Now that the Breeders' Cup is in our rearview mirror and it feels as though racing comes to a screeching halt for the rest of season, there is one topic that seems to be on everyone's mind: Horse of the Year.
Curlin vs. Zenyatta. Who will it be?
It's been less than a week since the Breeders' Cup ended and I've already been asked the same question countless times: Who are you going to vote for? Although my standard response has been, "I'm not sure yet," if I'm honest with myself I will admit that I'm leaning towards Zenyatta.
I'm not one of those traditionalists who feels a filly needs to beat the colts to earn Horse of the Year honors. I think what Zenyatta has done is enough to merit strong consideration for the award. Her undefeated season and scintillating Ladies Classic victory over a quality field makes her worthy of the honors.
I will not go into detailed reasons why either Curlin or Zenyatta deserve the award; my colleague Steve Haskin already did a very good job of summing that up. A strong case can be made for either; they were both sensational in 2008. I do respectfully disagree with Steve on the fact that Big Brown deserves to be in the mix. I thought his second half campaign was a bit of a joke, between bypassing Saratoga and having a glorified allowance race written for him. But I digress...
The one thing I will say for sure is this: Right now, I am leaning towards Zenyatta, but I can still be swayed. How? If Curlin runs in the Nov. 26 Clark Handicap and beats Commentator. In my mind, that would push Curlin over the top.
Don't get me wrong. I can see why Jess Jackson would not want to run Curlin in the Clark and I would not penalize him if he chose not to. It's already been a long campaign for him and I have no idea how Curlin came out of the Breeders' Cup. It could very well be that he needs more rest. Jackson did the commendable thing by bringing Curlin to California and he deserves a lot of credit already.
All that being admitted, if Curlin won the Clark it would be the perfect exclamation point. As great as he has been these last two years, I would have to think the Classic loss leaves a bit of a sour taste in Jackson's mouth. If that was indeed his final race, it can't be the way he wants his career to end. A victory in the Clark, on his home track, would be such a fitting way to go out. And to beat a quality horse like Commentator, who has run the highest speed numbers of any horse all year, would quiet anyone who said Curlin hasn't beaten much this year.
It's probably a longshot at this point, but a victory in the Clark would be enough to sway this voter.