting Blame shouldn't be considered because he didn't run in any Triple Crown races this year (as all ready pointed out, 4 year olds can't compete in races restricted to 3 year olds), it all makes for a sad narrative on how little most people actually know about the sport.

Of course woeful ignorance has done little to stem the tide of vitriol, and it saddens me to see people trashing one horse to defend the other, especially when you make the leap to assume the horses themselves don't give a damn about the award either way.

I'll start by saying that Zenyatta showed me more in defeat than she ever did in victory. I told anyone that would listen to me that Big Z would have to run the race of her life to win, and that the same wasn't necessarily true for Blame, Quality Road, or Looking at Lucky. In the end, I was wrong, Blame needed the race of his life to beat Zenyatta, and he ran it.

While the Breeders' Cup doesn't always settle Horse of the Year, this year we're fortunate enough to have the two top contenders face off.  Blame won.  End of story. Yeah, maybe if the race were 10 yards longer Zenyatta wins. 50 yards longer than that, and Blame maybe pulls ahead, 50 yards shorter, Blame wins by plenty.  If the Titans had one more play, maybe they win a Super Bowl.  One more inning and...

My point is that races are run at the distance they're run. What happens after the finish line doesn't matter. Blame beat her, that's not in dispute.

As for the rest of the year Zenyatta in her wins defeated exactly 0 Grade 1 Winners, and the tragedy in that is that IF she raced against open company, and IF she faced top tier horses before the Classic, I'm as convinced as I've ever been she'd have beat them more often than not. Not only would she be Horse of the Year, but history would put her right next to Secretariat, Man O War, Ruffian, and the other all-time greats. But neither races nor awards are won of Ifs.

Her human connections, classy as they may be, chose a career path for her that in the end was more Peppers Pride than it was Jess Jackson's take on all comers approach with Curlin, and much more conservative than most fans would have liked. She will likely be remembered as an all time great, and deservedly so, but in the end, Horse of the Year is as much about what her human connections do, and in 2010 they didn't do enough with her to warrant the award.

For Blame's part, he ran against, and beat the best horses running all year long (prior to the Classic, Zenyatta's connections chose to run her exclusively against fillies and mares). Yes, Blame did finish 2nd to Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold, but that single loss to lone speed on the most speed-biased day of racing I've ever seen isn't enough to offset the rest of his season. And again, when he and Zenyatta raced on the same track, he beat her.

Make no mistake, fans will remember him, maybe not because of the HOTY award he'll likely collect, but because he was the only horse to ever beat Zenyatta.

If there's a lifetime achievement award, or ambassador award, give it to Zenyatta, give it to her every year until a horse more deserving comes along (good luck with that), but based on the competition faced, the quality of the races won, and when we look past the what ifs, Blame was the better horse this year.

Those who have suggested that Horse of the Year doesn't matter, and nobody will remember, are probably right, but what I can promise you is almost as true, for everything Zenyatta did for the sport this year, all those those fans that came out to see her - most won't be back when she's gone, and no award can change that.

08 Nov 2010 7:40 AM

I'm jumping in late (spent yesterday raking), so I don't know if my comments will get in here, but for me the most frustrating thing on Saturday was that my local cable provider's ESPN channel pushed aside the entire Breeders' Cup for college football, for cryin' out loud -- a thing we can see any weekend of the season!  I sat and waited for the Breeders' Cup to cut in -- 6:30, 6:35, 6:40.....the time crept by until at 6:53, I got it through my thick head they weren't going to show the Classic. I didn't see it until the replay was posted on this website, outcome already known because of the headline. When I e-mailed my cable provider to complain, I received an e-mail that sounded exactly like a script for Apu in "The Simpsons." If we can't even reach a person in America to complain about our local TV programming, how are we EVER going to get racing back on TV??

Well, anyway, I don't think less of Zenyatta for one loss. This is weird but I kind of felt all last week she wasn't going to win.

08 Nov 2010 7:42 AM


08 Nov 2010 8:11 AM

From the writer: Backed up from last night and today, which is production day for the magazine, but I am going through the comments and posting them. Just swamped. Thanks, Tom

08 Nov 2010 8:39 AM

Well done. Perfection is overrated. I wish more people understood that. It's all about the challenge and doing your best race, win or lose. Zenyatta may well be remembered more for her race in this year's Classic than the 19 straight.

Blame just might be this year's Exceller.

08 Nov 2010 8:56 AM
Golden Gate

Wasn't Zenyatta and Blame's stretch match wonderful!! Such beautiful horses!!

Having said that, yes Blame won but I don't call that beating Zenyatta for a couple more jumps and she would have passed him. As far as giving Blame HOTY -- no way!! If he had beat Zenyatta by a number of lengths and proved he was far superior then maybe but they were neck and neck and she beat al the other horses in her great stretch run.

I love Blame and Zenyatta both but for those voting please give the Queen her due. Give Zenyatta HOTY---do the right thing

08 Nov 2010 9:02 AM

Virginia said: Before the classic, who did she race? Who did she beat, and in many cases she barely won. Also, remember guys, its Horse of the YEAR. Not horse of the last 2 years, or horse of the last 18 months. Only what has been done THIS year will be taken into account. If Zenyatta wins it, and I don't believe she will, that's fine by me. My vote goes to Blame for the reasons I listed above and others.

08 Nov 2010 9:04 AM
Woodlands Texas

Saratoga Tony:

I highly doubt my previous comments will be approved, so I will moderate my words in this posting and reply to what you, Virginia and Tim said.

Saratoga Tony: Not only would she be Horse of the Year, but history would put her right next to Secretariat, Man O War, Ruffian, and the other all-time greats. But neither races nor awards are won of Ifs.

I own horses here in the Woodlands, Texas, and have followed the sport for decades. Ruffian never once raced against males before her meeting with FP. Ruffian won ALL of her races in New York and I don't see the same people who are critical of Zenyatta point out the same in regards to her!

Who is the other great filly in your book? What about you Virginia? You Tom?

Personal Engsign! The VAST majority of her races were in NY- they DIDN'T run her in the BC Classic- and the ONE time they ran her against the boys- it was against two horses that had the best days behind them- Gulch and King's Swan in the Whitney.

Zenyatta was one jump away from back to back wins in the BCC- she is the HOTY- it isn't even close.

Blame was crushed in the JCGC- he is no HOTY.

There you have the two greatest females in the history of this spot- now you want to say that either of them has a better record compared to Zenyatta?

08 Nov 2010 9:26 AM
Bill Daly

I really don't want to add fuel to the fire, but some of these comments reflect some seriously dysfunctional thinking and extreme bias. I'm obviously speaking of the pro-Zenyatta zealots who worship this mare as if she is some kind of god.

I wish people would try to look at this more objectively, but I guess that's not possible. Tom, you certainly do not deserve the criticism you received here and I cannot blame (pun intended) you for casting a derisive eye at the nutjobs.  

08 Nov 2010 9:42 AM
old timer

Blame HOTY?! Ridiculous. What has he done ALL YEAR? Did he have a better campaign than Zen? Has any other north american horse? This is Horse of the Year not the Classic! Plus,does anyone honestly watching that race think that Blame was the better horse? He had the better trip by far, that's all. If any horse deserves PERHAPS to beat out Zen it is Goldikova.

08 Nov 2010 9:47 AM
old timer

HORSE OF THE YEAR IS FOR A BODY OF WORK! Not one race. No way Blame deserves it! 1. Zen 2. Goldikova 3. Blame

08 Nov 2010 10:01 AM

I haven't yet read all the comments but Tom, you're the one who brought up HOTY. If you think it doesn't matter...why mention it? Exactly which horse brought horse racing back to the front page of the national media? A colt who won by a nose, or a mare who came from 20 lengths behind to get within a hair's breadth of perfection?

No contest. Zenyatta on Oprah, Zenyatta on 60 Minutes, Zenyatta #1 in the polls for 2 years, Zenyatta in Sports Illustrated, Zenyatta who won this race last year. Zenyatta is the Horse of the Decade, not just HOTY. The time is overdue to recognize who she is and what she has accomplished.

08 Nov 2010 10:02 AM

About "tying up" - I haven't heard much about Life at Ten since Saturday, but what I heard was that she'd been given Lasix.  If she reacted strongly to that, and lost a lot of urine, it's not just water, but electrolytes that go, and when they go, muscles can cramp very badly.

I suspect Life at Ten was pulled from the sale because they don't know for sure (a) if that was the cause, (b) if she's really ok yet, and (c) if she's going to do it again.

It can happen that the muscles cramp so badly that they tear, but Pletcher said she was eating and drinking and moving ok the next day, so she might be ok. But you want to sell her (and buy her) knowing she really is sound.

As Pletcher said - you see something new every day. I wish the jockey had listened more to his horse. I agree he was in a horrible spot - if the horse was sick and ran and got worse, he was in trouble, but if he pulled her and she was actually ok, he'd be in trouble.

I didn't have any money on her, but if I did, and I knew the trainer thought she was unusually quiet in the saddling enclosure, and then I knew the jockey said she wasn't warming up right and they ran her anyway, I'd be peeved!

08 Nov 2010 10:21 AM

What I don't get is why the Mosses essentially repeated last year's campaign. You know, the one that didn't get Zenyatta HOTY honors. Wouldn't there have been some kind of lesson there, that they might have learned?

Remember the saying "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome." Not that I'm calling the Mosses insane - they obviously care about their mare and looked after her, but if she doesn't get HOTY, I don't see how they can be too surprised.

08 Nov 2010 10:39 AM

In reposnse to Bill Daly,

"Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."

"Winning is not everything, but wanting to win is."

-Vince Lombardi

The point is people feel passionate about Zenyatta and her detractors don't. She didn't duck anybody. I can't speak for the Mosses but I think the West Coast campaign served another purpose.

The idea that Zenyatta stayed home too much. Well, she did. I don’t think she was ducking anyone. I think her connections took care of their own. California tracks needed her race days. She was a boom to attendance and handle. I think it had more to do with helping your friends rather than ducking competition.

She went to Oaklawn Park and no one showed up. If she came to New York or New Jersey, the only two states that could’ve made a play for her ,she still would’ve been ducked. Is Churchill Downs thanking Blame for its attendance and handle?

I think when the handle and attendance numbers come out after 2011, Kentucky horsemen will have an epiphany.

08 Nov 2010 10:50 AM



STILL plenty of G1s around

One more race can decide it

08 Nov 2010 10:51 AM

Saratoga Tony - Excellent post. I would like to comment on one of your statements:"The level of ignorance displayed here by so-called fans of the sport is disheartening at best."

A little over 11 years ago I became a fan of horse-racing. My level of ignorance was abysmal. I didn't even know enough to find my way on the BH website and post my opinion on anything. That was a blessing as I would probably have been discouraged if I had seen my lack of knowledge called disheartening. Luckily, no one told me how ignorant I was and I continued on the road to fandom.

Having a newbie post a misinformed comment is actually a ray of hope for a sport that has great difficulty in attracting new followers. Welcoming them and praising their burgeoning interest in the sport would go a long way to KEEP these potential fans hanging around long enough to learn something.

Who knows how many new people Zenyatta brought to our ranks. Let's not reject them. They are essential to the sport's survival.  

08 Nov 2010 10:52 AM

@Woodland Texas - Greatest Filly/Mare of all time? Maybe it's Z (it certainly could be), maybe it's Ruffian, maybe (although less so) it's Personal Ensign. I'd happily accept a well argued case for any of the 3 because there's no way to settle that debate on the racetrack.

I will say that in the case of both Z and Ruffian, the arguments are as much emotional as they are rational (and there's nothing wrong with that).  

If HOTY were a lifetime achievement award, then Zenyatta would get my vote (100 times over) and should no doubt have everyone's vote. HOTY is not a lifetime achievement award, so 19-0 or 19-1 doesn't matter. When considering the award we should only consider the 5-6 of 2010, and those 5 wins came against a grand total of 0 Grade 1 winners.

Zenyatta beat no one of consequence this year. Is that her fault? Absolutely not, but I would point out that while she was eligible to race in every race Blame entered, he was ineligible (restricted to females) for every field she entered, save the Classic. They faced each other one time, and he won. Before that he beat much stiffer competition. Those are the facts.

Her connections chose the safest, easiest route to the Classic. I can't fault them for protecting their horse, but competition matters for the HOTY, and she faced none before the Classic.

If we're playing the what if game then yeah, as I said in my first post, if she faced tougher fields, if she ran with the boys, and if she continued to win (I suspect should would have won most - if not all), then give her the award. She didn't though, and Blame did.

And when they ran on the same track, he won. Would he win every time? Almost certainly not, but all we really have is a single race and a whole lot of ifs and speculation.

As long as I am playing the What If game, Blame's detractors are fond of pointing to the Jockey Club Gold race to Haynesfield. Yeah...he got beat, so did every horse that dropped more than a couple of lengths behind the leader on that track that day. Watch the race. Then watch every other race on the dirt that came before it. I've never had an easier day picking (and winning) races.Forget the odds, take the early speed, and win, and win and win.

Zenyatta, great as she is, with her best kick, in my opinion, would have lost by 5 lengths that day. But that's just another if.

When history looks back, there's not doubt Zenyatta, based on the sum total of her work and the emotional attachments of her fans, will be remembered as the better horse, but strictly in terms of better wins, and the impressiveness of the 2010 campaigns, Blame wins, and that's all the HOTY voters should consider.

08 Nov 2010 11:00 AM

slee: from experience in humans rather than horses, Lasix is a diuretic that depletes potassium. This causes cramping during exercise. However, if calcium is also depleted, this causes cramping at rest. (i.e. Charlie horse that wakes one up in the middle of the night). Since Life At Ten was too stiff to warm up, I'm guessing they are going to look deeper into the problem, but it seems Lasix just may be the culprit.

08 Nov 2010 11:14 AM

To Ann and Jerry Moss:  Thank you for granting us the privilege of watching Zenyatta this year. Your decision to keep her in training has proven to be the right decision. Your courage to run her in the Breeders' Cup Classic instead of the Ladies' Classic, to risk everything to allow her to pursue greatness, is one of the best things to happen to horse racing in years.

You were also smart enough to listen to your trainer and allow him to do what he does best. Because of your ownership we have witnessed greatness that only comes around once a generation. You are the Owners of the Year.

To John Shirreffs: Your management of Zenyatta’s career has been remarkable. You had her ready in every race. You made sure she did enough to stay sharp but beautifully spaced her races so she was always fresh. You had tremendous pressure on you to keep her on top of her game every time she ran and you did just that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to know that every decision you made with her would be scrutinized and if anything went wrong, you would be at fault. But you did everything right with her and allowed her greatness to shine on the track. You are the Trainer of the Year.

To Mike Smith: Zenyatta did not lose. She was one stride too late but everyone who saw the race knows she was the best horse. You made the right decisions during the race. I was there and saw how wide you would have had to go if you had swung her outside. You would have lost too much ground. I was amazed at how you were able to angle her out and get her going when I thought you were going to be blocked by the wall of horses in front of her. You made the right decisions and while I know the loss hurts, it was not your fault. No one could have done better. You are the Jockey of the Year.

To Zenyatta:  I heard people talking about Blame being Horse of the Year. They said since he beat you on the track he deserves the crown. They are wrong.  If we only look at your race records, you compare favorably.  ... What you have done for horse racing transcends your actual races. At a dark time for horse racing you have brought in new fans. Young fans. Old fans.Female fans. Male fans. You have softened the hearts of the most hardened horseplayers. You even had your competition rooting for you. You have given horse racing something it hasn’t had since the 70s. A star that we could root for whose career wasn’t cut short by taking the money and running to the breeding shed.

If horse racing is to survive, you have shown them how. You are not only Horse of the Year, but Horse of the Decade, and Horse of the Century.

08 Nov 2010 11:28 AM
al bundy

bet twice:

churchill always has better attendance than other tracks. breaking the record with zenyatta fans just makes my point. how many zen fans cashed a win ticket?

i made a decent profit for the day.

also on brass hat last time out.

without the gamblers the racing will be a couple farm boys racing for beers.

now that she lost the fans are gone til may--just the way it is.

08 Nov 2010 11:33 AM

The miracle that is Zenyatta was not diminished by 6 inches. Awards or no awards she stands above and beyond. Her 2nd place on Sat. only proved how great she is.  

Zenyatta and Blame have remarkably simiilar records THIS YEAR. No matter how the voting goes, it is Zenyatta who won the hearts of fans and who brought life and interest from outsiders to our critically injured sport.

Expanding on the post by "Bet Twice" in response to the poster who implied that gamblers are the foundation of this sport - I have to say that fans are what this sport needs. The cynical, statistics-driven gamblers are not going to save horseracing - they contribute to it's lousy image. We need legions of fans who will bet something on horses that capture their imaginations and their hearts, like Zenyatta has done. Zenyatta brought thousands to Louisville this Friday and Saturday. Thousands who learned something about betting and enjoyed the thrill and hopefully will come again to watch the excitement of magnificent Thoroughbreds thundering down the stretch.

We need to bring young people to the track. It will be horses like Zenyatta, who are so obviously loved and who run long enough for us to know them, who will expand and save this sport. Rather than critizing Team Z for how they handled their beloved mare; others should be learning from them.  

Regardless of any awards, Zenyatta stands for the ages with Man O'War, Citation, Secretariat, Ruffian, Seattle Slew and Cigar.  Blame (as talented as he is) will stand with Onion and Upset.

Goldikova deserves far more kudos than she has received. She is incredible!! Her race was perfect and she is a mare for the ages also. Goldie's one loss this year does not tarnish her any more than Z's loss tarnishes her.  

Awards are for humans to crow over -  horses don't care. Which only goes to show the wisdom of the horse!

08 Nov 2010 11:38 AM

nice summation. I agree that, on the racetrack in 2010, Blame should be HOTY. He beat the best in open company except for the JCGC. On the other hand it would not bother me a bit if they gave it to Zenyatta either. IMO she should have been HOTY last year.

08 Nov 2010 11:41 AM
Jeff Hudson

Perfect article! I do feel she shuold be horse of the year though. 5 races do not make a horse of the year. consecutive wins and coming up 20 lengths on the final turn to loose by a head bob does in my humble opionon. Greatest horse ever still in my mind and you are right--perfection is highly overrated.

08 Nov 2010 11:44 AM

Hey Tom,

If your criteria for winning HOTY is winning the Breeder's Cup Classic, then why did Zenyatta not win it last year! NO EXCUSE for not giving it to her this fact, she should be the Horse of the Century.

08 Nov 2010 11:44 AM

Tom, you may choose not to post this comment for reasons I'd understand; but I'd like to try to frame this HOTY controversy in forthright terms.  

Folks, emotions are running high. Most of us adore Zenyatta, and even those who have disparaged her abilities in the past must now respect the amazing race she ran Saturday. We can hope for fewer arguments on that score, at least.

We all know these are tough economic times. We come to these "free" blogs and share our thoughts, and even our "hits" help out a bit because advertisers need eyeballs.  nd Bloodhorse, TTimes, DRF - all the sites we visit daily - need those advertisers in order to give us the horse-centric information we crave.  

Jerry & Ann Moss don't have a farm/breeding operation. Zenyatta will be boarded (where, we don't yet know) and we'll hear very little about her in the course of her next career. I think it's unlikely Ann Moss will allow Zenny's foals to be sold, so we won't see a sale-topper from her, either.

Blame, on the other hand, will be standing at Claiborne for the next 15 years or more, and a Horse of the Year Eclipse will enhance his stud fee by 20k or more. (Claiborne also stands his sire, Arch, most successful son of Kris S. - also Zenyatta's maternal grandsire). 

Thinking OBJECTIVELY, the "economics" of supporting Blame over Zen is a no-brainer. BH and the others who have HOTY votes are businesses first. If every one of Zenyatta's fans were to subscribe to the BH magazine (as I do), we still couldn't outweigh the advertising dollars from the many breeding farms/owners and associated industries.

So, let's try to be hard-headed about the debate. Stop thinking about it in terms of politics, East/West bias, how many new "fans" Zen brought with her, etc., etc., etc. It's just the business of doing business.  

New fans: wager if you can, but find other ways to contribute to the sport if you can't. Click on some ads and visit the beautiful farms online. Check out your favorite horses' pedigrees on TrueNicks. Give back by supporting one of the TB Retirement funds. And stick around. The next Zenyatta may be in next spring's foal crop!

08 Nov 2010 11:45 AM

Zenyatta lost plain and simple. She finally took on males on dirt and lost. She caught the perfect closing track and lost. Blame is the story here not Zenyatta. You may love the horse but the connections did not take her on the proper path for HOTY. She stayed in California running in easy races and waited for the big race at the end of the year and lost. Blame took on all comers and won again and again.

Many of you seem thrilled that Zenyatta was able to make up so much ground yet haven't said a word about Dakota Phone who made up 15+ lengths going just a mile and circled the entire field going 10-wide and won! If you think Zenyatta was good you must thing Dakota Phone is the end-all be-all, right?

Blame earned 2010 HOTY on the track. That is where you are suppose to earn it.

08 Nov 2010 11:52 AM

Very simple...ESPN makes WAY more money on college football.

08 Nov 2010 11:57 AM

I think as far as delivering dominating performances against the best company in the world goes, Goldikova has proven herself the best horse in the world. Zenyatta may have the same capability as Goldi to consistently beat the best in the world, though we won't know that unless the connections decide to run her one more year, and give her a chance to show it more than once a year. This year she demonstrated she was on a par with the best male, though not superior.

Horse of the Year? I pulled the description from Wikipedia: The American Award for Horse of the Year is the highest honor given in American thoroughbred horse racing. It has been awarded since 1887 to the horse, irrespective of age, whose performance during the racing year is deemed the most outstanding.

That means during the entire racing year, not just one race. And the BC Classic cannot be the sole measure of who wins the award? Why? Because horses run in different divisions. If you just gave it to the BC Classic winner every year, no two-year old could ever win. (Sorry, Secretariat). No turf horse would ever win (Sorry, John Henry).  here could be a year when there's an outstanding sprinter or steeplechaser who's most deserving.

Last year, Zenyatta's five-race campaign was deemed not as outstanding as Rachel Alexandra's by the majority of Eclipse voters. And I would have to apply the same standard this year. Blame's five-race campaign was excellent, but not particularly long, outstanding or historic by HOTY standards. Only a handful of past winners (Ghostzapper, All Along) ran in as few races. Haynesfield handled him easily in the JCGC with no excuse.

Forget about Zenyatta's past years, her outstanding career, the record-setting unbeaten streak, all the attention and notoriety she's brought to the sport. All of that is great, but by dwelling on it, it diminishes what she has done on the track purely for this year.

08 Nov 2010 12:04 PM

I think this was Zenyatta's best race, even in losing. Never saw such guts as she displayed in this one. And, yes, give her HOTY this year, dammit!

08 Nov 2010 12:13 PM
Pedigree Ann

"Alydar would clearly have beaten Affirmed in the Travers IF he hadn't been fouled." "Easy Goer would have beaten Sunday Silence in the Classic IF he hadn't gotten the worst ride ever from Pat Day." yada, yada, yada. I've been hearing this garbage for decades. Why can't people accept what ACTUALLY HAPPENED? Horses lose races. Even great horses lose races. Stop obsessing.

I am reminded of a (light-hearted) quotation from Adam Savage of Mythbusters: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." Seems a lot of it going around.

When Seth Hancock was asked "Who is Horse of the Year" he answered "I thought we settled that on the track a half an hour ago." EXACTLY. Championships should be settled ON THE TRACK. If you haven't been paying attention to racing in other areas of the country and so didn't realize what a good year Blame had (and an excellent late 3yo season last year), that's your problem, not Mr. Hancock's.

08 Nov 2010 12:27 PM

@Zookeeper - Your point is well taken. I probably should be encouraging more people to stick around and grow the love of the game.

08 Nov 2010 12:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Excellent ride by Mike Smith. Watching the replay, I don't know how he could have done any better. Even the best can get beat. It happens. Be proud Mike. I do think that Zen's habit of not warming up waas a bit of a problem in this caliber of race. Zenyatta ran great, what more can you ask for? She's happy. It's just humans and their need to win that makes it disappointing. It's just a head's difference. Big deal. Celebrate the Queen and her greatness, and all of the thrills that she gave us. A brilliant mare. How many have even dared run in the Classic, let alone get a win and a very close second? Let's not forget her win in the Ladies Classic, either. Zenyatta is one of the top performers in Breeder's Cup, and racing history. Hail to the Queen.

08 Nov 2010 12:40 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Blame is a great champion and The King this year. Give him his due. He dug down and held off The Queen. Long Live the King.

08 Nov 2010 12:42 PM

Goldikova should be horse of the year. What more can a horse do?

08 Nov 2010 12:57 PM

As glorious as Zenyatta was in victory, she was magnificent in defeat. After a horrendous trip she finished with great gallantry. Most horses would have thrown in the towel and quit after running into a wall of tiring horses but there was no quit in her and she kept overcoming all the bad breaks thrown at her and made up a huge amount of ground.

I think savvy horsemen know that if Zenyatta had the dream trip that Blame got she would have prevailed. The horse with the best trip won, not the best horse.

As for me, I've seen Secretariat, Ruffian, John Henry, poor Barbaro, and now I've seen Zenyatta, and there can never be another like her, so it's about time I give up my obsession with great runners. If I've learned anything after a lifetime of owning horses it's that they have been my greatest joy and my greatest sorrow, and I guess you can't have one without the other.

Right now all I feel is sorrow, for Zenyatta, her connections, and for myself.

08 Nov 2010 1:06 PM

From the writer to Patti: I don't have "criteria" for HOYT. I stated in a subsequent reply on this blog that I voted for Smarty Jones for HOTY; he didn't even run in the Classic. Also, as I stated earlier, I have no vote anymore.

08 Nov 2010 1:13 PM

It never ceases to amaze me that, with the exception of a few sane writers, these blogs devolve into name-calling, horse-bashing idiotic rants by the same nitwits over and over.

Can we, for once, celebrate what we all witnessed this year - and the past 3 years? Can we not congratulate John Sherriffs for the marvelous training job he has done with this incredible mare by keeping her sound and happy (not to mention undefeated) over the years.

Can we PLEASE stop criticizing how she was campaigned? She's a left coast-ased horse. I honestly don't think her connections were trying to "duck" anyone.

Blame raced 4 times this year before the BCC - Pimlico, Churchill, Saratoga and Belmont. One G3, three G1s of which he won 3 of 4. Well done, Blame. Zen raced 5 times before the BCC - Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Hollywood and Del Mar, all G1s, of which she won all 5.

She came up a long nose short in the Classic, but hopefully she silenced, once and for all, the critics who claimed she was only a plastics specialist and had no chance on a conventional dirt track.

She is a horse for the ages, and did more for the sport than anyone since Secretariat or Seattle Slew. It's easy to "retire" a horse at 3 or 4 years of age and reap the profits of the breeding shed. It's entirely another thing to keep a horse in training, and successful, at the age of 6.

We all owe a huge thanks to the Mosses, Sherriffs', Mike Smith, and everyone who had any part of Zen's brilliant career. Long live the Queen.

08 Nov 2010 1:35 PM

Good point Patti.

Zenyatta dominated all her races this year (even the shorter races which she won by small margin, Blame is a great horse but he was not dominating in most of his races.

But, making up almost 18 lengths in this kind of completion was just too much @ the top of the stretch it appeared she would still end up far behind.

At the finish it appeared Blame was on his knees praying for the wire to show up.

08 Nov 2010 1:36 PM

I was disappointed that Zenyatta didn't win the Classic but she is still an amazing horse. Even racing greats like Secretariat and Man O War were beaten by Onion and Upset. She should be Horse of the Year because she has done so much for horse racing.

08 Nov 2010 1:41 PM
Meydan Rocks



"But Zenyatta’s performance overshadowed everything else that happened at Churchill Downs, and people in the sport will be talking for a long time about the Classic and about the mare’s place in history."

08 Nov 2010 1:45 PM
Debra G

Within inches of conquering it all. Voters must get past the fact that the first across the finish line is not always the slam-dunk best horse in the race. From the point she finally got into the Classic, Zenyatta is outrunning the field on another plane. I understand the wire determines the first-place horse but it does not always determine the "winner." You have to beat Zenyatta by more than the bob of a head after an easy trip to ever be considered the better horse. Good luck does not a better horse make, and a Horse of the Year award is not just about wins. Run that race endlessly with just one little lucky break for her and Zenyatta beats them all. Blame is a darn good horse but the trip must also be factored in when deciding something as important as Horse of the Year.            

08 Nov 2010 1:51 PM
Cowboy's Adventure

Tom - I know you love Zenyatta and I thank you for your kind comments about her; she is simply a Queen and you are right -HOTY does not matter because it isn't an important reward - it serves only the egos of owners. Truth is - if you held that award up to Zenyatta she would sniff it and turn away. She would rather have a carrot.

I think the comments on the post by Twice Bet--post Nov. 7 at 8:57--were the best. All that matters is that Zenyatta brought so many new fans to the sport and she will forever be cemented into the history books along with the likes of Cigar, Citation, Personal Ensign...she will be in the Hall of Fame and she is forever loved by her fans.

That record attendance was all her baby! People at work are coming up to me; they watched that race because of her and when I ask them about the horse that won - they don't even remember his name. I know who Blame is - I thought he was a really good horse this year and got lucky in his last ride - Garrett Gomez is a great jockey who knew exactly where he needed to be - I credit that win to Garrett. For me to call Blame great - he would have to run another year as his body of work this year and light travel is not enough yet for me to say he is great.

But again I diverge from the purpose of your blog. Zenyatta has given me the thrill of a lifetime...she has brought me much joy and when she is in the Hall of Fame I will be able to say - I saw her win the Classic at Santa Anita and I was there live to witness it. I will be so proud! You are right; horses like her do not come along often; there will not be another one like Zenyatta for a really long time. And for the person that said her greatest victory was in defeat - I could not agree more.

The more I watch the race, the more I am simply in awe of her. She came so close and I thought she had it and she almost did. All the comments about not traveling, not tested on dirt, and then she just drives past them all gaining that ground like no one else could ever have done....God - that was impressive!!!! I have to go watch it again!  

08 Nov 2010 1:56 PM

Much as I love Zenyatta, I fully expected her to lose to Blame in the BC. It was an excellent race and probably the best of her career. It's unfortunate that the racing public has been denied the opportunity to see more races like this from her. And I agree that Blame should be HOTY if not Goldikova, who would be my pick, even though Seth probably hurt his cause with his comments. Zenyatta's connections are well aware that the reason they lost HOTY in both 2008 and 2009 was because Zenyatta's campaign was not as strong as RA and Curlins. So what did they do this year? The same exact thing. Then say that win or lose, she should be HOTY before the BC otherwise it will be a slap in the face. Who is slapping who here? They didn't have to leave CA and still put her in better races like the SA Handicap, Hol Gold Cup or the Pacific Classic. Then there would be no question. And for those that want to jump up and say do you want to break her down by racing her against males/too many races, it doesn't hold up for more reasons than I am willing to post here.

She won 19 races in a row. OK, so did Peppers Pride. Does that mean Pepper should have gotten HOTY? Certainly not. I have watched the race many times and IMO Zenyatta didn't race any differently than she has in the past. She was not going to get by Blame that day regardless. Her easy campaign cost her the race. She needed to be facing G1 horses. Shirreffs should have talked to Mott or McAnally and Moss to Hines to find out what a HOTY campaign is.

Zenyatta is a great horse. She is charismatic and I love her running style. Both she and RA have done alot for the sport in the last two years. But the best female runner in the world right now is Goldikova.

08 Nov 2010 2:23 PM

sherpa - I understand your point completely but without the fans hitting the BH website several times a day, how much advertisement money would come BH's way?

If the fans desert the publication, why advertise in it?

Volume of readership brings advertising dollars.

Every single ounce of participation is essential to the sport: horses, breeders, owners, trainers, barn workers, jockeys, bettors, fans, writers, track owners, etc... we form a chain where every single link depends on the others for existence.

In my very humble opinion, insulting the fans' intelligence by minimizing their voice, or dubbing it misguided, is not the best way to advance the sport and increase advertising income.

08 Nov 2010 2:37 PM

Does anyone know the time for the final 1/8 that Zenyatta ran? It had to be really fast, she was gobbling up the ground.

I have read quite a few articles now about the HOTY debate. Some I find a bit contradicting. Reasons in the past for a horse getting HOTY suddenly not applying. One said that she is only as good as Blame because Blame beat her, I laugh--what about when Secretariat lost as a 2yr old or 3yr old, what about other HOTYs that have suffered defeat? They didn't use that excuse.

How I see it, I look at all the good she has done for racing, the records she has set for win streak, G1 wins streak, and money earned. Something like that takes time and by dening her another HOTY tells me that the Turf Writers don't apperciate how difficult that is to do. A G1 is a G1. She won a majority of them on the West Coast the last 3 years, no wonder she couldn't face any G1 winners.

Nothing was stopping East Coast fillies and mares that have run at Keeneland from coming west. I think she simply scared them all away--why run for 2nd-place money when you can run for 1st-place money without the travel? Anyway, these are some of my many thoughts on why Zenyatta should be HOTY.

08 Nov 2010 2:37 PM


Watch the race again. This was not Affirmed and Alydar or Sunday Silence and Easy Goer.

Zenyatta was closing on him with every stride after a horrible trip. She was not hanging on him and simply out run.  

She just ran out of room, and in fact, caught him in the jump after the wire. Even though her owner claims she never passed him just because Smith pulled her up stronger when galloping out.  

10 more yards and Blame ( who was handily beaten by Haynesfield in the jc cup) would already be forgotten -- as he will be, in the end, trophy or not.

08 Nov 2010 2:37 PM

So, now it's been announced that Goldikova is coming back next year. Thank God for her connections - another owner/trainer group who understand what is needed. They are bringing her back because she loves to run and is great for the sport!!  I can't think of enough wonderful things to say. This is fantastic! I am harboring a secret wish that Zenyatta may run again too. If she is still fit and loving to run - why not. She can always have babies.

08 Nov 2010 2:41 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

SaratogaTony, re: your post at 08 Nov 2010 7:40 AM; I understand your point about the HOTY being American Horse of the Year. But you must also know that the criteria for being voted HOTY is only that the horse have one race in North America, so Goldikova does qualify. If anyone other than Zenyatta should get HOTY in 2010 it is Goldikova. She is phenomenal.

It is constantly pointed out that other great horses lost at least one race but it didn't diminish their greatness. For Zenyatta it seems to be a nail in the coffin of her year. 20-19-1-0 in mostly G1 races is impressive for any horse! The critics want more.

Blame is a very nice horse and I thought he would be Zenyatta's main threat in the Classic this year. But that being said, I still don't think he has had a better campaign this year than she had. Zenyatta critics have now hailed Blame as a wonder horse. If she isn't that great, how is he a wonder horse?

Zenyatta ran her race and came up just shy. No excuses. At least she is always honest. If anything she was weighted down with the heart and hopes of millions of people Saturday.

08 Nov 2010 2:42 PM

Zenyatta is a Barbaro, a Secretariat. Her accomplishments on the racetrack have been eclipsed (no pun intended) by her accomplishments off it. In a year's time, no one will remember Blame, except for the racing diehards who comment on this blog, but the host of my favorite radio talk show, who doesn't watch horse racing because of tragic breakdowns like that of Barbaro and Eight Belles, will remember Zenyatta. He will remember hearing about this unbeaten horse, he will remember watching her segment on 60 Minutes, and he will remember he was so interested in her he spent a good portion of his show talking about her.

This is to take nothing away from Blame, who is a great horse. But Zenyatta invokes an emotional response from her fans that is unequaled. I can't even care about HOTY because I get Tom's point. She may win it, she may not, but it doesn't matter. It's a silly trophy that represents human politicking and networking. To me, it represents the way my other favorite female, Rachel Alexandra, was chewed up and spit out before her time.

So this fan says thanks, but no thanks. Zenyatta is more than HOTY. She transcends awards. I am so thankful for her, for everything she has given us, and for everything she has done for the sport.

And let me say, Goldikova! The news that she is staying in training and will hopefully go for a four-peat is welcome news this week. Her hat trick was the highlight of the Breeders' Cup to me, particularly watching the replays of her groom running down the track screaming with joy.

08 Nov 2010 2:42 PM

I was at the BC at Santa Anita last year and this year was at Santa Anita for OTB. I am only 35, I don't think I will ever hear anything like I did on those two days for the rest of my life at a racetrack.

I am a little sad that it is over. I saw her race numerous times at Santa Anita and Del Mar and I really don't know where the sport goes from here without her.  

I mean, you could walk up to the barn at Hollywood and just ask to see her and one of the grooms would walk you to the stall. I don't know Al Stall Jr., but somehow I don't think his barn is as warm and welcoming to a person walking by.

It's really sad that she lost because the sport needed her to win.  

08 Nov 2010 3:00 PM
Paula P

Ty for your article......well said.

I truly have always believed that a true champion defines themselves when they try their best and meet defeat....Zenyatta did become a little more human on Sat...but she was bouncing around happy the next day and from that we all could take a good life lesson!!!

I am not weighing in on HOTY as I believe actions speak louder than words...Zenyatta need not say a "neigh" her actions and class and grit speak volumes!

I have read more negative stuff about RA yet again and just want to gently remind those folks that at 3 yrs old RA did the impossible and she paid for it this year....or her connections did. Because of that campaign we will never know how great she could have been at 4 and up.

Zenyatta....happy happy retirement, well deserved and well done!

The imprint of your grit heart and determination will forever be imprinted in my mind and heart!


08 Nov 2010 3:17 PM
Barbara W

Thank you, slee, for addressing my question about "tying up" and Life at Ten. Pletcher says all his horses came out fine.

Today as my friends and I were discussing the race, it wasn't about "Aren't we sad she lost?" but rather, "Did you see what she DID?"

08 Nov 2010 3:24 PM
Rocking H

HOTY is an award for special achievement. Each star has a chance to win in his/her own age and surface classes. But Horse of the Year is about the mix of popularity, performance, difficulty level. This year's outstanding star for all the above reasons is Zenyatta, who is one for the ages.

08 Nov 2010 3:39 PM

Zoo, I agree with you completely about the interdependence you so eloquently expressed. I guess I'm trying to rationalize the reason that our (fans) opinions are so easily discounted. My conclusion is that there isn't enough money in us unless we bet regularly, breed or own the horses. It's a pretty exclusive "club" built up around the industry and mere fans are not welcomed, as we've seen here in a number of comments. I'm really weary of seeing people who are making honest, heartfelt comments being sneered at, for sure.

In a very real way, we're just a captive audience out here because our choices of where to find horsey news or to talk about horses are so limited. Does that make us expendable? No, but that may not be understood until our absence hits the bottom line.

08 Nov 2010 3:43 PM

There should be no question. Zenyatta is HOTY! The general public will not stand for anything else and they are the ones putting out the money that keeps racing alive--or have we all forgotten?

08 Nov 2010 3:45 PM
Bet Twice


I couldn't agree with you more. Dismissing the fans is just dumb. Only the horse racing media could figure out a way to vilify the people who resulted in a 180% increase in viewership, national media attention (for once), broken records in attendance and handle. I mean who wants any passion in their sport? Sports are all about objectivity and reason, analysis and ... sorry, I fell asleep. Bring it fans, you guys make the world go round.

08 Nov 2010 3:49 PM
Soldier Course

Mr. LaMarra says he has no criteria for Horse of the Year. Apparently no one does, including the Eclipse Award people who established the honor in the first place. Last year the Classic meant nothing, this year it means everything. Therein lies arbitrariness and abuse, feeding the kind of arrogance we saw from one of Blame's connections after the Classic.

I am prepared to close my checkbook to all charitable donations, subscriptions, etc., in support of racing if Zenyatta is not named Horse of the Year. There won't be a lot of money missed, but at least I will have registered a "vote."

I hope that Zenyatta and her connections will forever remember the unending elegy from the crowd at Churchill Downs when she stepped onto the track. It has been a great comfort to me in this time of sadness.

08 Nov 2010 4:03 PM

Let's take all emotion out of it and do the HOTY voting like the BCS (with computers & stats only) and we all know how well THAT works! I was a huge Curlin fan, a Rachel fan and Zenyatta fan, but people keep changing the rules to suit their purpose, and I find that hypocritical.

08 Nov 2010 4:03 PM
Kim R

The bottom line is this. RA won HOTY last year without running in the Classic. Curlin won HOTY the year before by running 4th in the Classic. Clearly, the decision wasn't made "on the track" then so, why should it be now?

08 Nov 2010 4:16 PM
Kim R

RDP...very well stated! Thanks!

08 Nov 2010 4:17 PM

If racing against males is such a big deal how come the females have won quite a few BC races against them? Winning and placing at a rate higher than expected for the numbers entered. Maybe Zenyatta has been facing the toughest competition all along.

08 Nov 2010 4:21 PM

winnahpickah: Over 45,000 showed-up at Oaklawn to see Zenyatta. They loved her. OP avg attendance (20k) puts the 'major' tracks to shame.

08 Nov 2010 4:29 PM

From the writer to Soldier Course: That is correct; the "criteria" depends on who is casting the ballot. It is a very subjective process like any other vote. Again, this blog isn't about HOTY voting, but I can assure you Zenyatta will get plenty of support from those who vote.

08 Nov 2010 4:30 PM

Tom, your comment sums it up well why Zenyatta should be HOTY.

"The colt made the most of his limited opportunities against the best with only one loss."

Blame has had limited opportunities -- NOT 19 races like Zenyatta.

On any given day any athlete can have a bad day and lose. Zenyatta did NOT have a bad day, she lost by a step, by a nose .... and she has made the MOST of all her opportunities. And yes, sometimes a little rain does fall on a parade.

08 Nov 2010 4:36 PM


When referring to Oaklawn Park, I was discussing the number of horses who went to post in the race. I  was not referring to attendance. I apolfgize for the confusion.

08 Nov 2010 4:47 PM

From the writer to UCLinden: For 2010 HOTY voting purposes, Zenyatta's 6 starts in 2010 are the only consideration, not her other 14 starts. That's how the voting process works.

08 Nov 2010 4:49 PM

Does the fact that Blame was no match (or didn't really try) against a mediocre NY Bred at Belmont mean nothing?  Zenyatta never made an excuse how many times have horses strolled along on slow half miles still to be enhaled late by the queen.  The fact that Blame had a glorified paid workout should hurt his HOY votes, in my eyes a betting patron of the sport.

08 Nov 2010 5:09 PM

Zenyatta was AWESOME even in defeat.  She just needed one more stride.  I've never screamed louder at my television than I did for her.

Mike Smith broke my heart after the race.  The look on his face said it all.  I thought he did all he could.  

Zenyatta.....Thanks for the ride.

08 Nov 2010 5:14 PM

I must agree with you about the part where losing that race does not take anything away from Zenyatta, but I have to disagree with you about the part where Blame gets HOTY. The reason being is that Zenyatta has had 6 Grade I races this year and of those has only lost 1 (obviously) where as Blame has had 4 Grade I races of which one he has lost this year,and 1 Grade III race. If you ask me, I think losing one race and participating in a Grade III race does not deserve to be HOTY. Also, beating the best horse of this time and era, and maybe even ever, does not just deserve to be HOTY.

08 Nov 2010 5:16 PM

Hey Zenyatta fans quit whining! Zenyatta ran a GREAT race, but she lost. There are no woulda coulda shouldas. She lost, plain and simple. Remember some of the races that she barely won. Those counted as wins. Just take the loss like a man or woman. Have some dignity!

By the way stop with the HOTY talk. Just stop!

08 Nov 2010 5:17 PM
Zen's Auntie

Oh Bet Twice I love the gamblers/fans angle--very good indeed.

08 Nov 2010 5:46 PM

It should be a popular vote but its not.

Remember when Favorite Trick got top honors over Skip Away -- who ran probably the most impressive cup ever -- was denied.

Afterward, someone from the DRFcamp said (about Favorite Trick), 'We thought he was the best thing since Secretariat' -- yeah ok.

Awards don't mean anything. History proves how stupid we can be.

Mike should not be so hard on himself, he had a horrible trip and a horse backing in to him to loose by a mere 4 inches. Gomez had an awesome trip and now thinks he rode the greatest horse to ever run?? Who did he beat? Zenyatta -- that his claim to fame. Would we make Onion or Upset horse of the year. No. So why a horse with a mediocre 4-race resume who managed to get the trip just good enough to hold her off?

The owner said she had every chance to pass him. What?? She was gaining with every stride, including the last jump after the finish line when she was a nose in front.

Hail  Zenyatta,  hail Goldikova, give blame the award  pretend his is a super horse and let him fade into oblivion as so many HOYT's have.

08 Nov 2010 7:05 PM

Tom, this is off topic but I just read your article regarding Life at Ten being allowed to start in the BCLC.

Considering the amount of money lost by many bettors in that race, I'm very surprised by the lack of outrage, expressed on the BH website, about this extremely fishy situation. Is it a case of things that make you go Hmmm?

08 Nov 2010 8:58 PM

@Kim R - Both Rachel and Curlin won the last two HOTY awards based on that year's body of work. Big Z, great as she as is, doesn't have that to fall back on (at least within the terms of the award - 2010 and 2010 only).

What Rachel accomplished last year was simply incredible. Like many, I would have liked to have seen her run in the Classic, but by all accounts she was a tired horse, but also a horse who had proven everything she needed to. I thought she deserved the award, but if it had gone to Zenyatta, I wouldn't have complained a single iota.

In Curlin's case, he won the Dubai World Cup, the Stephen Foster, the Woodward, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also finished second in his only start on turf, ahead of previous BC winner Better Talk Now. In the Classic two of the 3 horses that finished ahead of him were Euros who were running their only US race of the year (similar to Goldikova).  Z was only starting to make headlines (running against the girls), leaving his only real competition (other than Z) for the award Big Brown.

In 2010, Zenyatta doesn't have that body of work. Her HOTY chances were probably hurt when Rachel missed the Apple Blossom; beyond that, who was the best horse she beat this year? Switch? Though her career is worthy of any and every award imaginable, her 2010 campaign, based on the near total lack of competition prior to the Classic, wasn't.

I'm still seeing comments pointing to his loss to Haynesfield (in a legitimate Grade I) as the reason why Blame shouldn't win the award, but why not question why on that same day Big Z's connections chose to send her out for a jog against 3 also-rans and Switch (incidentally, contrary to what's been written by some, she didn't crush the field, she damn near got beat), instead of finding some real competition for her - and finding it often.  Also worth pointing out, Blame beat Haynesfield in the Classic - and once again - he beat Zenyatta too.

I'm almost certain Big Z would have beaten the colts more often than not, but her connections chose to play it safe, and continuously run her against the soft competition of restricted races. The result was a 19-0 streak and questions about how great she really is.  

It's almost ironic she confirmed her greatness in defeat, but of course, if her handlers hadn't cherry picked races for her, I suspect her career record likely wouldn't be what it is. That's not a knock on her, it's a knock against the competition she faced in 18 of 20 starts.

If she'd raced against the best at every opportunity, my guess is her career stats would look similar to Curlin's. By any measure that's still one hell of horse, but greatness doesn't exist in a vacuum, you simply have to consider the level of competition. Without a true test, you don't have a champion or a horse for the ages, all you've got is Peppers Pride.

08 Nov 2010 9:53 PM

@ICEBEZEL: Blame's loss to Haynesfield means a lot less in the proper context.  

As far as the Jockey Club Gold Cup itself is concerned, it's easy to point to that race as the reason to diminish Blame's accomplishments, but as I've stated her already, we may never see a more speed-biased track than Belmont was that day. Speed killed from the first to the last race. Haynesfield got away - as did all the early speed on the card that day.

I'll excuse a closing 2nd (like Z in the Classic), but even if you don't, these remain the facts.

They each lost one race in 2010.

Blame beat Zenyatta head to head on a fair track (he beat Haynesfield in that race too).

In the other races, Blame's 2010 competition was significantly higher than Zenyatta's.

If the voting rules allow for sentimentality and considerations for what a horse does for the sport, then fine, give the award to Zenyatta (although that sounds like it should be an ambassador award, doesn't it?), but if the award is meant to reflect what happened on the track over the course of one year, it's Blame (and by more than a short head this time).

08 Nov 2010 10:05 PM

Look a little closer at the races Blame has won. I don't believe the quality of horse he was beating are any tougther than Zenyatta. Quality Road came back to win over a weak group and was drubbed in the Classic. Haynesfield beat him and was nowhere to be found. Everyone seems to be acting like Quality Road and some of the others are that much better than what Zenyatta was facing but I think there are some serious question marks there. Zenyatta won more grade ones and showed up on the big day in spite of her obvious discomfort in the early going. You will not likely see another horse of her caliber for a very, very long time.

08 Nov 2010 10:07 PM
needler in Virginia

What a load of manure! By these standards, Zenyatta should have been HOTY LAST year! You can't have it both ways, but clearly there are those are want exactly that. By denying this horse HOTY yet again, racing will shoot itself well and truly in all four feet at a time when it had barely regained the use of two.

The mere (and there is NOTHING about that mare that can be described as "mere") presence of Zenyatta brought thousands to racing at a time when the sport wasn't necessarily presenting its' best face. Ignoring what she did this last year, never mind what she did BEFORE 2010, makes racing appear to trivialize what she accomplished.

The attention she has gained will be focussed on the Eclipse Awards as there are now more fans than ever watching what happens to her. And, not to put too fine a a point on it, passing her over for Horse of the Year yet AGAIN will make racing appear snotty and arrogant.

08 Nov 2010 10:07 PM

"The level of ignorance displayed here by so-called fans of the sport is disheartening at best. Whether it's a fundamental lack of understanding about the award itself (it's American Horse of the Year, which is why Goldikova isn't in the conversation)."

Umm...actually it's for a horse who has made at least 1 start in North America. As I remember, Dance Smartly (a Canadian horse) got a vote or two many years ago. And didn't Miesque get a few votes?

08 Nov 2010 10:36 PM

Bet Twice: Bravo for your post 11/7 at 8:57. Might I add: "Why did TV viewership triple for Saturday's telecast?" Zenyatta.

RAT: Your post 11/8 at 11:28 almost made me cry. Thank you.

Ultimately, this sport will survive or die based on the strength of its heartbeat. As much as the hardened horseplayers seem to dislike sentiment, the reality is this: for the past three years, Zenyatta has brought new fans into the sport, moved old fans to tears, heightened debates. She has filled that heart to near bursting. She is sublime.

08 Nov 2010 11:10 PM

HOTY for 2010 is Zenyatta, not your 'I didn't race in Jan, Feb, March, April etc' Blame. Zenyatta could easily have shared the honors with Curlin in 2008- she came in second in the voting and basically picked the wrong year to be great.

Then in 2009, Zen has a campaign the likes of which have never been seen in racing by an mare- again she picks the wrong year to be great with RA winning and Zen getting 90 votes.  

To Hancock, Horse of the Year is all about boosting Blame's stud fee by 50 grand when he stands at Claiborne next year. To the scribes in the East, Blame as HOTY is a validation as to how much they hate Zenyatta.

Let's not play games- all the lip service as to liking her is absolute BS on the part of many in the East, and Art Wilson himself said that on Inside Horse Racing-that it's true.

It's too bad the the Zen/RA battle ripped apart so many fans as Andy Beyer said so well.

Instead of enjoying both horses and what they did on the track, rival fans made a bloodbath out of it- as if this decaying sport didn't have enough problems.

09 Nov 2010 9:25 AM

From the writer to zookeeper: Absolutely a candidate for the next "Hmmmm."

09 Nov 2010 10:34 AM

Hey Tom, I can agree that Blame is a good horse and deserves a vote for HOTY, but look who really is a great horse...Zenyatta !!!!!!!! Thank You Very Much, Do I get an AMEN? D.C. in Texas

09 Nov 2010 10:50 AM

@Saratoga Tony-

Blame as HOTY doesn't fly.

But for argument's sake, let's say the only thing that matters is what happens on track. Now, Blame is a very good horse, a cinch for champion older male.

But this year, he beat a Grade 3 field in the W.D. Schaeffer. In the Stephen Foster, Battle Plan, tore a suspensory in that race and was retired when it seemed he would easily win- I mentioned this already.

In the Whitney, Blame was getting five pounds when he beat Quality Road by a desperate head and Blame was crushed in the JCGC- your excuses are great, but they are excuses for the JCGC.

I never once gave Zen an excuse for losing- never blamed Smith, nor how she ran the race- THAT is racing- it IS WHAT IT IS- I ask everybody here to watch the 2010 Jockey Club Gold Cup and asked yourself; 'Is that horse getting trounced by a NY Breed the HOTY 2010?

For two years in a row Zen beat the best three year old males that would face her via the BCC- the best of two crops- no other female has even attempted this!

Blame won in a photo, but he sure isn't HOTY.

09 Nov 2010 11:06 AM

Exactly. Celebrate having been here to experience the things she did and forget the ones she didn't. Forget the east vs west thing. It's irrelevant. A good horse is a good horse is a good horse. She was what she was and she brought to racing people who had never given a d--n about it before. If the humans in it can be as noble as Zenyatta was and put the good of all ahead of the good of self, maybe we can keep most of those new fans and make 'em not just 'Zen' people but racing people too.

09 Nov 2010 11:08 AM

Oh good, Tom! I was really glad to see your article and I'm looking forward to the next "Hmmm". The silence was deafening, especially from the fans & bettors who can write comments a mile long but hardly said anything about the Life At Ten puzzlement.

I see that things are not improving on this blog. The battle goes on... very upsetting for people like me who realize that we (the fans) have no say in the matter. The voters will decide and life will go on.

Zenyatta's fans will continue to love her, no matter what happens at The Eclipse Awards. Isn't it all that matters in the end? We had her for three fantastic years and we will miss her terribly... but life goes on.

09 Nov 2010 11:26 AM

Blame earned 2010 HOTY on the track. That is where you are suppose to earn it.

Draynay 08 Nov 2010 11:52 AM

Unlike last year where RA ducked the Breeders' Cup because her connections knew they had pulled off a fast one by going against weak older males and winning. RA had no chance of winning a Br. Cup race and they knew it. They bet their cards on ducking the best and hoping the east coast media bias would carry her to HOTY and it did.

09 Nov 2010 11:57 AM

Thanks, Tom. This is beautifully said.

I adore Zenyatta and have traveled from my home on the West Coast to watch her race twice. She is the reason I returned to the track after a 34-year hiatus, including attending the Breeders Cup. No one is more crushed than I am that she lost. And I know so many of us feel that way. The heartbreak in the stands on Saturday was tangible.

Nevertheless, I agree that Blame deserves to be the Horse of the Year based on the fact that he beat her and a strong field. If she'd made it those last few inches and won, I would assert she'd earned the award. But unfortunately she didn't.

I agree with the viewpoint that the Eclipse Awards should honor the incredible impact Zenyatta has had on racing. A way to do that would be to give the owner and trainer awards to Jerry and Ann Moss and  to John Shirreffs. This seems the best way to recognize what they have done for the sport, which is tremendous.

Zenyatta is one of the historic greats and belongs in that category. Lots of these horses have been beaten. Regardless of the fact that she may not be Horse of the Year, she clearly is a racehorse for the ages and her loss to Blame will never diminish that.

I will always feel fortunate to have seen her in person.

09 Nov 2010 12:15 PM
Bill Daly

Yeah, I say "hmmmm" too when I see what transpired on Friday with Life At Ten. It was pretty clear she wasn't right warming up ....and I'm watching her on TV!! Johnny V apparently expressed his concern about how she wasn't warming up well, yet the vets allowed her to run. Wouldn't you think they would have erred on the side of safety here? It's fortunate she didn't break down during the running of the race!

09 Nov 2010 1:54 PM
Gary Tasich

Zenyatta brought the crowd, increased attendance and handle. People went to see HER after the race. She's all the talk,a true champion and HOTY.

Blame can be called Breeder's Cup Classic Champion but his body of work doesn't compare. She was BC Champion last year. Neither Rachel nor Blame have met Zenyatta on her home court. Yet Rachel got HOY and the justification was the surface.

Zenyatta traveled across the country and ran spectacularly on dirt. There goes the argument for last year's boondoggle. Let's not forget Curlin got HOTY after finishing 4th in the BC Classic. Politics? Hmmmmm?

Zenyatta is a winner even in defeat. Blame barely beat Quality Road and Musket Man in the Whitney. He got beat by Hayensfield and only got Fly Down by a couple in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He has a record of 13-10-2-2. Zenyatta put all those horses away at first asking and is 20-19-1-0. Blame had a couple of shots at them to beat them. Have Blame travel across the country and meet her on her home track then let's see what happens. If he wins, then he's deserving. Best older horse, yes. HOTY, no!

Even in defeat Zenyatta was the better horse. She got him a hop and a half after the finish.

Oh forbid we should consider intangibles like emotion to determine HOTY? What is HOTY anyway? It transcends the BC Classic. Seems like emotion is what the east coast dirt busters used to knock a great horse like Zenyatta last year.

People will remember Zenyatta not Blame. She brought more to the game and the Breeder's cup than any other horse that competed. Go back to my first comments and when you consider the totality of the horse it's an easy choice for HOTY. ZENYATTA...!!!!

09 Nov 2010 2:24 PM


09 Nov 2010 2:51 PM

Thank you for your upcoming article/blog on Life At Ten and the Distaff. It was VERY upsetting to see a horse who quite obviously wasn't right being loaded in the gate and being asked to run in one of the toughest races of her career.

My teenaged sons and I were all watching in shocked disbelief and yelling at the TV - "WHAT IN THE BLEEP ARE YOU DOING?" at both her trainer and jockey.

Very very disturbing.

Gave the sport a nasty black eye on one of its biggest stages of the year.

Now back to the endless HOY bickering.  ;-)

09 Nov 2010 5:02 PM

Your vote for "horse of the year" doesn't mean anything, it is just an opinion. We had never been to the Breeders' Cup races and one of biggest reasons we went was to see Zenyatta run. Her winning the Classic would have been a better outcome but it was a privilege to see her. We did not talk to anyone that had come to the races for the first, or many times, that were there to see Blame run. So, so much for your opinion on "horse of the year."

09 Nov 2010 9:51 PM
christy tate

i agree with tom on everything but HOTY. there are some football teams that would love to have Zenyatta's record of 19-1 right now. besides, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, and ManO'War didn't win all of their races either, and they're still considered some of the greatest racehorses ever.

10 Nov 2010 12:42 AM
Gary Tasich


You shouldn't be allowed a vote. You're part of the problem and probably voted for RA last year.

Your assessment is based on one race which demonstrates how one dimenional and sequesterd you are.

Too bad for the sport.

Simply put...Zenyatta is HOTY with or without your vote.

10 Nov 2010 12:28 PM

Great article. As someone wrote "Bravo'" It's all about the horses not some award that most people forget about 10 minutes after the winner is announced.  

10 Nov 2010 1:13 PM

Tom - Since I refuse to engage in this futile debate, I'm going off the topic again.

I'm reading that Castellano was granted a stay of his suspension until who knows when. That's nothing new. It happens a lot and that is the greatest part of my beef.

It has come to my attention that Castellano has caused this kind of havoc in the past, several times. Is this true? If so, a 6-day suspension seems very lenient to me, and that's the second part of my beef.

We are talking about a life and death situation here, for all jockeys and horses involved. Repeated offenses should lead to stricter and stricter punishment until the jockeys who too often fail to ride safely are banned from the sport.

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that this is the way they earn a living, should have no bearing in the discussion. They can go earn a living somewhere else, where their cavalier attitude doesn't endanger the people and animals around them.

OK, now that I have gotten that off my chest, I'll get off my soap box! :)

10 Nov 2010 1:57 PM

From the writer to Gary Tasich: Gary, you obviously didn't read the blog or the subsequent comments. I haven't voted for a few years because I dropped out of the Turf Writers organization; therefore, I couldn't have voted for Rachel Alexandra last year, and have no vote this year. So what's your point???

10 Nov 2010 2:01 PM

I think Stall's comments on perfect trip etc...etc...made it clear that his horse only had to run. Zenyatta on the other hand had to be a real racehorse dealing with all kinds of obstacles to only be a whisker shy.

If the BC didn't count last year or her career over Curlin's the year before. Then it shouldn't now. There have been some excellent comments siding with the same angle as mine. Better suited for a vote than the author of this piece.

She did the flying this year and showed more guts than any male horse on that track. Maybe she should have carried 129 pounds as she had successfully carried twice in her career and won. That might have been why she didn't win by 10. Did Blame carry that weight?

Blame beat Gone Astray this year. He was in a win and your in race. Mmm, didn't see him in the BC Classic. Where were the Travers Horses? Other than Fly Down... where were the rest of them? You can make a claim for any horse but when it comes to Zenyatta, you don't have to say much as she has said it all in her 20-race career.

10 Nov 2010 2:10 PM

A great race and she was beaten only by a nose. She is a champion thoroughbred who deserves to be mentioned with all the greats- Secretariat, Man-o-War, Citation, Seattle Slew,etc. In my opinion she will be remembered forever. A magnificent horse surrounded by classy connections and an adoring public. Keep it in perspective. She is a winner. He just ran a little better that day and had a little easier trip.

10 Nov 2010 3:07 PM
Soldier Course


Your comment about the survival of the sport depending upon the strength of its heartbeat hit the nail on the head.

I have been a devoted fan since 2002, but the pulse of racing is getting pretty thready for me. For the first time since I began watching the Breeders' Cup in 2002, I did not watch the entire program. In fact I didn't tune in at all until about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. If Zenyatta hadn't been running, I would have skipped the whole thing.

10 Nov 2010 3:46 PM

Great first four paragraphs.Yes, many were disappointed the best horse in the field didn't win. Zenyatta is certainly deserving of the honors of Horse of the Year. On another note, Blame was promptly retired after a good year. Wish we could have seen more of him.

10 Nov 2010 5:33 PM

Leaving the award out of the discussion, how can someone say that Blame ran a little better in the Classic. He won the race, that's a fact, but he did not run better. He ran extremely well but what Zenyatta did was phenomenal and defies the laws of nature!

10 Nov 2010 5:33 PM

As they say, compare "apples to apples."

As we know, Zenyatta lost by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Classic to Blame in a TWELVE horse field, whereas the 1 loss Blame had this year he lost by 4 lengths in a SIX horse field.

Also, the distances were the same in the races where Blame & Zenyatta lost their only race this year.

11 Nov 2010 9:57 AM

Hey, I did not know that the blog allowed duplicate names. I see that someone else is now "old timer." Is it allowed because I am in caps?

Anyway I can see both sides to the debate. In the end it seems like it is good for the sport.

I do not accuse anyone in particular of bias. However I will always believe that Zenyatta should have been HOTY in 2009. If in 2010 we say head to head competition is the arbiter of HOTY, then the same logic says that Rachel did not show up last year for the head to head battle and Zenyatta should have won by default.

Not taking anything away from RA's great year, but the whole idea of the Breeders' Cup is to be a day of champions. The Classic really should weigh very heavily in the voting. Just my humble opinion.

In the end we have all been fortunate to have witnessed such great racing in 2009 and 2010.  

13 Nov 2010 3:53 PM
big george t /md

The question is not "Should Zenatta be horse of the year".  The question is rather "should Zenatta be HORSE OF THE DECADE".  Lacking the proper category for this mare, I would vote for her to be Horse of the Year, Horse of the Last Two Years, etc...

04 Dec 2010 4:11 PM

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