Horse of the Year: Stalemate

These are the final words from here on the Horse of the Year debate between racing's two monarchs, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Unfortunately, only one likely will be crowned, but you can be sure both will rule in the hearts and minds of most racing fans.

What follows below is based on the facts, with a little emotion thrown in. But first, as one of those who would like to see both names permitted on the ballot, just to give voters as torn as I am that option, I feel compelled to comment on NTRA president Alex Waldrop's reasoning why he doesn't feel that would be appropriate. There is no evidence to support Waldrop's comment that it would guarantee both horses the award. If someone feels strongly about either horse, they will vote for that horse. If the majority vote for both horses, then that's what they feel should be the outcome. It's free will and free thinking, with no "manipulation" involved.

Continue reading this column or feel free to comment below.


Leave a Comment:


Hey Steve...just look at the facts re competition of each, their ability, their record, their performances - no many have stated Rachel should have been in the gate at Santa Anita - she was not - GAME OVER !!!

Zenyatta beat a world-class field with the exception of Sea the Stars....and as you commented she's beaten 36 G1 winners, and the 3-4 champions in the BCUP Classic.....Not only that, I was there and you were there at SA to watch her before and during the race....Zenyatta could have probably gone around again as she galloped out strongly after the BCUP Classic....she was dominant and won in style....again if Rachel would have been there, she would have beaten her too, but we'll never know for sure...but regardless, when you compare performances and competition - GAME OVER Again !!!

15 Nov 2009 9:24 PM
Paula Higgins

Absolutely brilliant Steve. ITA with everything you said. The powers that be need to rise to the occasion and do the right thing. If they don't do it, they have no business being in the positions they are in and they do a terrible disservice to the sport. Both horses are phenomenal and need to be recognized. Enough with the "We can't do it." JUST DO IT. Doing "IT" means finding a way to award both horses and their connections for their accomplishments.

As for John Shirreffs, I will feel very badly for him the day that Zenyatta leaves his barn. I am sure it will be a very hard day. I know I would find it heartbreaking.

15 Nov 2009 9:28 PM
Hilo Farm

Couldn't agree more.

15 Nov 2009 9:33 PM

This vote will be compounded by the fact that future three year old or classic winners will almost be eliminated from HOY contention.  Rachel had a long and arduous campaign culminating by a win in Woodward Stakes against older peers. I am just a fan and not a horse person per sey.  Can anyone recall a three year old that held their form the way R. A. did over the length of time in question?  She ran late in the season at Churchill in 08 with short breaks up to September 09 of this year.  To require a talented 3 year old to "dance the final dance" in the Breeders Cup after such a long campaign would be too much for even a filly the caliber of RA.  Zenyatta had a late start but was excellently managed up to the performance we all witnessed in the Classic.  I say R.A. deserves the award for HOY but I do not relish anyone that has a vote to cast.

15 Nov 2009 9:35 PM
Paula Higgins

P.S. I couldn't click the button to vote for, or against, either one either. No kidding. I felt like it was SOPHIE"S CHOICE all over again.

Just a little side note. I was reading about fighting in the Indian wars back in Essex County, Massachusetts during the 17th century. It told the story about a man who had to decide whether to try and rescue just two of his children and take off on horseback (where he would have certainly survived), or lay the horse down in the road and shoot from behind the horse and and possibly die with all his children. He chose to take a stand and fight to protect ALL the children. He was able to fight the Indians off and everyone survived. I know it's a stretch, but I think there is a lesson here. To the NTRA, do the creative and brave thing.

15 Nov 2009 9:39 PM

Whoever wins it just please don't let it be a Co-HOTY.  

There should only be 1 winner no matter how great the other was too.

P.S.   It's Zenyatta !!!

15 Nov 2009 9:42 PM

I don't have a vote, but if I did, I'd have the same dilemma.  My heart is with Zenyatta, but my intellect can't discount the amazing things that Rachel has done this year.  I can make strong, reasoned arguments for both of them.  Just as I felt very fortunate thirty-six years ago when I watched Secretariat, I feel very fortunate this year to have witnessed two immortal horses.  Wow.

15 Nov 2009 9:45 PM

I concur....Stalemate!

HOY = Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. I am sad to see this year end.  

15 Nov 2009 9:46 PM

I think back to Personal Ensign's career and she never won HOY after going 13-0.

The difference between Personal Ensign and Zenyatta is huge though.

Personal Ensign decided to run in the Breeders Cup Distaff, instead of the Breeders Cup Classic.

Personal Ensign won The Breeders Cup Distaff and was 13-0 and was in the driver's seat for HOY.

The only horse that could stop her was Alysheba. A few hours later Alysheba wins the Breeders Cup Classic and takes the HOY hardware from Personal Ensign.

Zenyatta decided to do the opposite of Personal Ensign in 2009 and dove into the deep end of the pool, go "All-IN" and face the best aged males the world had to offer.

Zenyatta had her connections rolled the dice, put her undefeated record on the line and powered home to win the "2009 Breeders Cup Classic and became the first filly/mare to "ever" conquer this feat.

Meanwhile Rachel Alexandra is 3,000 miles a way munching oats while her owner bashes synthetic racing. Do racing fans need owners like this guy?

The fan comes before the owner. If the owner does not have the fan, the fan will not watch his racehorse and the sport is then cooked.

Horses who are part of the Breeders Cup Classic win Horse of the Year honors. If you don't believe me, follow your history books:

15 Nov 2009 9:47 PM
carolyn rogers

Steve you write so beautiful, and yes, I agree with you that John Shirriffs should be awarded as top trainer this year for his excellent work with Zenyatta's career and having two ladies win both classics. Zenyatta gets my vote for HOTY, hands down. I just love her. I am a fan of Ra's too,and I hope she will have a great 4 year old campaign next year, but Zenyatta has earned it this year.

15 Nov 2009 9:50 PM

Zenyatta, simply put.

15 Nov 2009 9:51 PM
very Windy City

Wow, I'm sooo happy and honored that I was able to see two the gratest Ladies of our time :-) My heart belongs to Rachel, but I couldn't decide who would get my vote....I would probably not vote at all :-(

15 Nov 2009 9:52 PM

I think the debate is actually comical. The word HISTORY is very misused considering the absolute ridiculous fields the races were run against.

In the KY Oaks the competition was not even grade3 quality.

The belmont race was in a 4 horse field of allowance runners.

In the Haskell she ran on a speed favoring sloppy track having the race shape all her own.

The Woodward she was life n death to hold off that top male Macho Again and in the Preakness she was all out to hold off the 50-1 one hit wonder pony Mine That Bird. The entire campaign nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Zenyatta won almost every race at a distance not her best, and against weights and bias.

She shipped east in only her 4th start and demolished a BCUP Champion.

When she made her 1st start vs males and 1st start at 10f she demolished them in 2:00 and galloped out like it was a walk in the park.

There is ONE star here and it's not a speedy 3 yr old that make a living beating up on 4th rate competition.

In honest, RA is not ruffian, nor landaluce or winning colors.

Do we forget WC destroying the SA DERBY and winning the KY Derby?

RA is a public relations creation not a HOY.  

15 Nov 2009 9:53 PM

There is no doubt Zenyatta is loved by all- and her victory in the Classic made history for her and all involved- BUT- the fact remains she did not ship out and meet east coast competition, even though she probably would have won anyway- traveling takes its toll- Rachael did it all brillantly-

15 Nov 2009 9:53 PM

Another great article by the Master, Steve Haskin. Why can't there be dual winners, and that goes for any catagory ? How many people get to vote, who are they, and what state do they live in ?

15 Nov 2009 9:59 PM

If I could vote for Horse of the Year, I would choose Zenyatta right away.  I have always been a fan of hers.  When I'd watch Rachel race, and I see her go to the lead, I just think "There goes Rachel again.  How many lengths will she open up this time?"  When I'd watch Zenyatta I'd get goosebumps, and I'd cheer her on.  Rachel is an amazing horse, but I think that this is Zenyatta's year to be Horse of the Year. . .she's stayed undefeated, ran in her usual style, and beat the best 3 year old and older males from all over the world, and won.  It would also be nice for Zenyatta to not only go out with a record like that, but to also have the Horse of the Year award as well.

15 Nov 2009 10:01 PM

Rachel Alexandra - HOY

Zenyatta - *Pegasus Award

*Awarded  to the horse whose performance is so superior

it appears to be a horse of a different breed.

15 Nov 2009 10:03 PM

Thank you, Steve, for your thoughtful article.

I didn't have the privilege of seeing Rachel race but did manage to see Zenyatta at the Clement Hirsch and the BCC. I'm convinced that no horse on earth could have beaten her at the BCC. She was accelerating at the wire and could have run down anything. Her maneuvering was as skilled as that of a nimble halfback. Then, of course, she puts out just enough to win and comes out of the race fresh as a daisy, ears pricked, and happy. Her personality is matchless, too, and how she does love to show off!

I would split the award. Both horses have their own styles of racing and are very different except for the fact that they both have enormous ability, beauty, and heart.

15 Nov 2009 10:07 PM

Great article, again, Steve, as I just commented on Facebook, too. After writing down my thoughts and closing out, I concluded that if I were making the call in the middle of our country, it would be Zenyatta. While her historical numbers were less than Rachel's this year, the fact that she was still making history and beating all these G1 horses, nationally and internationally, in her 2nd year of racing, closing out on TOP, is enough for me to earn her Horse of the Year honors. If Rachel can do the same next year in her 2nd year, then she can get the award....

15 Nov 2009 10:08 PM

I agree with you 100% Steve! They should BOTH win, but that's not going to happen.  

15 Nov 2009 10:09 PM
John T

No true racing fan should be disappointed if it,s the mare or the filly that will become horse of the year,they both put on quite a show.My vote goes to the mare as

she showed up for the Breeders Cup Classic and it,s not her fault it was run on a synthetic surface and

who can say for sure she would not

have been even better on original dirt.She sure looked very impressive on it at Oaklawn Park.

15 Nov 2009 10:19 PM
Fire Slam

Zenyatta was awesome!! BUT... she beat a deep TURF field on plastics. Also, Summer Bird and Mine That Bird do not compare to some of the three year olds from years past. This years 3 yr. old crop could be weaker then the crop Big Brown raced against.

Rachel, beat males on several occasions, at numerous tracks, raced more, set historical marks for winning margins, and did it on a "real"race track--not plastic.

To do justice, Rachel A. is Horse of the Year. Zenyatta should be named Synthetic Horse of the Year,just like Gio Ponti will be Turf Horse of the Year.

15 Nov 2009 10:27 PM

Steve your not a politician , stop being a wimp and pick one.

15 Nov 2009 10:28 PM

I totally agree that John should win Trainer of the Year. We should reward excellence not just volume.

Not to be mean to a colleague or anything but, sure Steve A is leading the earnings standings, but with more than 2 and a half times as many starts as his closest competitor and 5 times as many as the guy in third a 2500 starts lead on John? He dang sure better be leading the money earnings.

Even though it's not like the Pletcher, Lukas etc. of the past when most of those wins are/were Graded Stakes victories. Man can you even imagine where Wayne would be if those races were worth the millions they are now?

But, I digress. I believe as you do Steve H, that it's John.

That would do more for the industry than giving it to someone who still has a major positive/suspension hanging over his head. Although in the past there's been more than once that the guy/horse that should have won lost out to the politics of it all.

As far as Alex? A businessman who you could plug into any business as far as I'm concerned. I'll take your side on this one too. Because when all is said and done I believe YOU have far more passion and love for this industry than old Alex does. Just have to read your stories to know that. I listen to Alex and figure he'd sell anything the same way. Even if it isn't working.

BUT to go strictly by the rules? I guess if it's that close, we'd have to say whoever showed up for the biggest days in racing have the lead in all the categories, since that's one of the reasons the Breeders Cup was created.

15 Nov 2009 10:45 PM


Great article and the part I liked the most was the proposal for a Synthetic Horse of the Year and a Dirt Horse of the Year. I think that's an extremely valid point; in all reality, those two surfaces are as different as dirt and turf for many horses and I think they should each have their own category, especially considering it looks as though synthetics are here to stay, as much as I dislike that. As for who will win Horse of the Year, I desperately want it to be Rachel Alexandra. I believe she had the Horse of the Year campaign this year and, if you read my other posts, I think she deserves it more. However, I (unfortunately) feel it will go to Zenyatta as this is her last year racing and the Breeders' Cup is the last big race of the season- it will be the freshest performance in the voters' minds. But I fimrly believe that one race does not make Horse of the Year, and one race is what Zenyatta's Horse of the Year title will be based on.

15 Nov 2009 10:46 PM
Bob Z

You wrote:

Those who point out the New York Times poll, which had the voting 70% for Rachel Alexandra and 30% for Zenyatta, surely must realize that having an Eastern-based publication conducting a poll is not exactly an indication of how the majority of racing fans in the United States feel. Let the Los Angeles Times conduct the same poll. Would anyone disagree that it likely would come out at least 70-30 the other way?


So in other words my internet connection stops at the Mississippi?

Let the LA Times put up a poll..

I'm going to get on the NY Times poll / blog right now and tell everyone that voted either way to keep an eye out for the LA Times Poll and vote accordingly...

15 Nov 2009 10:59 PM

I'm playing devil's advocate.

We will say that Rachel Alexandra has been placed into the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic.

The question for HOY voters:

Does anyone really think Rachel Alexandra is going to separate from this field (as she does on dirt tracks) and leave this field reeling.

The Pro-Ride doesn't allow for this type of running style. A horse will completely fall apart and tire if they try to separate from the field. We all saw this in the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic when "Landry" and "Careless Jewel" tried to go wire to wire. She was absolutely exhausted and blowing extremely hard when she returned to her groom.

If Rachel cannot separate herself from horses like Gio Ponti and Zenyatta, she's done.

She is not going to outclose the turf star "Gio Ponti" or Zenyatta.

Pro-Ride racing is won in the last two furlongs (1/4 mile) of a race. It's not won on the front end.

If the Turf Writers, DRF and NTRA are honest with themselves (concerning how Rachel would do with her running style on the Pro-Ride), they would vote for Zenyatta as HOY (knowing that she could not outclose Gio Ponti and Zenyatta in the last 1/4 of a mile going the classic distance of a mile and a quarter).

15 Nov 2009 11:00 PM
Max E

Co -HOY is the only outcome that would be fair.Both were outstanding

and had an undefeated year.

15 Nov 2009 11:01 PM
Pete M

Well Written Steve, guess you have to have a tie breakers somewhere...and the only one that makes sense to me is Zenyatta showed up on Championship Day.  So that to me the easy decider.

15 Nov 2009 11:02 PM
Barbara W

Zenyatta is the Queen and has stolen my heart. Is it written in stone that she has to go immediately to the breeding shed? I've only just now come to love and appreciate her, since I don't live near the West Coast. She has star power.

Maybe it's just the pictures I've seen, but Rachel has the saddest eyes I've ever seen. If she races next year, she will have her chance then. After all, Zenyatta has already had to wait an extra year.

15 Nov 2009 11:05 PM

Really couldn't agree more. I've haven't been watching racing for too long, since 5th grade in early 2005, but this is some of the best fillies to race that I've ever seen. I'm just glad I don't have to vote. It's hard to vote one against the other. I used to be a straight Rachel fan but after that Classic's hard. I know you have to base your vote after their entire body of work over the year and not just one race though. Sigh, it's just too bad they can't split the award.

15 Nov 2009 11:08 PM
I <3 Z

this is so well put!,

i LOVE Zenyatta, and she needs to be Horse of the year. its just an Award but she Deserves it first

15 Nov 2009 11:09 PM

I love hoe both horses ran this year but I do prefer Rachel over Zenyatta. I know she did not win the classic or the ladies classic, She still had a better campaign. First of all, She ran on many different tracks and on the slop. Zenyatta scratched. I understand that Zenyatta carried 129 pounds she still pretty much ran the same campaign. Rachel is beat the boys three times. Zenyatta once. Rachel did also beat summer bird and mine that bird at their peaks and there desired surfaced. She did also beat Gio Ponti. He did not win a Breeders Cup race. The Turf then should go to Conduit as well as Older male. Rachel was the best horse period. They did not race against each other. Rachel might have lost to Zenyatta on synthetics and Rachel would have on dirt. So if the breeders cup race was at Churchill, Zenyatta would have never entered the classic and probably lost the ladies classic. Rachel had the best campaign ALL YEAR.

15 Nov 2009 11:12 PM
Greg R

It could be Rachel's trainer has more positive tests than any other trainer with an active license. Was she that good? Was Curlin? How many positive tests does Shirreff's have?

15 Nov 2009 11:14 PM

Both are great, I think Zenyatta should win, but I don't have a vote.  Hey, I never agree with the voters anyway, one thing I do know if RA never wins the BC Classic you can't compare her to Zenyatta when you talk the best of ALL TIME.

15 Nov 2009 11:15 PM

In all honestly, how can we deny Rachel Alexandra HOY?  And for all those who continue to bash JJ for not running her on synthetics something to think of..

Would we have had such an amazing season (The excitment leading up to Rachels preakness, her romp and brilliance in the Haskell and her heartfull win agains't Macho Again) if JJ hadnt bought her?  No!  Her old owners were dead set against running her with the sure she may have met up with Zenyatta, but it would have been in the Ladies Classic, WHICH would have denied us Zenyatta's historical Classic win!

Both are amazing and this season has been SPECTACULAR, so stop whinning about what could have been and appreciate what we were given.  The race for HOY is going to be close and exciting!  I love Zenyatta..but for this year, Rachel Alexandra has my vote.  Looking forward to seeing her all of next year too :) Another wonderfull thing JJ's doing for the sport, bringing back a much needed/loved champ instead of heading straight to the breeding shed.

15 Nov 2009 11:17 PM

Can't wait for this topic to be done with! It's been overdone sooo much!   Everyone was 100% behind Rachel before the B.C. & then the one state synthetic specialist wins ONE RACE, and then everyone is for Zenyatta. Please reread Mr. Haskin's list of Rachel's accomplishments for THIS YEAR and then really rethink this debate.  Did Zenyatta set records and do historic moments ALL YEAR? No, I think not, RA will be HOTY!!!!!

15 Nov 2009 11:17 PM

If Rachel even gets any votes for horse of the year, it will state that it is ok not to run a horse in the championship race.  What a joke that would be.  The Saints probably dont want to play outdoors in the Super Bowl, but I bet they will go anyways.  Jess Jackson knew his horse couldnt win unless she would have been there.  Zenyatta is horse of the Year.  

15 Nov 2009 11:21 PM

I personally place RA's accomplishments this year just a small step ahead of Zenyatta.....but if Zenyatta wins, I will not be disappointed.  Both are deserving of the award and both made this the best year of racing that I have ever witnessed

15 Nov 2009 11:21 PM

Two other items to consider: distance and weight carried.  Zenyatta carried up to 129 lbs. and she ran outside her comfort zone in the classic.  Rachel ran on more tracks, but was never challenged distance wise.  Let's wait and see how Rachel does next year.  Some horses are great at two, fade to nothing as 3 yr. olds.  Same thing for some 3 yr. olds.  Zenyatta has proven herself over a longer period of time, and yes I do understand that the voting is on what the horse accomplished this year.  Everyone has been talking about the NY Times poll, and how it has such a strong vote for Rachel.  The point was brought up that a poll from a paper in L.A. would be just the opposite.  Just look at the Blood Horse poll...Zenyatta has the lead, and please do not try to tell me that is just East or West coast voting. I have watched both horses and I have to give my vote and it would be for Zenyatta.

15 Nov 2009 11:23 PM

As usual Steve, you are right on and so is the Yenyattafan. The powers to be need to recognize both of these great fillies. I for one do not have a problem with a tie for Horse of the Year. And the same goes for the trainers of these two great champion fillies.

15 Nov 2009 11:23 PM
Greg J.

Mr. Haskin,

   Perfectly Stated!  Incredible circumstances call for temporary rule changes. These are two unbeaten race horses that did NOTHING wrong at any time this year, Their should be a choice on the ballot for BOTH to be named Horse of the Year...

15 Nov 2009 11:25 PM
Pam R

Rachel Alexandra deserves HOTY.  She quite simply did more.  Like I said in a different blog, every time a horse runs in a race they risk getting beat no matter how good they are supposed to be.  She raced three more times than Zenyatta and never tasted defeat. She made a lot of history on the type of racing surfaces and a similar kind of campaign that past great horses made their bid for glory on.  Zenyatta however, stayed in her comfort zone, on her type of track, which for all the other champion horses that ran in that Classic, the sythentic surface was a big question mark on how well they would handle it.  And this is HOTY for 2009-not 2008-2009.  Rachel Alexandra just plain did more and deserves HOTY.

15 Nov 2009 11:26 PM
Paula Higgins

Rachel Alexandra is not some "publication relations creation." What planet are some of you people on? My heart is with Zenyatta, but to ignore what Rachel Alexandra accomplished is mind boggling. She did not beat up on "4th rate competition."

On the other hand, Zenyatta is not "Syntehtic HOTY" either. Geesh. She could beat her competition on dirt and has. I think she could beat anyone at

1 1/4.

People, stop ripping the other horse apart. They are both jaw dropping fillys.

15 Nov 2009 11:28 PM

Fire Slam, I think that your reasoning is faulty.  You claim that the only worthwhile non-turf horses that Zenyatta defeated were the Birds, but dismissed them because they were so weak.  But those are the two male horses that RA gets the most credit for beating.  What other three-year olds are considered better than those two?  Who did she beat in the Woodward?  I think that Macho Again and Bullsbay are both considered second-tier when compared to Einstein, Rip, Colonel John, etc.  

I definitely understand why people vote for RA, but I just don't think that it reasonable to say that she beat higher quality horses than Zenyatta.

As a matter of politics, who wants to support a finicky old billionaire who is still upset about Curlin losing the classic?

15 Nov 2009 11:39 PM
Bob Z


You wrote....

"While her historical numbers were less than Rachel's this year,....."

Stop! Thats it.... right there... close the door....  you just summed it up..... Rachels numbers were better...

That is what HOY should be based on.

If they are not going to base the HOY on numbers which is the way performance is calculated then what are they going to base it on...?  a warm feeling in the stomach that another horse might give you?

I think Zenyatta is fabulous and I know I witnessed something beyond great if only on the TV at home... but no matter how great something makes me feel when you look at the logic of the numbers ... if they can only give one award it has to go to Rachel.

15 Nov 2009 11:46 PM

Another point in Zenyatta's corner

is that she won at the American classic distance of 1 1/4m, against one of the deepest fields assembled, something Rachel can't match. Zenyatta deserves HOY off her perfect record and her win in the Classic, she showed up, she ran and she won.

16 Nov 2009 12:02 AM

Excellent once again Steve!  My vote is still for Co-Horses of the Year and I feel there is NO reason why it can't happen.  Only people who don't WANT it to happen and can stand in the way.  As I and others have stated, it has happened multiple times in the past so it is not unheard of or impossible! The powers that be need to listen to us fans once in awhile I think if this sport is not only going to grow but just survive! I agree also that it is so difficult for any horse but especially a closer to have an unbeaten record!  A travesty to not give a just reward!  One last comment, I also don't believe winning margins or final times are the determining factor.  With their different running styles they just can't be compared in that way.  A closer often does not win by a lot and the final time is at the mercy of the early pace, but it does not make the runner or the race any less spectacular!  In fact, a slow early pace makes it all the more difficult for a closer to win!  The way Zenyatta blew by that field at the end of a mile and a quarter race and was the only runner not all out and did not appear to be at all tired was the most incredible sight! Her final quarter time was also awesome for a race of that distance! If the vote can't be split, I feel she earned it!  

16 Nov 2009 12:02 AM

Rachel Alexandra is horse of the Year easy, she faced males 3 times and beat Summer Bird on a surface he relished by 6 lengths, Zenyatta beat him by 3 lengths on a surface he hated it looked like he was swimming.  Only 1 horse was challenged and stood up to the challenges all year long, only 1 horse set records and made history all year long, that horses name is Rachel Alexandra and the HOY vote will be embarrassing for Zenyatta again.  Synthetic horses are just that specialist, thats why she only ran on dirt 1 time.  And believe me if she faced Rachel she would have lost by 5, maybe thats why the Moss's said they would bring her east and then chickened out 2 days after the Mother Goose, remember the final time for that race 1:46.33 without trying very hard.  there is only 1 true champion this year. Rachel Alexandra, to the connections of Zenyatta there is nothing wrong with being second two years in a row.

16 Nov 2009 12:05 AM
Lou in TX

oliverstoned... you could certainly learn some manners. I'm sure you could have found a much more mature way of stating your opinion. I noticed you didn't state yours, so what doesn't make you a whimp?

I agree that Zenyatta showed up for the BBC and RA didn't. It wasn't RA fault she wasn't there. But she did run a very hard campaign and deserved the rest. I do feel she was put first in that respect. But that is not saying her owners couldn't have changed her schedule at some point so she could run, regardless of the track material.

That being said, I love both horses but I have to go with Zenyatta. She's a 5 yr old mare and is being retired. Winning the BBC is the race of Champions and she is definitely a Champion. Zenyatta for HOTY!!

16 Nov 2009 12:14 AM

"Rachel should have been in the gate at Santa Anita - she was not - GAME OVER !!!"

This. History on her side? By beating Da Tara and an already-fading Freisian Fire? And no way would Summer Bird ever see her butt again. Good job racing her in the cotton-softest races you could find, Jess :P

While Zenyatta what nhot-housed this year as well, who really sealed their year with a bang? It sure wasn't Rachel slowly starting to wilt under Macho Again's breath.

16 Nov 2009 12:16 AM
Dr. Sarah

For the good of horse racing, we NEED a story like this. Making an unprecedented change in HOY voting procedures for this year only would do more good for our sport than any other controllable factor in decades.

We all love a great horse and what a great horse can do for our sport. Zenyatta does not need to ever race again, to be part of giving the sport a great gift b y sharing HOY honors. Rachel Alexandra will presumably have the opportunity to give us more on the track. But she may not. Circumstances may conspire against her either on the track or off. She too can give  the sport a gift by sharing HOY honors for 2009.

The HOY award is not a gift to be bestowed on these horses or their connections.  Giving joint HOY honors to these horses is the greatest gift these horses can give to our sport and to US.

We NEED to do this for Rachel, for Zenyatta, for their owners, trainers, riders  and grooms. We NEED to do this for horse racing, for sportsmanship, for fairness and for ourselves. 2009 was not about losing. Give a joint HOY award. There would be no loser, there SHOULD BE no loser.

16 Nov 2009 12:28 AM

Zenyatta should be the horse of the year. I don't see  one NFL team say they are not showing up to the super bowl because they don't like the surface. They play the game on real grass and artificial. Each team shows up no matter what surface there is. Rachael should not have ducked the Breeders Cup because her owner didn't like the synthetic track. It's just plain old ducking the competition. He must have been scared. Zenyatta is and always will be the horse of the year.

16 Nov 2009 12:32 AM
Rachel Diana

There would have to be two questions on the ballet: 1) should Horse of the Year be shared equally between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, and 2) if the HOY is not shared, which horse should be the Horse of the Year.

If most want the HOY shared, it would be and the individual horse tallies would be ignored.  If most do not want the HOY shared, the horse with the most vote wins.

Rachel Alexandra is the horse that I believe deserves to win.

16 Nov 2009 12:41 AM

Thank you for mentioning the Life Is Sweet angle. You are the first person I have heard mention it.

Also, I don't know if your emphasized the One Mile and One Quarter fact regarding Zenyatta.

Great horses win at classic distances. Holding off MTB at 1 3/16 isn't good enough for me. Neither is ducking the Travers for the softer Woodward.

All the best.

16 Nov 2009 12:43 AM
Julie L.

I wish everyone would stop bickering like children and just enjoy how great these two females have been for horse racing. And for those who are dismissing the horses that Zenyatta faced you cannot run down the competition that she beat in the Classic when Rachel beat those same two 3 year old colts and she never faced Gio Ponti who a few months ago many were considering for HOTY. Both females accomplished a great deal this year so let's give Zenyatta her due as we won't have her next year and look forward to watching how much more Rachel will do in 2010.

16 Nov 2009 12:45 AM
Greg J.


    If you add up the N.Y. Times Poll, Bloodhorse Poll, and The Paulick Report Poll, The Voting would be:

Rachel= 4,572 Votes(1,992 Votes N.Y. Times + 2,363 Votes Bloodhorse + 217 Votes Paulick)...

Zenyatta= 5,178 Votes(890 Votes N.Y. Times + 3,797 Votes Bloodhorse + 491 Votes Paulick)...

Results of the Three Polls(9,750 Votes):

53 % To Zenyatta...

47 % To Rachel...

Seems pretty even in the Public's Eyes...

Give the Award to BOTH...

16 Nov 2009 12:55 AM

I'm with Jermon:

create a new award for "Zenyatta - *Pegasus Award

*Awarded  to the horse whose performance is so superior it appears to be a horse of a different breed."

16 Nov 2009 12:57 AM

Very tough call Steve, at this point I really do not care. Both horses will be remembered for their racing records much more so then any award that may be given. Its like an academy award, every year someone wins and 4 people lose. Is it the best performance or is it juat favortism? Heck I don't know and I don't much care. All this does is open up the blogs for arguements. I do know this however, if the Breeders Cup is advertising their races as the World Championships and the winners do not win those championship awards then it is false advertizing and I think it cheapens the Breeders Cup races moving forward. This isn't the first time we have had a couple of horses have great campaigns. Both are very deserving but in my mind I think Mike Smith is correct when he said that Zenyatta is the horse of the decade.

16 Nov 2009 12:59 AM

* Although this doesn’t pertain to just 2009...

* During her career, Zenyatta...

The debate should end right here, read the two comments above and these automatically get tossed out, then what are you left with?  COmments about ONE race, ONE RACE.  I am not denying that Zenyatta is a special horse and will go down as a truly great mare but we arediscussing Horse of the YEAR.  Rachel wins, no questions asked.  Read the agruements for her and notice that to come up with those agruements, you only have to look back at THIS YEAR.  Now re-read Zenyatta's agruements and notice to even come close to creating a list you have to add on facts from her entire career.  We are not deciding who is the better horse over the course of their career, we are deciding who deserves to be the horse of this YEAR - 2009.  Game over, Rachel did more then Zenyatta all year.  Why have people suddenly forgotten?  Before the Bredders' Cup people said, Zenyatta hasn't done enough, Rachel has it wrapped up, even if Zenyatta wins the Classic, she hasn't done enough - what happened people?!  Get down from cloud 9, it was an AMAZING race, an AMAZING mare, but it was one race, her other four THIS year do not put her close to Rachel.  When Rachel's career is over we can then start the debate about who the greatest of the two was but until then we are simply talking about THIS year and speculating on what next year holds for Rachel.  Rachel is HOTY and Zenyatta takes another champion older mare title.

As for the comments about dirt and synthetic HOTYs - what are you people smoking?  Do they have a dirt and turf HOTY?  NO!  If a turf horse outperforms a dirt horse, they take HOTY, if I synthetic horse outperforms a dirt horse, they take HOTY, this is the big prize, regardless of surface, don't change that.  If you want to start talking that way then why don't you toss in "Older synthetic Male/Female" and change the "old" award to "Older Dirt Male/Female" - add to the categories that way if you must, don't go talking about having a dirt HOTY and a synthetic HOTY cause then you would have to toss in a turf HOTY and then what the heck would be the point of a HOTY title?!

16 Nov 2009 1:04 AM

The idea that Zenyatta (a horse that deserved to race against top-class competition long before she was given the chance) would be given HOY on the strength of one outstanding race is absurd.  

I don't believe that Curlin lost last year because of the synthetic track, and RA had won on synthetic before, so who knows what would have happened (I, unlike many here, am willing to admit I don't know who would have won on dirt or poly) but American HOY should not go to a horse whose owners refused to race her on dirt.  In the event that one day poly is the dominant surface (I hope that day never comes) then her backers might have a case, but she still only won one race of significance.

In addition to that, the next two horses in the BCC were turf specialists.  One can now understand Jess Jackson's position pretty easily.  Why take a horse who has been running and winning all year to race on against an admittedly exceptional horse who is basically racing on her home turf.

Zenyatta could and should have run in the Classic last year, but Shireffs could see how much tougher the competition was.  She should have raced on dirt this year, but they wanted her to be undefeated more than they wanted to challenge her (something Jackson did repeatedly).

Zenyatta may be the best horse in the country but Shireffs and Moss simply didn't give her the chance to prove it, and they should not be rewarded for setting the bar too low, in all but one race.  

16 Nov 2009 1:08 AM

The vote is for Horse of the YEAR, not career. While I loved Zenyatta's swan song in the BC, I can't dismiss the number of times Rachel outperformed the boys this year and the historical runs she made. Both ladies were exceptional. But the ballot should reflect who had the better year, not career. Go RA based on that, even if she ducked the BC. Jackson knew early he wasn't going to repeat the Curlin mistake. One I don't understand, though, is RA Past performance at Kee, Oct 17, 08. She did race on synthetic once and won by 3.

16 Nov 2009 1:08 AM
Matthew W

Steve I hear ya loud and clear--and I loveya, man! Also love how ya emphasized the two year run---I'm looking forward to Rachel Alexandra's attempt to stay on top another year! Please take it easy with her! Please come back as great as ever and remember it's all about the horse! Agree Shirreffs is the man! This is the asterisk horse on the asterisk tracks but we know what we saw!

16 Nov 2009 1:16 AM

sorry from this side no give.....its only zenyatta

16 Nov 2009 1:28 AM

short and sweet the chart was hrawn months ago....when it counted rachel was a no show

16 Nov 2009 1:30 AM

First I am a fan of both filly's 2 things to look at. One who had the better campaign that belongs to RA. 2nd Who had the best performance that belongs to zenyatta. RA beat Macho again by nose or head, Macho again isn't that good of a horse, but she did beat summer bird, who did show up on breeders cup day but just got outfinished. Now Zenyatta beat 2 or 3 generations of fillys and mares the past two years but this year she beat the same competition over and over and I was estatic when I heard she was running in the classic. In the Classic she won EASY no horse could have beaten her that day, and lets face it the reason the breeders cup was created was to put the best horses gainst each other. Jerry Bailey said it best "you can't win a super bowl without showing up to the game" and unfortunatly RA didn't. In this case you can only vote for one horse and yes it would be GREAT to have co-HOY its not going to happen, my vote before breeders cup RA; after breeders cup zenyatta. RA will get her chance to be HOY next year but this year belongs to zenyatta.

16 Nov 2009 1:39 AM

actually upon further inspection the win record of ra's competition aside from summer bird, is about 5%. so your right, 4th rate competition was being far too kind+

erase s. bird and macho and her foes are collectively one of the worst groups you could assemble.

16 Nov 2009 1:43 AM


Sta. Anita was never written IN STONE.  I can name HOYs who NEVER set foot on the BC or who NEVER WON the BC at all, but received the HOY award just the same.  Ever heard of a horse named CURLIN?

Zenyatta does NOT MERIT Horse of the Year award.  If we will use the Points system of the CARTIER awards, Rachel will definitely SCORE much more than Zenyatta, and win HOY.  The CARTIER Awards is the same award that will be given to SEA THE STARS this year.

I suggest that, to avoid all this hoopla over NOTHING, the HOY award-giving body should adopt the more transparent POINTS system used by CARTIER awards.

The CARTIER awards gives points to every race that a horse wins, plus more for margin of victory, and locations travelled to.  At the voting stage, the points are totalled and the voters only decide if the winning horse is WORTHY or not.  Most of the time, there is NO CONTEST-- Horses with the MOST POINTS WINS.

Using this system, people can be SURE who is the front-runner for HOY and all this FRUITLESS DEBATE over the HOY winner will be AVOIDED, along with all the frustrated expectations of fans.

for Zen, I would suggest that she get the "best SINGLE achievement" award for the BC win.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA is the WORTHY Horse of the Year 2009.  No Co-HOYs please.  And please, throw Zenyatta out.. she's got a DATE with her BOYFRIEND.

16 Nov 2009 1:45 AM

If even Steve appears to be leaning toward Zenyatta if he has to choose (my assumption based on the tone of the article), I think Rachel fans have to accept that it's a lost cause and avoid wasting the time between now and the Eclips awards stressing about it because Steve has been a fan of Rachel all year.  

Zenyatta's going to get her lifetime achievement award and Rachel's going home with a Champion 3-year old filly award that will say absolutely nothing about what an amazing year she has had.  Champion 3 year old fillies win the Oaks and the Alabama.  They don't win the Preakness, Haskall and Woodward.  If we're not going to recognize her year with a HOY, maybe we should give her champion 3 year old male too.  I'm only halfway kidding.  Sorry Summer Bird. :) I know that that when I watch RA and Z's 2009 races one after the other (and I sat down and did that the other night to see what I was missing in this argument-hello Anaaba's Creation :)), the answer is clear: RA had a campaign for the ages and belongs up there with Busher, Ruffian etc.  If Calvin had ridden her out in the Mother Goose she would have broken Secretariat's track Record.  Maybe he should have.  Zenyatta had a very conservative year aimed at not getting beaten and performing well on one day. Nothing in the 4 other races was remotely inspiring except for the fact that she hadn't been beaten to that point.  As for the last race, if the Breeder's Cup is the only thing that matters, then why bother voting at all.  Zenyatta is an excellent race mare and belongs in a small class of elite mares like Personal Ensign, Azeri, Serena's Song, Inside Information (one of my all time favs-on her day she was awesome, probably doesn't quite belong in this group but her Distaff was one of the best Breeder's Cup performances I've ever seen).  All of these mares are all-time greats but not legendary freaks.  

The problem that Rachel's HOY campaign faces is that people in the racing industry love Zenyatta's hip connections and Jess Jackson rubs them the wrong way.  If Rachel's original connections still owned her and had pursued the same schedule, people wouldn't be so eager to disappoint/punish them.  Voters will penalize Rachel's connections for boycotting the synthetic Breeder's Cup because there is great industry incentive to pretend that Proride is like dirt and to avoid acknowledging that this year's Breeder's Cup, the so-called championship day of racing, was basically a series of turf races for the second year in a row.  A horse with Rachel's running style has no shot in a high level race on synthetic just as she's probably not a future grass star (as an aside, it's considerably more difficult for a filly to beat colts on the dirt than it is on the grass/synthetics because of the pace angle). The fact that the TV coverage essentially ignored Rachel's absense was a travesty because her absense and the reason for it (proride) is part of the story.    

I have to stop reading these threads because they make me so frustrated at some of the stuff that comes out of the fingers of Zenyatta fans (did you know that Zenyatta won 7 races this year and Rachel only ran against boys 2 times? Did you know that Macho Again is a claimer?  Did you know that the fact that Zenyatta is much larger means she should be HOY?).  Argh.

I just ask Mr. Haskin (and the other actual voters) to take some time away from the excitement of the Breeder's Cup and before he fills out his ballot, to please sit down and watch their 2009 races all at once.  Don't watch their 2008 races, don't think about the fact that Zenyatta won at Oaklawn LAST YEAR, and just look at 2009.  Don't marvel at Zenyatta's dressage walk, it has nothing to do with anything.  Don't hum a Police song while you are watching the races and don't think about the fact that the Rachel Alexandra wine is not that tasty.  Just watch the horse from gate to wire.  And then if you can tell me you honestly think that Zenyatta deserves even a co-2009 HOY, I'll know that you and I are not looking at the same thing.

16 Nov 2009 1:53 AM


16 Nov 2009 2:30 AM

If I had to pick it would be Zenyatta. Rachel is a great filly but it took me until her Oaks for me to get on her bandwagon, the first time I saw Zenyatta run in her 08 Milady I was hooked. Zenyatta give's me the kind of goosebumps I've never had the privilege to feel with another horse while into the sport. I love Rachel Alexandra but but writing this makes me realize that she doesn't truly own my heart that belongs to the gigantic 5-year-old mare who I have been following for almost a year and a half.

Zenyatta did something to me that no other horse had been able to do, she made me truly interested in other races outside of the Triple Crown. Without her I wouldn't have even knowing of Sea the Stars existence until long after his retirement if ever. I wouldn't have even known about Rachel's memorable Oaks forget watching it on tv until she ran in the Preakness, and if she hadn't changed owners I may never have known about her. This year was the first year I watched the Breeders Cup where I actually knew the background for probably at least half of the horses in each race.

And I do think Jess Jackson's prejudice against synthetics in Rachel's (and only Rachel's as I am about to explain) is just plain silly. Why? The filly did something that he has problems getting his stable (They had a horse running in the Blue Grass this year that flopped, don't remember the name right now though) to do in her two-year-old year, she won on synthetics. Mind you it was an allowance race at Keenland but it was on synthetics and a win is a win. And some people were saying that she was feeling like running a month or so after the Woodward. Take it with a grain of salt since it was word of mouth but that's what I heard.

I am sorry but Zenyatta is my favorite.

16 Nov 2009 2:31 AM

What a great article. You made it even more difficult to side with either one. Rachel put up an awesome campaign. But it all comes down to the Breeder's Cup win. Zenyatta showed up, that's it. Unfortunately Rachel's owner didn't want any part of a World Championship!. That's like an NFL team backing out of the Super Bowl because the game is being played on artificial turf instead of the real stuff. The distance might be more of a reason why Jackson kept Rachel out. Let me give an awkward example. A boxing match a couple of years back. De La Hoya VS Trinidad. De La Hoya DOMINATED the first 8 rounds. He ran around and didnt fight for the last 4. The judges gave it to Trinidad.

16 Nov 2009 2:41 AM

Steve, once again an amazing accounting.  I spent the year in amazement at the accomplishments of Rachel and Zenyatta.  Regardless of their records and leaving racing surfaces behind, both alone deserve consideration for Horse of the Year, simply for what they meant to racing and the fans they brought to his most glorious game.  However, if I had a vote, it would be for Zenyatta, as she beat the best the world could offer at the classic distance.  If nothing else, I hope this debate sparks more fan interest and continues to give a much needed boost to thoroughbred racing.

16 Nov 2009 2:51 AM

first of all, i believe that a very minute percentage of thoroughbreds can run 14 times and go undefeated.

i saw personal ensign run down a kentucky derby winner to cap a career and go undefeated. what zenyatta did in the breeders' cup was even more spectacular, especially since i thought that she would be beaten on that day.

i was wrong and in retrospect, i am glad that i was wrong, because i believe that this horse still has untapped resources available to her.

i have never seen her race live, but the races i have seen have always given me the impression that she was out for a little gallop instead of slugging it out with her adversaries.

my vote would certainly go to zenyatta!

16 Nov 2009 3:04 AM

Here's the solution:

Make RACHEL ALEXANDRA Horse of the


Make ZENYATTA Horse of the Decade

16 Nov 2009 3:42 AM

I'll be glad when this is over. Some of these comments are so hateful. They both deserve recognition for their years. The problem is HOY was given to RA before the Breeders Cup and no one thought Zen would race and win the Classic. Question for everyone had Gio Ponti won could he have made a case for HOY? If I had a vote it would be a tough decision but I give the slight edge to Zen because she beat one of the deepest field assembled for the classic. Plus she also ran at the american classic distance of 1 1/4.  I'm not sure RA can stay that distance being that she was all out to hold off Macho Again. RA is going to be champion 3yo filly and we will see her next year.

16 Nov 2009 4:06 AM
An Italian Fan

My vote goes to Rachel Alexandra, hands down.

She ran more times, won more graded ones (5 to 4), beat the males more times (3 to 1), won a classic race, won at more tracks, won on the slop and on the fast ground, gave 6 lenghts to Summer Bird compared to Zenyatta's 3...and she is just a 3yo old, not a mature horse.

She is the deserving winner, but I would also like if she and Zenyatta would both share the HOTY title.

16 Nov 2009 5:29 AM

A perfect summing up of all that matters! As things now stand, which ever one gets HOY will always have a "Yeah,

but...." hanging,unspoken in the air. They cannot ever be compared because they are too different in style and

in campaigns. As for me,I have cheered both to wires as

I wiped away tears of joy at seeing greatness stride by

and into history.

16 Nov 2009 6:17 AM
August Song

Note that the connections of Zenyatta did not want to run against Rachel Alexandra on the dirt, when the opportunity was there. They knew her limits. She is a synthetic champion, end of story. Rachel is the dirt champion. The connections did not want her to run on a synthetic surface. They knew her limits.

Her's to co-horses of the year on different surfaces.

16 Nov 2009 6:41 AM
carolyn rogers

And may I also conclude that Zenyatta retires being the richest North American filly of all time, no not for just the year, It is for all time, HISTORY, folks. Will you RA supporters quit using the Synthetic excuse already, the horse racing industry acknowledges them or they would not have held their championship races on them for two years. Some act like they just came out this year. Gosh, get on with it. Zenyatta for HOTY, hands down.

16 Nov 2009 6:44 AM
Mike E.

I say: Let the world vote! There has never been such a golden opportunity for the leaders of our sport to involve the public.  Let them all vote.  And let them text in their ballots, email in their ballots, call their ballot in on their cell phones; just let everyone vote.

16 Nov 2009 7:12 AM

Lou in TX, don't be silly thats called humor....and it's Rachel by a nose.

16 Nov 2009 7:25 AM
Buster Chopps

It all comes down to the fact that Rachel was on the road competing on different surfaces. She didn't need "her track" to win. With Zenyatta, we don't know how she would have done on the road, competing at different tracks. Other than that, two great once-in-a-lifetime runners in the same year to be sure, but if you have to make a call, it's Rachel.

16 Nov 2009 7:26 AM

First off- to kingmambo:  the   Belmont???  I don't recall RA in the Belmont, unless she was covered in paint.... Could you possibly mean the Preakness???

As for Walden: his article was a joke.  Of course there can be a shared award- it is up to the voteres to have it placed on the ballot, or in lieu if that, use a write-in.  It does not diminish the sport in any way; in fact, it shows that we've become stronger.  TWO horses like that in ONE year?  In the past, we'd be greatful for 2 such animals in one decade.  WALDEN, YOU DON'T, AS YOU ADMIT, HAVE A VOTE.  THEREFORE KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.

Trainer of the Year- Sheriffs, hands down.  RA was handed to Assmussen, a fact he readily admitted after the Preakness.  Exactly what did he have to train? He was along for the ride.  Jackson was the one calling the shots on RA's races.  All Steve had to do was tack and give a leg up.

Now the real debate: I'm in favor of a co- award.  However too much is being made about RA's "body of work".  If surpassing the great Personal Ensign's record this year doesn't count as a "body if work", as well as top earnings for the year, exactly WHAT does? I love both horses, but in my mind the award goes to Zenyatta, who's connections had the guts to spot her in the Classic, while RA and Jackson were nowhere to be seen, not even the Ladies version.   (Synthetic, whine- please, somebody get the man a tissue.  And a smaller ego.)  (Too bad horses can't choose their owners.)  If the award is shared, I still feel it's an inustice to Zenyatta's achievements, but it does encompass a solution to a real dilemma the voters face. And, just an aside, should RA NOT run next year, that makes bot of these gals eligible for the Hall of Fame at the same time.  Which will get there first?  Hands down, Zenyatta.  There's your answer, voters.

16 Nov 2009 7:31 AM

Hey ALB- See my previos comment, if you feel that Z did nothing thus year.  Then again, I highly doubt you even know who Personal Ensign was......

16 Nov 2009 7:35 AM
Golden Gate


They are both tremendous and both truly horses that God sent us. It is like being stretched on The Rack to decide between either one of them so I choose them both for HOY no matter what anyone says!!

16 Nov 2009 7:39 AM

Excellent article Steve. I appreciated the years performance information as memory can be short.

This issue is all about surface as you stated there is a synthetic horse of the year. dirt horse of the year and turf horse of the year. The question is which surface rules. In 2 synthethic Classics we have seen the trifecta include 2 turf horses and a California synthetic. Tiago finished ahead of Curlin. With Curlin and Summer Bird unable to hit the board. Why waste time time comparing apples and oranges. Which surface rules?

For years dirt has ruled over turf and in my opinion rules over synthetic. What a great year.

16 Nov 2009 7:41 AM

Zenyatta had beat 22 horses in 2009 going into CLASSIC

Zenyatta's lifetime earnings on synthetic   $2,474,580

Rest of the CLASSIC field lifetime synthetic earnings $2,815,211

BCDay 5 of 6 snythetic races were won by horses coming out of synthetic races

13 of 18 in the money in synthetic races

Summer Bird,Twice Over & Girolamo had NEVER run on synthetic

Gio Ponti and Enstein are turf horses

Only Colonel John & Richard's Kid could be considered synthetic horses

I am afraid Zenyatta's Horse of the Year will later have a synthetic *

Perhaps SYNYATTA is more fitting

16 Nov 2009 7:52 AM

Ghostzapper and Kingmamob, you both perfectly stated why I wouldn't vote for Rachel.  Did she have historic victories?  YES.  So did fillies like Personal Ensign, Winning Colors, Rags to Riches and Genuine Risk --NONE of whom won HOY honors (and a filly like Genuine Risk who hit the board in EACH of the TC races deserved it!).  But, regardless of who wins, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra don't care about a statue--it's the human connections who do.  Do we reward Jess Jackson for three straight years--and thus ENCOURAGE him to throw his temper tantrums so he gets things his way?  Or do we reward the Mosses, who took a HUGE risk with their mare's legacy?  Egomaniacs like Jackson are bad for the sport. I go with Zenyatta.

16 Nov 2009 7:54 AM

Steve--I think you presented both sides very clearly.  One thing, though: as long as we are not limiting Zenyatta's accolades to 2009, you incorrectly referred to  RA and all her accomplishments as only coming on dirt, neglecting the fact that she does indeed have a victory on synthetic, although it was with her prior owner.  And to all those who continue to disqualify RA for "not showing up," they need to remember that Zenyatta also did not "show up" for any races that she could have run outside of California. Showing up should not be the deciding qualifier for any award, least of all horse of the year.  Reading both gals' accomplishments the way you laid them out brought goose bumps.

16 Nov 2009 7:56 AM

They should both get it, but if only one can it has to be Rachel. This award is not for race of the year, or best two years, it is for the best season this year. Excluding the classic, Zenyatta ran against soft fields when she could have been in big races against the boys. Her Classic performance was unbelieveable, but it was one race. I believe Zenyatta has the talent to have put together a record for this year equal to, or even better than Rachel's, but she didnt.

16 Nov 2009 8:01 AM

You make an outstanding point about 3 surfaces.

I preface my remarks with deep affection, admiration and appreciation for the "Queen", but not at the expense of the filly with the better current year. (though Rachel's alrady run as many races at 3 as Zen at 5)

You forgot Rachels' Haskell's second biggest margin, time, etc was done in the mud.

Too much of the passion for Zenyatta is based on her career, not this year. Her career accomplishments are NOT what's being voted on (I hope). Her year is second best.

That's as "cold" and factual as it gets...

To me, Zenyatta could have been a 2x HOTY IF last year she had faced the boys just once...her connections chose not to.

This year Zenyatta would have no debate had she, just once, left California home ground...her connections chose not to.

If Rachel wins she will have won it based on this year's many historied accomplishments.

If Zen wins it, it will be based on her career and a very good year with one great race.

16 Nov 2009 8:01 AM

Hey  steve

I know you are one of the most objective race Writers out there, I read your columns religiously, but i think even Lenny would concur that you missed the mark on this one.

Just  looking at the difference way you analysed the campaigns is very telling.  Rachel's campaign was analysed race by race using one line descriptions for each. Conversely, the description of Zenyatta's campaign was a narrative of explanation. I very much respect your expression of opinion, but it is my feeling that to be fare both should have been analysed the same way. The records should be put forth and allowed to speak for themselves.

It might not have been intensional, but what I read was a campaign that was put out for one horse, and then a glorified explanation for the other.

Also , I do not think 2008 should factor into 2009, awards have been given for 2008 already.

16 Nov 2009 8:01 AM
Jeff M.

Very thoughtful article.  I think the idea of a synthetic HOY and a dirt HOY is something that should be considered.... at least until either ALL racetracks move to synthetics or ALL racetracks go back to dirt.

16 Nov 2009 8:02 AM
Owner and Fan

This is for Horse of the Year not the best Breeders Cup race.

Looking at the facts it is Rachel. She beat the best 3 year old and older males and the best fillies.

While Rachel didn't run in the Breeders Cup, Zenyatta didn't run in any of the classics on dirt.

I saw Rachel win the Woodward and it was just as thrilling and the crowd as wild as watching Zenyatta win the Breeders Cup classic.They are both outstanding horses and the shame is that they raced in the same year because both could be HOTY.

What bothers me is this animosity toward Jackson and Rachel for not going to the BC. The announcers on TV said it quite a lot too. Didn't hear it about Zenyata not going east for the big races.

It would be a disservice to the horses and to the industry to decide HOTY with this resentment as even a small part of it. This was a great year of racing and hope it won't leave a bad taste with anyone.

Be fair and vote the whole year not one race and not whether you like or agree with an owner.

16 Nov 2009 8:07 AM

Zenyatta should win HOY!  RA accomplishments are outstanding but not only did she not run on at the BC, she still has not won at the classic distance.  This is why I believe that they did not run in the BC.  Not so much the track surface but the distance.  1 1/4 miles is the "classic" distance and Zenyatta was able to beat an outstanding field at the classic distance.  No question...Zenyatta for horse of the decade!

16 Nov 2009 8:10 AM
Jimmy P.

If you pull the classic , Rachel wins hands down ! I think Z's career was very scripted. Shes a lightly raced horse who only once

left Cali. They picked and choosed

her races going to the ones she could win. I think to put her in the same catagory with Rachel is wrong !!! But I also think Mr. Jackson was wrong not to run her in the Classic ! I mean, he's gambled with her ever since he bought her - why stop now ? ?  JIM

16 Nov 2009 8:15 AM

Jei, what Woodward were you watching? Rachel was pressed by Da’ Tara and Past the Point in an opening quarter of :22.85 and half in :46 +, then she was challenged and pressed six furlongs in 1:10.54, and then the late runners came at her and she still took them on...a mile in 1:35+ and turning for home FIVE of them had her in their sights and she drew off from all of them, yeah Macho Again was closing, but he didn't win, did he?.

Sure she was tired, she had just run the entire mile and an eighth at full tilt as one by one they aimed their arrows at the target on her back to run her down to defeat.

They couldn't keep up with her at the start, they couldn't trap her or box her in and they couldn't run her down...

16 Nov 2009 8:17 AM

In the two years that the Breeders Cup was held over Santa Anita's pro ride surface, 43 horses ran that had their final prep race over a dirt track. Some of those horses had actually competed and even run decently on synthetic surfaces before (though most were purely dirt horses), but their final prep was on dirt.

Those horses were a combined 0/43 and 34 ran worse than third, most finishing up the track.   Any owner bucking those odds is insane.

The connections of Rachel Alexandra said all along that she would never compete over an artificial surface.  It was mentioned prominently in The Blood Horse as early as late June early July. That gave the connections of Zenyatta all summer to find a race to challenge her but they elected not to.  Instead they chose to run against a suspect field in the BC Classic, and then only after cross entering in the Distaff as well to size up the potential competition. Her connections managed her brilliantly and have actually given her traction in a Horse of the Year race that was truly decided months ago.

The Breeders Cup charged between $125 and $300 for BC seats at Monmouth Park in 2007 the last time it was held on a dirt track.  This year the cost was $5 for Admission on Friday and $10 on Saturday.  Racing lumanaries from other racetracks hardly attended.  Name one true dirt horse that raced against Zenyatta?  You can't.

One huge difference in Europe is that they have strong central governing bodies for racing. In typical European fashion, they do not apologize for anything.

They have never bent over backwards to get American horses to come over for their big races. They could care less. For that matter, they care very little about the BC other than picking up the easy money.

Take a look at that list of horses nominated for awards and count how many came over for the BC. A handful, including the three winners of the big turf races.

The rest sent over were second and third (or worse) stringers.

The BC should face facts. It is the world championship of nothing. It is fine to try and attract some of the top European stars, it adds interest to the event, but why bend over backwards to attract mostly European also ran's  at the expense of 75% of the horse population in the US?

Racing is a global sport. There are plenty of venues for horses of different countries to compete against other horses from around the world. We do not need some phony "World Championship".

As great as Zenyatta's performance was Rachel took on all comers at 7 different racetracks in one of the greatest seasons any horse has ever had.  She is Horse Of The Year hands down.

16 Nov 2009 8:20 AM

commentator, I'll support the "irascible" "opinionated" owner who let Rachel run against the boys any day!

Like I support the "nice" "safe" owners of Zen who finally took her out of the safety zone .

Long live owners who race their horses!

16 Nov 2009 8:22 AM

Nice arguments for both horses...except, your case for Zenyata seemed to focus more on her entire career.  This is for 2009 Horse of The Year.  Zenyatta raced only in California and she raced only five times, so she qualifies as Horse of the Year for that state.  Rachel Alexandra's many historic accomplishments were made in many different states on many different tracks, some dry and some sloppy.  And in the same year.  She is 2009 Horse of The Year...for America.  And she raced on dirt, which traditionally is the surface on which America's horses of the year race.  Someone mentioned that she would not have won at Santa Anita since horses on the lead usually don't win on the synthetic surface...hence that favors Zenyatta's case; i.e., that Rachel would not have beaten her.  It does just the opposite.  It shows that Zenyatta's style is (unjustly) rewarded on that racing surface.  

16 Nov 2009 8:22 AM

First off...I could not vote on one horse for HOY honors. In my heart they both deserve it. Your article is so "right on". The only thing we can say about Rachel Alexandra is being only 3, she can have a 4 year old campaign to see if her brilliance can continue. But how can we put aside her 2009 campaign? Both fillies were out of this world in 09 the by rights, should be co-champions. But as you say, this sport will only pick one. Zenyatta had the glory at the end of the season....while Rachel Alexandra had it in the spring and summer (oh being at Monmouth Park to see her blow the boys away was fantastic!)When all is said and done, Zenyatta will win because her BC win is fresh in people's minds. If Rachel had run on BC day, and we would have had an "Eight Belles" moment; God Forbid; I am glad that both finished their 09 campaign, healthy, ready for breeding/racing, and ALIVE. Great article Steve, and 2009 will always go down in history as the year of the "girl".

16 Nov 2009 8:23 AM

Great article Steve. It made me cry. I couldn't vote against either, only for both. We were so very lucky to see both these wonderful females run this year. It's a year I won't forget. The synthetic versus the dirt track is a valid and important point. They both deserve HOY.

16 Nov 2009 8:26 AM

Steve got her. The only thing that changed is that she was put in races that were more becoming of her talent.   If Zenyatta's people had taken up the Gauntlet thrown by Rachel's  people and probably run her in Say the Hollywood gold cup, Pacific Classic, or Good Wood there would be no need for this type of discussion. She would have easily won any or all of those races,She is that good.

Fact is though, they took the easy road, and then won a classic over a less than stellar field. Let no one fool you , 2007, 2008 had much better fields than 2009.

16 Nov 2009 8:31 AM
Sunshine Farm

Absolutely brilliant article!

Whatever needs to be done (both on the ballot) to ensure both horses their due.  To name one and not the other will certainly give the industry a "black eye". For God's sake, do the "right thing"!

16 Nov 2009 8:35 AM

Its only November and I am already sick of hearing why one is better the other! The NTRA is doing themselves a disservice by not allowing both deserving Candidates on the ballot so much for the freedom to choose between the two or not depending on the voter's preference. To those of you out there who dislike the thought of co-HOTY what is so bad about it they both worked hard and are the epitome of what a thoroughbred is and both deserve recognition for a wonderful, history making season. There have been co-HOTY before. Why not do it again when the situation calls for it? Lastly I hate the fact that The BC is considered the defining moment in championship award voting because its not fair to say "These horses don't deserve a championship simply because their OWNERS decided they didn't want their horse to compete." With that logic the horses that are injured don't deserve consideration either because they didn't show up at the end of the season.  

16 Nov 2009 8:37 AM
S. Parent

My solution is easy: Since this is Zenyatta's last year of racing, Zenyatta should get Horse of the Year this year (2009); and Rachel-Alexandra, who will be around next year, wil lmost likely earn it for 2010.

16 Nov 2009 8:38 AM

What a great article and you are correct they both deserve HOY, however since only one can win my vote would go to Zenyatta. Basically because RA didn't show up at the big dance. I don't think it has to do with the synthetics at all, I don't think with good compition she can get the distance. It will be interesting to see what her connections reasons are for not allowing her to run in the BC Classic next year, since it will be on dirt. Zenyatta danced the big dance and deserves the HOY.

It is a great article with the same thoughts of a lot of people. This years' vote will be interesting to say the least.

16 Nov 2009 8:41 AM


16 Nov 2009 8:43 AM
screen prospect

Zenyatta is NOT HOTY. She cant run on dirt. Why didnt she go run on dirt and face RA? Cause she would LOOSE. You want to deny RA because she didnt go to california. Why dont you deny zenyatta because she didnt run on dirt? This years classic was not the greatest field. The field Ghostzapper beat was. Oh and he set a record to boot. How many did zenyatta set? Did zenyatta beat older males at age 3? Did she run against males at 3 or 4? Nope. RA did what a 3 year old filly is NOT supposed to do. RA beat many of the horses zenyatta did. She is also 3 years old while zenyatta is 5.

16 Nov 2009 8:46 AM

absolutely spot-on analysis and conclusion; it is a travesty to not crown 2 queens

16 Nov 2009 8:47 AM

Just want to thank Team Zenyatta for 14 of the best races I have ever seen. Last years Eclipse, you were robbed. Long live the Queen.

And Team Rachel, our Princess, you deserve HOTY too, for your heart and courage. We anxiously await your return.

I won't pick one over the other.

16 Nov 2009 8:50 AM

The BC Classic showed us what Zenyatta COULD have been doing and SHOULD have been doing all year long.  

Both horses are remarkable.  But RA's numbers speak for themselves.

This isn't the Superbowl, people. Horses have won HOY without running in the Classic.  They don't HAVE to show up if they have proven themselves all year long.

 It's too bad this vote will come down to politics and emotion instead of facts.

But I guess most votes always do.

16 Nov 2009 8:58 AM


I thought HOY was about who had a better year, who did the most, who faced the most challenges, who changed or made history. This year we have two horses that made history, therefore you need to go deeper. Now you play poker and go hand for hand. Compare the acomplishments RACE by RACE, and whoever has the most cards wins. You cant go by emotion, it just does not work that way. The simple truth is that Rachel Did more this year, hands down, no way to get around that. No matter how much weight you all put on the Breeders Cup, Rachel simply did more to influence history and change history, more running, more records. So when you step back from your emotional tirades and adjusting numbers to fit your candidate; the truth will show that the HOY is Rachel, Plain and Simple. And all of the Breeders Cup people, who will win Sprinter of the year? the Breeders Cup winner? be serious.Its not called the HOY cup and its not the world championships because no american horses EVER win awards overseas, so cut the crap and see the Breeders cup for what it is, it is a group of races to bring the best horses together. Thats it, nothing more. If a horse so happens to have the best year  AND wins the cup that is gravy but if not dont fool yourself into thinking , that a horse who did not have the best year should win it. Arcangues, Volponi, Ravens Pass, Skip Away, Cat thief all these horses won the Classic and DID not win the HOY because they DID not have THE BEST year. plain and simple. And for those who want to say a couple were european horses, that just proves that it is NOT the WORLD championships.

16 Nov 2009 9:01 AM

All of these people that the HOY decision is a no brainer, people like Andy Beyer, are clueless and should have their votes taken away.

Haskin is 100% correct that there is simply no way of saying one is more deserving than the other.

If I had to vote I would probably go with Zenyatta, but only because she does not have the distance limitations that Rachel appears to have.  But if Rachel won I could see that too.

The only bad thing for the sport will be if Rachel wins and it is simply because there is a huge bias where east coast voters make up a large percentage of the voters.   Nothing would hurt the sport more than to have this vote come out based on where voters live.  

16 Nov 2009 9:01 AM


Thanks for another good article.

In terms of Horse of the Year, while both Rachel and Zenyatta have been outstanding I give the nod to Rachel.  Looking at a single year of racing, her campaign was more difficult then Zenyatta's.  I do feel that Z's trainer should be awarded for Zenyatta's campaign however.  It was an excellent training job for two years and he never missed a beat.  Glad I don't have to vote for these two myself.

16 Nov 2009 9:11 AM
Steve in Orlando

The synthetic tracks have created a "whole new ballgame" in Thoroughbred racing.  Just like we have Dirt Champion(s) and a Turf Champion, we  should create a new category and also crown a Synthetic Champion.  It is so apparent that certain horses favor different surfaces.  Then from these divisions determine the Horse of the Year.  As for my vote this year I would have to go for Rachel.  Not only did she set so many historical records she beat horses of both sexes at their own game - dirt.  I love Zenyatta and Shireffs did do a phenomenal job and I don't disagree where they placed the horse but it was too little too late.  Zenyatta raced on dirt only once and won impressively (why was she never given another opoortunity) but kept to synthetic surfaces and only in California.  She did beat the boys in the Classic but I disagree with the caliber of the competition she faced given the synthetic surface.  Gio Ponti, Einstein, Rip van Winkle are grass horses (who tend to do OK on synthetics), Mine That Bird has shown that he detests the Santa Anita pro-ride, Summer Bird (who was humiliated by Rachel on a track surface that he relishes) had never raced on a synthetic surface and still was closer to Zenyatta then Rachel. Zenyatta definitely Synthetic Champion but Rachel is Horse of the Year. (I'd bet in the next few years a synthetic division champion  will be created - let;s see).

16 Nov 2009 9:12 AM

Rachel passed the Breeders Cup, for whatever reason.  They had there chance to be horse of the year !

Game over, it is Zenyatta !

16 Nov 2009 9:15 AM

Rachel DID NOT ever run against a field as was assembled in the BC Classic this year, ever.  Jackson did NOT want to run against Zenyatta, so chose not to, his choice to make.  To me, when he took that path, it was away from the HOY award for his filly.  Put up or shut up.  Zenyatta went, ran, put on a show for the ages, Zenyatta wins, period.

16 Nov 2009 9:16 AM
Bill Daly

Prejudices aside, these are two deserving champions and we will probably never see anything like them again.  Let's just celebrate their greatness and be glad we were blessed to watch them perform. I think your conclusion is correct, Steve. Stalemate.

16 Nov 2009 9:17 AM
daisymae 836

I got chills watching Rachel run, but the first time I saw Zenyatta prancing and playing and pricking her ears up while she was running, I just fell in love. She is not only beautiful, but she loves running like no other horse I've ever seen, except Secretariat. I for one am glad they are taking her to the breeding barn,what else does she have to prove? She gets my vote for HORSE OF THE YEAR AND HORSE OF THE CENTURY!!!!!!

16 Nov 2009 9:18 AM

Steve, you said it all so well, there is nothing that I could add to your words.  Your reasoning is faultless and the points you listed regarding the filly and mare's races are spot on.  Last night I watched a composite of Zenyatta's winning races on you-tube and another thing that amazed me is how wide she goes on every final turn to get by the field heading for home - that's got to add a lot more distance to her races, but ... she does it!  Wow!  Both girls deserve HOTY and it is my hope they will both be awarded the honor, as will Mr. Shireffs.  The trainer's award should be based on accomplishment rather than the money won, but it seems to follow the dollars.  Thank you very much for sharing your heartfelt analysis with us.

16 Nov 2009 9:19 AM

Steve - Best Sports Writer of the Year

Zenyatta - Horse of the Year

John Shireffs - Trainer of the Year

One thing's for sure!  We'll all agree that 2009 has been a year like no other for a horse racing fan!

As usual, Steve, you've made my day.  Thank you, sir.  

16 Nov 2009 9:20 AM

Sorry, just a tad more---Hay people remember the Preakness where Rachel won, BUT was being caught by none other than Mind That Bird!  And remember Borel saying she was tired and did not handle the track well?  Zenyatta finished ALL races, ears pricked and ready to go another mile or two. Secretarial in a dress, and certainly my pick for HOY.

16 Nov 2009 9:21 AM
Big George

Running the "World Championships" on synthetics is like playing the Superbowl on the beach and making it a flag game instead of a game of tackle.  I would have been more impressed if Zenyatta would have ran in the Turf race, than beat a bunch of turf runners on synthetics.

16 Nov 2009 9:26 AM
Crazy Horse Lady

I was not a big fan of Zenyatta because she raced only in So Cal on aritifical surfaces but the race she ran in the Breeder's Cup classic was nothing short of amazing.  Rachel's historical racing facts were against fillies.  Yes she beat the males but this does not seem to be a particularily strong crop of 3 years old and just who did she beat (barely and after being whipped the whole way) in the Woodward.  Zenyatta took on all comers of all ages from around the world and whomped them good.  And she did it with class and without being pushed by horse or human.  She gets my vote now.  In this case the horse who did not show up should not be considered.  If you don't play, you pay the price.

16 Nov 2009 9:34 AM
Linda in Texas

oliverstoned, i take your comment 'without a grain of salt'as we are all faceless here and that remark is unfounded. And to that end i say, if we were discussing champion boxers, we would not be awarding Boxer of The Year to the one that was a no show at the Main Event, period. But to be fair, i am willing to have two winners, 1 from each type of track. NO LOSER. Have said it all along and have not changed my mind.

Who could look either one of those horses in the eye and tell them they are a loser.  

16 Nov 2009 9:37 AM

Rachel Alexandra is three years old and did all this while Zenyatte is five and may have never faced the boys had not Rachel forced her hand - why did you not mention these two items?

Rachel Alexandra, who reminds me of Secretariat, who accomplished his feats at age 3,also, is the deserving winner.

Thank you,


16 Nov 2009 9:44 AM


16 Nov 2009 9:45 AM
I Davis

I believe you all have short memories. While Rachel, as a 3 yr old, ran a long, hard campaign, winning time after time, breaking records in history, Zenyatta was pampered...only racing a few races this year, very cautiously calculated by her owner and trainer so that she remain undefeated.  When they knew she wouldn't qualify winning HOY, then, and only then, they reluctanlty entered her and she won...that was the GREATEST FEAT for Zenyatta in her 3 years of racing...that's it.  Rachel is far more accomplished and ran grueling race after race, and remember, she's ONLY A THREE YEAR OLD!!!  She basically carried the entire Thoroughbred racing industry on her back throughout her campaign in 2009....she's brilliant, and most deserving of HOY award.  If it has to be co-HOY, that's fine, but only one true heroine stands out, and that's Rachel. There's lots of bias here...West coast folks for Z and East coast folks for Rachel; but who truly carried the sport, month after month, by performing so brilliantly race after race??  Watching Rachel beat her rivals by 29 and 30 lengths, reminds us of Secretariat's race at he Belmont Stakes....nothing compares to it.  This is HORSE OF THE YEAR....shouldn't have anything to do with 14 consecutive races....just the races Z ran this year need to be counted, and there's no ONE RACE that can come close to Rachel's performance on the track this year....NO WAY, NOT EVER.

16 Nov 2009 9:48 AM
Cynthia Kendrick

How does anyone choose between the Hope Diamond and the Cartier Diamond, equal brilliance, fire and unmeasurable value.   The choice all comes down to personal taste.  

Before the ruling parties write off the split award solution, they should focus on the word value.

Both ladies have brought an unmeasurable amount of interest and desperately needed fan base into the sport.

Do they both equally deserve a piece of the award?  Check the track attendance anytime either steps foot and ask what is best for racing.  

Splitting the award is not the usual way things have been done, but you are speaking of 2 highly unusual champions. of the sport.

Loved the piece, as always Steve and 2 thumbs up for Sheriff as trainer.

16 Nov 2009 9:53 AM

Rachel Alexandra - HOY

Zenyatta - Queen of California

16 Nov 2009 9:57 AM
Billy's Empire

the only issue I have with your article Steve is the fact that you are comparing Zenyatta's career, 3 years, to Rachel's 1. She beat 36 grade 1 winners over the last 3 years, but not this year. You said it yourself, count how many times she made history in her last 6 races, and you have your answer for HOY. It is HOY, not HOLTY, last three years. That is all. Rachel for HOY!!

16 Nov 2009 10:00 AM

Hi Steve,

Thank you for outlining all of the facts clearly and concisely recording the records of these two beautiful females.

It seems Waldrop is not able to think outside of the box!  Tradition be damned - this has not been a traditional year!  Both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra deserve to be honored.  I have cast my vote in the survey for both.  I'm an East coast person. I saw Rachel in the flesh and blood at Belmont.  Being a former Californian and not independently wealthy, I have had to watch Zenyatta's spectacular races on the Blood Horse and the BC Classic on TV.  They are both so great.  Justice requires both to be declared - equally - Horses of the Year.


16 Nov 2009 10:01 AM

Considering what bad sports the average American horse racing fan is proving to be in both defeat AND victory this year, HoY should go on hiatus for 09.

Otherwise the bad blood that ensues after the "losing" horse is continued to savaged by the "winning" fans will taint the sport for years to come.

16 Nov 2009 10:01 AM
Michael Thomas

The voting will be emotional and practical (as it always is). Turf writers in the West will vote Zenyatta, the East Rachel. DRF will probably break for Rachel, but not by a wide margin. A majority of racing secretaries will vote for Rachel because it's always better to have your horse of the year running next season (and they hope to get her in one of their races).

16 Nov 2009 10:03 AM

Stalemate indeed. They are both equally deserving of the HOY award. It is impossible to give it to only one of them. This year it should and can only be a dead heat.

16 Nov 2009 10:04 AM
Billy's Empire

Jei, cotton soft? Three races against the boys, but they picked the easiest races for her? Zenyatta ran against boys once, but please keep disrespecting the fields that R/A faced. It was probably the worst 3yo crop ever right, just a bunch of allowance horses that happen to run in Grade 1's this year right. If that is wht you need to do to justify that Zenyatta is better, making excuses, fine. But R/A had a better year. Facts are facts

16 Nov 2009 10:04 AM
JR Adam Man

I appreciate Steve's comments, as I think he is the preeminent journalist in the sport (he and Steve Byk are the new ambassadors, IMHO).  

But I respectfully disagree.  Steve H compares Rachels' year to Zenyatta's career in a horse of the YEAR voting.  Although I am a huge Zenyatta fan...RAchel gets the award in a walk (agree with Steve Byk) on this one.  8 different tracks...  8-0 on the year, track records, and historic track performances as mentioned in Steve H's article (Preakness, Woodward).  Zenyatta 5-0, and really basing it all on one race (which as magnificent...but not enough...IMHO).  You cannot take her prior year in HOY voting. This is not who is better all-time.

Also there should be a winner, and here is my opinion why, beacuse of the horse racing industry itself.

First of all, the horses don't know there is a prize at stake, so  no one should be that upset for the horses....history will justly rank them appropriately (ie War Admiral ranks higher than Seabeascuit even thought the biscuit beat him).

But a winner should be decided BECAUSE they did NOT meet.  I hear people in opinions, saying it is good they never met, it creates dialogue.  Racing should be ashamed that they did not meet, and did not do enough to make that happen.  To the first point, Easy Goer and Sunday Silence met three times, and there is still a raging debate who was better to this day!. So racing them against each other was GOOD for the sport.  (Easy Goer Sunday Silence was the race that made me a lifelong fan....) Imagine if Ali never met Frazier.  Two of their three fights may be the best of all time (imagine no "Thilla in manila" or MSG where Frazier broke Ali's jaw?    Even more teasing.  Imagine if we had a young Mike Tyson, vs a young Ali...and they didn't meet.   It would be a travesty.

Racing is in shambles, and we finally get two athletes that racing needed.  Two athletes that could transcend the sport...  and they don't meet.  (and on top of it they are female which transcends the male dominated sport..).  Sometimes racing is painful to see how they think.  Two amazing athletes, two of the best in maybe my lifetime, in the same generation...the same year,...same female sex...and they never meet....  

Racing did not do enough to make it happen.  

There should be a winner, so future owners see that great athletes can be voted second, and they should do something about it.  They should race to help remove any doubt.

History will judge them both to be at the highest level, but for HOY, there can be only one...  Rachel.  She has done it for this year.

Racing should be ashamed, it had to come down to a vote.

16 Nov 2009 10:11 AM

I've said it once, & I'll say it again-give to 'em both! But if I really, really, really have to pick, I'd say R.A.!

16 Nov 2009 10:12 AM
The Phantom

2 exceptional horsesthe unfortunate part is  the owner cheated RA  of any chance to make history and raced against one of the best fillies ever.Yea the phony coward Jesse!For the guy out there who doesn't like jesse being called a phony too bad.He didn't support the BC and if all owners thought like him with big ego's there would be no BC!!!!Either way whoever wins will have deserved it though personally i think Zen putting it all on the line and beating a first class field of male runners at a mile and a quarter distance was more impressive then anything RA did.

16 Nov 2009 10:12 AM
Lanny @ CDX

Perhaps you're best ever column ever

16 Nov 2009 10:14 AM
Carol Hebel

I think the synthetic surface is

indeed a "third" surface..therefore

it is appropriate that there be a

winner for each surface...just like

now, there is a dirt and turf winner.

These surfaces are so different,

and very few horses are good on all

of them.   Therefore, a winner for

synthetic surface would be another


16 Nov 2009 10:14 AM

Zenyatta!  Sherriffs and the owners

who had no problem taking on anybody or surface that I recall.

Come on out to Hollywood Park on Nov 29th and see something special!

16 Nov 2009 10:15 AM
Tom M


This is a moment in time when racing can genuinely celebrate. With all of the challenges and negativity facing this industry for so long, why not seize the moment and truly celebrate two magnificent thoroughbreds. Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are the epitome of elegance and excellence. Special moments, special performances and special circumstances require special respect and recognition. Thoroughbred racing should put both Rachel and Zenyatta on a pedestal as 2009 Horses of the Year! Let the Eclipse award ceremony be a celebration of special proportions.

16 Nov 2009 10:19 AM

Steve-I am in complete agreeance with you. Alex needs to'go outside' of himself and make the obvious exception to the rule!  2 Horses of the Year!!!! This year is the EXCEPTION!!! If he doesn't, then all voters need to leave 'the box' blank as you, ahmm, mentioned!

16 Nov 2009 10:19 AM
Dave S.

Hey Steve....Once again "WHY" can't they co-share the horse of the year title?

Does the NTRA have to be so cut and dry?

As both horses are that good(and loved by the fans),This debate will most likey carry on for years after the voting is done.

16 Nov 2009 10:21 AM
Blythe S. Berger

I've been fearful of the "East Coast Bias" ever since Zenyatta won the Breeder's Cup.  You covered the argument beautifully.  I watched both fillies all year.  Neither should be left off the ballot.  Let the people who followed and supported them all year have a voice!  Break a tradition with no real meaning and give it to both of them!

16 Nov 2009 10:24 AM

I agree with you 100% Steve! I will Miss seeing Zenyatta race next year, but at least she is retiring in perfect condition with no injuries. I LOVE both Rachel & Zenyatta! They have brought so much excitement to racing this entire year!! Therefore they both should win :)

16 Nov 2009 10:24 AM

This has been an historic year without precedent to have two superstar fillies! One point I think bears some consideration is that Rachel Alexandra's accomplishments were made as a 3 year old, Zenyatta's as a more mature and larger 5 year old. Just a thought from a fan.

Steve, as usual, your article ranks right up there in class with these fillies.

16 Nov 2009 10:29 AM

I think everyone is hung up in the emotion of watching Zenyatta win the BC Classic(although I have a hard time calling it the classic since it was run in plastic)and going undefeated. I love Zenyatta but you cant take away what Rachel did this year. She is 3, won 8 races on different tracks against the top colts and older males. Zenyatta beating the boys on her home track and conditions just doesnt do it for me. If she had run out east and maybe even more than 5 races this year I may have her to win the HOTY award but I cant do that. Rachel is a freak, I dont blame her connections one bit for not running her on that crap track. If Zenyatta is so good why didnt she leave the plastics? Next year dont be surprised if Rachel runs on grass and wins.

16 Nov 2009 10:31 AM

Zenyatta is also the only horse in history to win the BC Ladies' Classic and the BC Classic while being undefeated.  All that from a deep closer no less.  I'll go out on a limb and speculate that record will never be matched.  Rachel can't even do it.

WOW!  We have never seen anything like her.  She is THE CHAMPION.

16 Nov 2009 10:31 AM

When Zenyatta came from last to first in the Classic, I was cheering her on, big time! What a moment... and what a career. What a wonderful feeling for all race fans.

I don't know who might have won a race in which they both appeared. We have a Turf Champion category, why not a Synthetic Champion? It seems clear that horses run differently over different surfaces. Why berate Rachel for not running on synthetic when Zenyatta didn't race on dirt?

They are both great horses. I'd like to see a split HOY. However, I'd have to choose Rachel who raced at 7 different racetracks in differing conditions and setting so many records.

No matter what, this debate is wonderful, since it encourages conversations, discussions and arguments about an exciting sport and its most beautiful competitors!

16 Nov 2009 10:32 AM

If the NFL can have Co MVP's so can Horseracing-Give it to both of them-they deserve it!

16 Nov 2009 10:33 AM

No matter what the outcome is for HOY, In my Book: BOTH Rachel Alexandra AND Zenyatta ARE Horse of the Year :) and nothing can change my mind!! This has been the BEST year of Horseracing since the days of Secretariat !!

16 Nov 2009 10:33 AM

Either the HOTY voters will have to flip a coin or they'll surprise us all and choose a completely different horse.

16 Nov 2009 10:34 AM

On a sad and somber note. Our fraternity and the fans of racing have lost a giant today.

Makes one realize that all this bickering is pointless. Bobby Frankel was a man who loved his horses and appreciated the beauty of each and every animal.

Racing is far poorer with his passing.

We all lift up our hearts and prayers to this man who has meant so much to so many and our thoughts and sympathies are with his family and his many friends.

16 Nov 2009 10:37 AM
Abigail from Canada

I wholeheartedly agree with the argument you presented. And thank-you, Steve, for finding a way in words to give both of these great, great thoroughbreds their own spotlight. As I've said at least twice here, it's tragic to set these girls in competition with one another. For Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, the statue is trivial in light of their accomplishments. I saw Northern Dancer, Secretariat and Ruffian race and the feeling was the same as watching Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra win. They remind us of the grace, beauty, power and noble lineage of the thoroughbred. They bookmark our memories. They are unforgettable. They represent the very best of the sport, worldwide.

16 Nov 2009 10:38 AM
steve from st louis

How do the powers that be in horse racing screw this "triviality" up? Horse racing has experienced more positive international press and coverage regarding these two distaffers (can we add Goldikova and say three?) than all other equine stars  combined over the past 20 years, but somehow they'll get it wrong. I'm watching.

16 Nov 2009 10:40 AM

Horse of the Year voting is based on a body of work for 2009-not a career and certainly not one race. Set aside the emotion created by a popular "Classic" win and evaluate the 2009 accomplishments of both in a reasonable and thoughtful manner-it's Rachel Alexander by a beautiful feminine nose. Congratulations to both camps and let's hand out kudos to Hal Wiggins and his staff as well.

16 Nov 2009 10:43 AM

Steve,  You're right, both are exceptional, however I give the slight edge to Rachel. My reason is she is a 3 yo who beat OLDER MALES.  Zenyatta is 5.

16 Nov 2009 10:45 AM

Hello Mr. Haskin,

I realize this is off topic but I just learned of Bobby Frankel's passing.

Do you have any idea of who will take care of the Juddmonte horses or his entire stable for that matter?

Best Regards.

16 Nov 2009 10:46 AM

Another article hitting the nail on the head.  My feelings can you choose between 2 super horses like we had running this year (and both against strong contenders as well).  Definitely should be co winners this year. I myself could not hit the voting button, you should have had the co-winner button to select.

16 Nov 2009 10:46 AM

I wanted to express my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Bobby Frankel.  He was one of our great trainers and will be hugely missed.

16 Nov 2009 10:46 AM

Come on...RA won on 7 different racetracks, that is huge. As far as the owners not wanting to run on plastic surfaces, I couldn't agree more. Zenyatt's owners would've done the same thing if the BC was run on natural dirt, and on the east coast.

16 Nov 2009 10:51 AM
Clear Cut

The latest great performance always has the greatest impact on opinions and I thought like you, that both should be awarded HOY. However after reading your article and the race summary provided for Rachael and Zenyatta, there is a clear cut choice. The facts simple add up in favor of Rachel.

16 Nov 2009 10:53 AM

DMR, Zenyatta scratched at Churchill Downs in May out of an allowance race because her connections didn't like the surface for her return after a long lay-off.  And for those who are fixated on RA not running on Zenyatta's favorite track and best surface, at post time that day, Zenyatta skipped out on a fast dirt track.  I don't know if Secretariat could have beaten Zenyatta on November 7, 2009 but I do believe that her carefully coddled 2009 campaign on balance just wasn't the best all year.

Mr. Haskin, another keeper.  Let them both share the award.

**** DMR wrote: Zenyatta!  Sherriffs and the owners

who had no problem taking on anybody or surface that I recall.

Come on out to Hollywood Park on Nov 29th and see something special!

16 Nov 2009 10:56 AM

Of course Zenyatta's lifetime record will be considered into HOTY (as it should be) because she broke Personal Ensign's historic record in 2009.  You can't ignore such an accomplishment.  It was 2 years in the making, but she accomplished it THIS year. If you don't think Curlin's 3-yo year had anything to do with winning 2008 HOTY as a 4yo then the naivety is alarming. He was deserving, but so was Zenyatta; he had a 3-yo resume and she didn't.

I'm so tired of people saying that the most important aspect to consider for HOTY is the numbers. Is there a rule that all horses have to run the same number of races? No. It is required that all horses travel to x-amount of states/tracks? No. Do trainers sit in their homes and have numbers reported back to them when their horses work?  No.  This is about far more than the numbers.  It's observing, studying, contemplating, and using gut feelings.  This is a TOUGH call and the only fair way to decide this debate is to review every race the two girls ran... consider the fields, know the weights, study their movements, contemplate the tracks, observe the horses after the race, etc.  People can pull out all the numbers they want, but it means little in the grand scheme of things.  

And finally, whether good or bad, synthetic tracks have been approved as official surfaces.  Punishing horses for running on synthetics is completely unfair. Are baseball games in domes any less official?  Do astroturf-teams boycott when they have to play on grass?  Get over it already. Sorry this was so long.

16 Nov 2009 10:59 AM

No wordy response here except to say that I agree with everything Steve has said.  I hope the voters also look at the entire body of work for both horses and whatever the outcome, there will never be another year like we've seen with these two champions !!!

16 Nov 2009 11:00 AM

I can't stand it!  For all you people saying that Zenyatta should get it this year while Rachel Alexandra should get it "next year" .... what if something happens and RA never races again?  Then what? Or what if she only runs one race in (eg) February or March and never runs again?  Would all of you give her HOY for 2010 anyways because you didn't give it to her in 2009?

I agree with everyone who tries to keep reminding everyone else that it is Horse of the YEAR  - not Horse of the One Big Race or Horse of the Great Last Couple of Years.  RA did more over the course of this year to deserve the title.  

Zenyatta is a big, beautiful, wonderful horse but you don't give HOY for a lifetime achievement.  If everyone goes back to previous blogs asking this very question (what if Z runs in the Classic and wins?), I don't think anyone was saying that Z would get HOY if she won.  Now it looks like a case of "what?  what did RA do lately?"

Stop already!  My brain hurts!

p.s. I also don't like the wimping-out of co-HOY.  

16 Nov 2009 11:02 AM

When you set the facts side by side Rachel Alexandra had a greater season. And I say this with heavy heart as I believe the sun rises and sets on Zenyatta and truly believe should would have beat the filly had they met. They are both clearly deserving of every accolade and prize the industry can bestow upon then. But interestingly, a BC Classic win (and age) has always colored the voting and decided HOY every year that I can recall, has it not? I have tried to check my facts, but will stand corrected if something is wrong here, but...In 2004 4-year-old Ghostzapper claimed the title after 5 wins, 3 of which were GRI—this over Smarty Jones, with six victories, including the Derby and the Preakness and having done more, arguably, to promote the sport of Horse Racing than any horse since Secretariat. He was America’s Horse! But, well, he was only a 3-year-old—and did not win the BC Classic.  In ‘05 Saint Liam was awarded HOY over Lost in the Fog, who had more wins over seven tracks and an undefeated season--BUT HE DIDN’T WIN THE BC, and he was just, well, a sprinter. In 06, Invasor took the honors over Bernadini, who won more races and had as many GR1 wins (but not the BC classic), and Lava Man who also won more races and even more GR1s, but, again NOT THE BC Classic. If it was Invasor’s champion status in Argentina that swayed votes, then by that judging, Ouija Board should have been HOY over St Liam. And let’s face it—Zenyatta should have won last year over Curlin, who, yes, won more prestigious races, but was not undefeated and did not win the BC Classic—though she did, in her division. And honestly, where are the points for showing up?  The BC is the World Championships after all. Do the Yankees win the Series if the don’t show for Game 6? Do you get the gold medal is you don’t go to the Olympics?  Maybe Zenyatta didn’t take as many risks with her 2009 campaign, but at the end of the game, she was all in.  Obvioulsy, I'm a fan and my heart is with Zenyatta. I’m not sure who will win HOY (and like many others hope there is not a tie), but one thing I will say, how amazing is it to have such a choice?! I wish we had to do it ever year.

16 Nov 2009 11:06 AM
Warning Drums

Hear, hear, Steve! I can't see any solution other than co-HOTY, unless they create an award for Lifetime Achievement on the Track and make Zenyatta its first recipient. Every time I sum up the brilliance of one, it is met by the other.

One thing, though - I hope that the Eclipse folks are taking careful note of the contentiousness of these HOTY discussions, here and elsewhere on the Web. They risk alienating a lot of passionate fans if either horse is denied the title. For me and for lots of us, there will be tremendous joy over the winner, no matter which of them wins. But I'm not sure that the joy will compensate for the sense of injustice we'll feel over the other horse losing.

16 Nov 2009 11:10 AM

I would vote foe Rachel. This country has breed for dirt for over 100 years, and our champtionships are won on dirt. all the horses Rachel beat are dirt horses. Zenyatta is something special on a synthetic track, bur could she have did it on dirt? When she won thw BC Classic she beat dirt. turf, and Europen turf horses, and she never won a race on dirt, this year. And HOY is for this year. And I think the year really belongs to Jess Jackson for the way he campained Rachel. I've been folling horse racing for 50 years and never saw a horse do the things Rachel's done!

16 Nov 2009 11:10 AM
Donna S.

Add one more to the list:

In winning the Breeder's Cup Classic, she became a National Hero.

16 Nov 2009 11:12 AM

It’s wonderful that we have two amazing female horses that thrilled us throughout this year.  Rachel and Zenyatta are two extraordinary equine athletes.  I agree that the decision in choosing who should be named the Horse of the Year should not be based on dirt or synthetic.  Any horse that ran exceptionally well on any surfaces (dirt or synthetic) is entitled to win the Horse of the Year.  Actually, both horses have proven that they can win on dirt and on synthetic.  In the eyes of their fans and owners, they both deserve to win the Horse of the Year.  The debate on who is worthy of the title could go on and on forever.  

I am sure the selected group of voters will have a difficult decision to make within the next month.  Once the final decision is announced, some fans will be happy and some will be sad.  The fans hope that the horse that captured their heart is one that will be chosen.  As a horse racing fan for many years, Zenyatta is the horse that captivated me.  I just think that it will be a blow to the horse racing world to deny this amazing 5 year old mare the title of the Horse of the Year.  This horse has been knocking on the door for the last two years.  She’s a great horse.  I am so surprised that with her running style, she won 14 times and was never beaten.  Zenyatta’s performance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was exceptional.  She was the first female horse to win that race which is mostly dominated by males.  What really sold me on picking her for the horse of the year is not just her accomplishments but also the accomplishments of her opponents that she defeated.  I think as an athlete your ability is measured by the ability of your competitors.  Great athletes not only win but they also defeat the best.  Sometimes it takes time to be considered great.  This year, Zenyatta has proven that she is great.  

16 Nov 2009 11:15 AM

The Breeders Cup World Thoroughbred Championship. The Best Horses in the WORLD come to compete. The Winners are crowned CHAMPIONS. Who Showed Up and who didnt?  Dont get me wrong Rachel Alexandria is a total FREAK and I take nothing away from her, but Zenyatta showed up at the big dance and beat THE BEST THE WORLD HAD TO OFFER  in a race that will never be forgotten. ZENYATTA is HORSE OF THE YEAR

16 Nov 2009 11:21 AM

My comments on your comments on the field Zenyatta in the Classic.  I'm not diminishing their accomplishments as you outlined.

I keep hearing about what a wonderful about the wonderful field that Zenyatta ran against.

Summer Bird - Grade I winner but unproven on synthetics. Rachel beat this horse twice on his preferred surface.

Mine that Bird - a dismal performance on synthetic previously

Rip Van Winkle - Great horse with foot problems going in. Not at his best.

Colonel John - Hasn't won a race since the Travers worthy of talking about and that was over a year ago. And by the way that race was on dirt. Couldn't beat that famous horse we are all talking about Gilamo Hernando (sarcasm in case you couldn't tell). Same goes for Richard the Kid.

Regal Ransom whose claim to fame is the Super Derby and a proven loser on synthetics.

Awesome Gem - not even worth a comment.

Twice Over - At least a good horse but the second tier in Europe. And unproven on synthetic.

Gio Ponti - Super turf horse but unproven on synthetics. As far as I'm concerned ran a huge race.

Einstein - won a GI on synthetic but a better turf horse.

So Zenyatta runs on her preferred surface and beats a few class horses running on a surface that is not their preferred surface. I don not think that constitutes defeating a stellar field. I'm not saying Rachel ran against stellar fields either but she beat them all on their preferred surface. And for those who chastise Rachel for not running against Zenyatta - it goes both ways - where was Zenyatta when she could have faced Rachel on the dirt. As some have noted both were managed carefully to their benefit. So what is new! Happens every year. Both are capable and deserving horses in their own element. Although I prefer the Eclipse go to Rachel because I think she had the better campaign the point of this comment is to try to provide my version of objectivity to "ran against the best field". Sure there were a number of GI winners in this race but they didn't get that way on this surface.  

16 Nov 2009 11:22 AM

Zenyatta is HOTY because she beat better competition. Period. You don't get the award for running in more races, you get it for beating the better competition. Zenyatta's largest margin of victory came in her only dirt race and RA won her only All Weather surface race. So that puts an end to the racing surface discussion. Jess Jackson didn't run RA in the Breders Cup because he was protecting her record after the way Curlin ran in the Classic last year. Zenyatta would have run in the Classic at any track because she has already proven that she can beat the best on a dirt track and as I stated she loved the dirt at Oaklawn. Any way you look at it Jackson never had any intention of running against Zenyatta because her undefeated campaign is how he deceives people into thinking RA is the best. She never faced a top notch field. Sorry but Jackson is nothing more than a con artist who would put most used car salesman to shame. The Woodward had one of it's worst fields ever and should be down graded to a grade 2 if it happens again. Life is Sweet is no match for her stable mate but I was jumping for joy getting 8-1 on the second best female in the sport and her win in the Ladies Classic makes Zenyatta look that much better. Hands down Zenyatta faced much better competition than RA. So don't buy into those times of RA because horses run faster when they face weaker horses. It's a proven fact that when a horse gets an uncontested lead they will run all day at a fast pace but if challenged at a slower pace mentally they give up.

16 Nov 2009 11:27 AM

I agree they should have both on the ballot and if it ends up with co-champions so be it.  We won't see another year like this for a long time.  

16 Nov 2009 11:27 AM

Leave it to the suits in this business to thwart any positive publicity or momentum the sport has enjoyed through the accomplishments of Rachel and Zenyatta.

Picking one of these amazing athletes over the other is meaningless - it's an argument that has two right answers. Instead the NTRA should endorse a plan to do something truly special given the unique circumstances of the girls' respective campaigns. That is, to enable co-Horse of the Years for two distaffers who are among the greatest horses of all time. Not only is it just, but it's a story that would resonate throughout the entire sports world and bring some much-needed positive attention to the sport. (Hell, it's a marketing director's dream!) And just imagine the publicity surrounding Rachel when she runs in 2010!

Please, Alex, don't be afraid to leave convention at the door in this year when two females broke through with accomplishments that are truly historic. Give voters the opportunity to allow these two to share Horse of the Year honors. They are both truly deserving of the accolade given what they have meant to the sport in 2009.

16 Nov 2009 11:28 AM

To Ghostzapper, you cannot be a horseman or you would not say the fans come first.  A true horseman always puts his horses first and foremost, its a fact horses that run on dirt cannot compete on synthetic and most that run on sythetic cannot run on dirt.  You take a chance everytime you send one out that they won't come back, why would you send one to run on something they have never run on and take a chance that they may get hurt or die trying to prove a point. Lets just realize they will never meet and give credit where it is due they are both great and you cannot take anything away from either of them.  

16 Nov 2009 11:36 AM
Robert Peter

I watched a 1971 Cowboy movie last night where the line "if you can't cheat, you're not trying hard enough".  There are horsemen who believe that statement including, in my mind, Assmusion/Jackson.

It 's time for the good guys to win, the ones who didn't duck any races or make questionable statements and proved to be a truly Classic team with a "Classic Mare"  

16 Nov 2009 11:37 AM

Wonderful horses, both, but I would have to give Zenyatta HOY and Rachel 3yo OY. First of all, Zenyatta ran one of her best races at Oaklawn Park, on dirt. That seems to be lost to a lot of the public. Rachel could have run on SA's surface, Jess Jackson didn't want to lose to Zenyatta, so he complained about the AW track, which is usually more favorable to turf specialists than to dirt specialists. Zenyatta and Rachel both beat Summer Bird, but Zenyatta beat Gio Ponti. Finally, if the $5M BC Classic is supposed to be the championship race of the year with the biggest US purse, then Zenyatta deserves the honor.

16 Nov 2009 11:37 AM
I Davis

Jess Jackson is one of the best things that has happened to Thoroughbred racing in a long time! He tells it like it is, doesn't bow to anyone, and takes very good care of his Thoroughbreds while still keeping them in a challenging racing schedule.  Z's connections had a lot of time to consider racing on dirt back East....all summer, as a matter of fact!  Instead, they played it safe back home in CA. Besides, Z ran one race on dirt, and her trainer said she did better on why didn't they race her on dirt back East this summer?  Why didn't they meet up w/Rachel at Belmont or Saratoga??  They have no excuses, except to keep her in races where it was a cake walk for her.  They did the horse a grave injustice.  Fortunately, they had to race her against the boys if they wanted the HOY award, and fortunately for them, Z was awesome..they could have had her in those types of challenging races all year long...she's 5 years old, not 3 like Rachel.  Why not test her to her limits??  The ONLY REASON:  to keep her undefeated...shame on them.  If they had all the confidence in Z that Jessie had in Rachel, they would have met and settled the score...plain and simple. The one time they shipped East this year was Derby day, and they scratched Z because of the poor track conditions..sloppy.  Well, I don't blame them for scratching her, but Rachel ran in the slop and didn't scratch because of a sloppy track.  Again, the connections were very calculating (and whimpish) so as not to have a loss and break her winning streak.  She's a great horse, but by no means has she accomplished what Rachel has accomplished this year.  THIS IS HORSE OF THE YEAR, FOLKS....lest we forget??  Rachel has had more accomplishments on the track this YEAR than's a fact...she's made history several times this year...Z made it once.  What's really amazing is the fact that Rachel is only three!!  Z has had several years to grow, become stronger, gain experience, etc....can you imagine what Rachel will be like as a 4 yr old, that is, if she stays healthy and sound??  Perhaps we'll see Rachel win HOY two years in a row....another history-making feat!!  As for Alex and the Eclipse Award voting, unfortunately he is a poor spokesman and figure head...he makes no sense half the time he opens his mouth.  Problem is, most folks are politcial and worry about beng politically correct....PC is destroying this country and it'll destroy Thorughbred racing.  Thank God we have folks like Jess Jackson, who stand up for what he believes is right and doesn't appear to give a hoot about PC.  Synthetic tracks are not dirt tracks, and to continue to call the Classic BC race a "dirt" race is a joke.  When is the BC going to get their act together instead of gloating about the good 2 years at SA... let's start thinking about the future of Thoroughbred racing.  Let's get back to basics and have real dirt races and turf races...any other racing surface is a third racing surface and has to be treated as such. They need to get their heads out of the sand and pay attention to what the fans, trainers, owners and anyone w/common sense is saying before it's too late. Do you know any fan or trainer that considers the synthetic surface the same as a dirt track???  Case closed.

16 Nov 2009 11:39 AM

Zenyatta beats RA for HOY this year for the same reason Curlin beat Big Brown last year - she showed up for the big dance. Live by the sword - die by the sword.

16 Nov 2009 11:46 AM
Billy's Empire

Something is bothering me. You are all bashing Jess Jackson, but there is no reason to. Did you know that before Rachel was bought, the owners were not going to run her in the Preakness. The reason he bought her was TO RUN HER IN THE PREAKNESS and to show off how good she was, b/c the current owner's were not going to. I was in Rachel's barn 3 days before the Oaks petting her nose, and I was there after, and Hal was devastated. But, they were not going to race her against the boys. You all say that the race's were cherry picked? Answer me this. The Beldame, I think, was a week before, or maybe a week after, heck could of been the same weekend as the Woodward, but I am pretty confident that if Zenyatta would of committed to that race, Rachel would of as well. BUT, Zenyatta's owners and trainer did not enter her in the race, and I think it was b/c they were afraid of an off track like at CD in May and did not want to ship her there only to scratch her, again. Rachel did not come to the BCC, but Zenyatta did not come to the Beldame, or any other race outside of Cali. She was a horse for the course, and the course was Synthetic. They are both awesome, but many of the arguments, especially Steve's analysis, are flawed. All of Rachel's bullet points on this article are facts, and many of Zenyatta's are an explanation or from last year.

16 Nov 2009 11:49 AM

This article is fantastic, one of your best. Although, I feel both of these horses are outstanding athletes who deserve to be rewarded for their spectacular 2009 preformances, I have to put my stake in for Zenyatta. Not only was her career amazing, her quirky personality stole my heart.

16 Nov 2009 11:50 AM

We have too much political correctness in the country today.

No more hand wringing.  Give the nod to Zenyatta.

16 Nov 2009 11:51 AM
Dr Sarah

I am firmly in the co-HOY camp. Neither deserves to lose.

The chief complaint about Rachel seems to be that she did not run in the BC Classic. That is not a reflection on her but on decisions (right or wrong) made by her human connections.

The chief complaint about Zenyatta is that she never left home and didn't race on dirt this year. She did ship to Kentucky to run, and was scratched when her connections did not like the track conditions. That is not a reflection on her but on decisions (right or wrong) made by her human connections.

I repeat my earlier comment. This is not a year defined by losing, it is defined by a filly and a mare who by the substance of their own deeds never lost. They did what was asked of them. It is now up to human connections to see that they do not lose at our hands.

Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta horses for the ages and certainly both Horse of the Year.

16 Nov 2009 11:54 AM
Joan C

Zenyatta  won at the Classic 1 1/4 Miles.

Rachel Alexandra ducked the Travers  at 1 1/4 and

chose to run in the Haskell.

Jess Jackson bought a "made horse" and was the

owner for only  four of her races.

Mr. and Mrs. Moss bred Zenyatta.  

Let's look at the facts before having a Coronation.

Who are the real TOBA  members.  Let's be fair.

16 Nov 2009 12:02 PM

Well done Steve. Maybe there is still time for the decision-makers to come to their senses and permit a BOTH option on the ballot. If they stubbornly cling to "preserving a fair and objective process", in Alex Waldrop's words, racing will have missed a gigantic marketing opportunity and rendered the 2009 HoY award basically meaningless. I wonder if the vote will be transparent so that we can see there is no evidence of east-west biases that any objective process must ensure. I also wonder if industry leaders realize how strongly many fans feel about this issue. I can easily find another use for the money I would have otherwise fed into pari-mutuel pools next year.

16 Nov 2009 12:10 PM

I know this is off topic, but there's nowhere else.

God bless Bobby Frankel and his family.

16 Nov 2009 12:10 PM

The most telling fact you stated early is more writers are back East so appears Rachel will get although I don't agree with it. Both of these ladies are fantastic.

16 Nov 2009 12:15 PM
Ron A

It's "Hourse of The Year" not hourse of the  career. Zenyatta has had a great career, but this was Rachel Alexandra's  year.

16 Nov 2009 12:16 PM

Fire Slam 15 Nov 2009 10:27 PM

Well thank you Fire Slam.  I think you just explained to everyone why Rachel impressively won 7 of her 8 races this year.  She defeated a weaker crop of 3-year old horses this year.  Come on people look at the accomplishments of the group of horses that Rachel beat and the group of horses that Zenyatta defeated.  Review the past performance of their opponents.  Look at their achievements.  The horse that beat the better group is the HOTY and that horse is Zenyatta.

16 Nov 2009 12:20 PM


Excellent article, as usual. You state the facts on both horses so well. I am in the camp of favoring Zenyatta. As so many have said, my justification is also that Rachel did not show up for the main event. However, having co-horses of the year does seem like the best option, since they both had years that come along once in a lifetime. By the way, how about a HOY debate on the blog with you taking Zenyatta's part and Mr. Shandler arguing for Rachel Alexandra?

16 Nov 2009 12:21 PM
Kathy Y

My biggest question is why Zenyatta was scratched because of a muddy track at the Coaching Club Oaks.  She could have beaten RA??

16 Nov 2009 12:25 PM

It's tough - yeah ... But HOY covers what happened between 1. January 2009 and 31. December 2009. Neither girl's career before or after those dates has any bearing on HOY 2009. Rachel Alexandra raised the bar on herself, notch by notch, throughout her campaign every time she entered the starting gate. The outcome of NONE of those races was ever a foregone conclusion - and in the end she defeated even older males. I'd say that's kind of why we race, isn't it - testing the horse to find out how good she really is? Zenyatta raced more against that wins-record than against increasingly talented company. This is a noble quest indeed and she has written her name into history, where it deserves to be. However, the Classic was the only time the outcome of her races was not if not a virtual certainty then at least highly likely. I for one had very little doubt that she would win the Classic; we have not seen her like in decades! But given that the rest of her races were run against fillies and mares we could be almost certain she would defeat, I have to lean to Rachel for my HOY vote. As for the question about which coast they competed on - I think that has no place in the discussion. A good horse is a good horse, no matter where he or she races. As for the synthetic issue - well, I believe Rachel has run on synthetic once and handled it okay. She also ran in some of the worst slop nature could give her - and won! So, much though I respect Zenyatta and her stellar abilities, based on performance this year I'd have to cast my vote for Rachel - with perhaps that Special Eclipse, so often given a human, this year being given to Zenyatta in recognition of everything she is.

16 Nov 2009 12:27 PM

Hi Billy- how very cool that you were around her!  You have been luckier than many and many of us are jealous!  As for the Beldame, Zenyatta was pre-entered.  It was going to be run after Saratoga, at Belmont.  Once the Mosses committed to the Beldame, that was when RA was re-routed.  Whatever the reasons, it would be safe to say if RA had stayed committed to the Beldame, Zenyatta would have been there.  If any track was made for her, it would be Belmont with those huge, sweeping turns and that stretch.  I also think that JJ might not have wanted to end up facing Music Note either, but that would be just speculation on my part.  It doesn't matter anymore. Everyone did what they did an the outcome will be what it will be.   Just wanted to let you know that Zenyatta was pre-entered in the Beldame and when Rachel went elsewhere, they didn't ship since the reason for going was to face Rachel.  Again, very cool about you getting to be around Rachel!

16 Nov 2009 12:28 PM

This isn't the first time a good 3yo is up agaist a good older horse for HOY. Just because its the first time they happen to be female doesn't mean there should be co-winners because then your short changing all the past battles. Since the BC was started this was usually decided in the Classic and before BC in the Jockey Gold Cup(which the connections of RA still avoided). Unless the top 3yo is a triple crown winner they had to show up against whoever was the top older horse(s) to claim the prize! I think RA is a brillient filly and would not of wanted her to race in the BC if it would not of made it possible to race next year. So if that was the decision her connections made then its "wait until next year" that many good sports teams have had to say. As far as ZEN living off of her accomplishments from the past 2 yrs. there have been a few actors who have won an acadamy award for not neccesaraly their best picture but being acknowleged for their past acoomplishments before its too late!    

16 Nov 2009 12:29 PM
Color Me Roses

I agree it is very difficult to choose either they are both so brilliant.  I am on the East Coast and I have followed both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta's careers.  To pick one would be a sin.  They both deserve HOTY!  To not place an answer to vote for both would not be the will of the people.  

They both get my vote.

16 Nov 2009 12:29 PM
Greg J.

Billy's Empire,

     Perfectly Stated regarding Mr. Jess Jackson, If not for Mr. Jackson, Rachel would never have been in The Preakness, Haskell, and the Woodward...

16 Nov 2009 12:29 PM

Yes- our hearts and sympathies go out to the family and friends of Bobby Frankel.

16 Nov 2009 12:30 PM

Afterthought to Joan C - HOY doesn't go for the owner's performance; it goes for the horse's. Whoever "made" Rachel (and I kinda think God did that!) or Zenyatta, it's about the horses, not their connections. And may the best girl win!

Yes, inappropriate spot or not, God indeed bless Bobby Frankel's family. The world is a little colder because he's gone. He was one of the good guys.

16 Nov 2009 12:31 PM

Rachel Alexandra 1,Zentatta 1A..

16 Nov 2009 12:33 PM

Tim--I completely agree with you!  

I think that the "best campaign" can be interpreted any number of ways by the voters.  I suggest that the best campaign is one where the best competition was beaten.  

Since both RA and Zenyatta beat Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, that doesn't help our evaluation.  We must look to the other horses.  RA beat Macho Again, Bullsbay, Gabby's Golden Gal...those are the only big names that come to mind.  Zenyatta beat Einsteain, Richard's Kid, Gio Ponti, etc.  When you compare the resumes of these two groups of horses, it is clear which is superior.

I know that many of you argue that Zenyatta merely defeated some grass horses or some synthetic specialists.  I think that is completely irrelevant.  A grass or synthethic horse is not necessarily less talented or slower than a dirt horse.  Do people think poorly of Tiznow for defeating only Sakhee or Giant's Causeway?  Isn't that why HOY can be awarded to a turf horse or a dirt horse?  

If you want to support your horse, don't just say something irrational like "Zenyatta didn't defeat anyone nearly as important as RA did because the best horses Zenyatta faced were turf horses."  What is wrong with Zenyatta defeating the best American turf and synthetic runners we have to offer, as well as the best dirt-proven 3 year old males?  

16 Nov 2009 12:37 PM
I Davis

Zenyatta won this year's BC Classic...she is the BC champion...I agree.  However, why is the winner of the BC Classic more important than a champion who has won more races this year, broken more records, made history, all in this one year, beat the boys several times, beat GRr 1 winners over and over again...all in this one year....and beat the winners of the Triple Crown...all in this one year???  Does it say anywhere that the Eclipse Award is the culmination of winning a BC race??  NO, it does not.  Z is the champ of BC in 2009, hands down; Rachel is the 2009 Eclips Award Champ, fair and square.  If the award is shared, that's fine, but Rachel proved herself to be the best horse running this year, no doubt about it.

16 Nov 2009 12:37 PM
Steve Haskin

Everyone get all this out of their system yet? Good. I appreciate all the comments, at least the civil ones.

I'm glad someone thinks they know which way I'm leaning. If I was leaning one way I wouldnt have written this. I thought the words "I cannot vote against Zenyatta and I cannot vote against Rachel" were pretty clear.

I leave you with the words of Deacon -- "Very tough call Steve, at this point I really do not care. Both horses will be remembered for their racing records much more so than any award that may be given."

As Deacon said, should we really care about this with such fervor? This is the only award in the world where the winners and losers couldn't care in the slightest how the voting turns out. Give them a carrot and they're happy.

Very tough call Steve, at this point I really do not care. Both horses will be remembered for their racing records much more so then any award that may be given.

16 Nov 2009 12:38 PM

Just to remind some people who keep commenting like Zenyatta has had a two and three year old racing season, she didn't.  Rachel Alexandra is probably a more seasoned racehorse than Zenyatta.  Zenyatta has only had two full seasons of racing.  So she is not the old, salty sesoned vet that some are depicting her as.   She started twice as a three yr old, seven times as a 4 yr old and 5 times as a 5 yr old.

16 Nov 2009 12:39 PM
Michael M

I too am in a dilemma over these two fantastic fillies. The thing is we humans created HOY, so we should be able to change the system to recognize both fillies. This is something we can contribute to the industry, a shared title.

16 Nov 2009 12:40 PM

Trainer of the year should also be based on THIS year, not a career accumulation for a certain horse.

Or else redefine the awards.

16 Nov 2009 12:50 PM
Matthew W

John Shirreffs is a trainer of immense talent as well as unquestioned integrity! He is a protege of the late Bobby Frankel, whom, along with Charlie Whittingham, was the most patient of trainers! Racing will miss Bobby! There's a huge hole to fill amongst the trainer won't be.

16 Nov 2009 12:52 PM

Joan C, Zenyatta was bought at a yearling auction.

Rachel was bred & raced by her first owner before being sold to JJ.

If JJ had not bought Rachel, she would never have faced the boys at all.

16 Nov 2009 12:53 PM

I figured everyone got that you couldn't vote against one or the other but said John should be recognized for his achievements. I sometimes wonder if people even read?

Actually Steve, give most of the connections a nice steak dinner and they won't care in a month or two. Zenyatta will win older female and that'll be fine, will make Ann Moss cry.

Used to be the award was a feather in the cap for breeding purposes, now there isn't a cap to put the feather in.

Either one will stand on their merits and the fans will remember their favorite and the once in a while fans will remember the one they saw most recently and the one who was on an international stage.

The horsemen will concentrate on their own horses and life will go on, if we're fortunate.

Like you said, in the scope of life this isn't that important to anyone whose life isn't directly affected by these horses... ANY of them.

16 Nov 2009 12:55 PM

In the sixty years that I've been involved in this sport I've never known anyone who specifically tried to breed or own a winner of the Preakness, the Haskell or the Woodward. Each of those races has never seemed an end in and of itself. Instead each has usually served as a traditional prep or stepping stone for a much more storied race. The Preakness led to the Belmont, the Haskell to the Travers and the Woodward to the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

I think it's telling that the connections of Rachel Alexandra pointedly avoided each of these more significant -- and longer -- races. The inevitable conclusion is that Rachel Alexandra side-stepped the true tests and instead performed brilliantly in a series of stunts that were within her comfort zone. Forget the synthetics. A huge guestion mark still hovers over Rachel Alexandra's prowess. Zenyatta demolished that same question mark -- and in the process a first-rate field of international talent -- with a mighty run for the history books.

As for those who claim that 1-1/8 is the fillies "classic" distance, the defining races for three-year-old fillies have traditionally been the ten-furlong Alabama and Coaching Club American Oaks -- two more that Rachel Alexandra avoided.

16 Nov 2009 12:56 PM

mjl, Curlin's biggest challenge to last years HOTY was Zenyatta's perfect season, not Big Brown. The complaint last year about 4 year-old Zenyatta was she never faced the boys and did not run 1 1/4...

16 Nov 2009 12:59 PM
Joe Ken

I was at both races (Woodward and Classic) and love both horses. It is time for the Breeders Cup to mean something. It is like Dallas saying they would skip the Super Bowl in Chicago because it snows. Next year it will be dirt.  Zenyatta ran Dirt at Oaklawn and I believe she would have showed up at Churchill had it been this year..   Zenyatta all the way.

16 Nov 2009 1:05 PM

I'm thinking if I was a turf writer and eligible to vote, if someone were holding a gun to my head I might have an ansewer. These two horses, one filly, one mare, were simply the best I've seen in a very long time and possibly ever. Their running styles and racing surfaces completly different. How you could vote for one or the other is beyond me. I had the pleasure of watching both race and found them both to be superior in every way. The only thing they didn't do is face each other. If I were Jess Jackson I would be considering sending Rachel Alexandra to Dubai. I don't blame Jess Jackson for not sending Rachel to the BCC, she's a dirt horse. As race fans we were all lucky to have the HONOR of watching these two champion females. How often in our lives do we get to see a phenom? Those of us who were around long enough have seen a few, but I don't ever recall seeing two horses in the same year both female being this great as consistently as they both were. Good luck to the turf writers on their mind bending vote. I can honestly say "I wouldn't want to be in your shoes this year!"

16 Nov 2009 1:07 PM

When you have two horses that have impacted and promoted racing as much as these two have, why can't you make an exception? As I see it there doesn't need to be a ballot. Both refused to be beat and both remained winners. How can anyone say differently?

16 Nov 2009 1:12 PM

Amen, Mr. Haskin, I could not agree more, and I could not vote for one over the other. Some things cannot be measured objectively. Both mares showed greatness, moved hearts and minds, and both deserve the award. Strictly speaking, Rachel should be "HOY" since her year was stellar, but plenty of past recipients have won by virtue of a Classic victory, and I cannot understand how anyone could deny the impact and import of Zenyatta's off the charts race. There is no legitimate reason not to award a co-HOY and celebrate two incredible horses. Most horse people seem to agree that is the only fair solution. Here is a chance for racing to spotlight two once in a lifetime champions-whats the problem? Please don't give up your advocacy for both of these mares!    

16 Nov 2009 1:13 PM
carolyn rogers

The Phantom, I love how you call JJ, PHONY Jessi, I think he buys his votes from the "EAST COAST BIASED BUNCH", Ra had a great year as a three year old,she still has next year she has to prove herself. also. Zen is retiring this year, so we have to look at her accomplisments as a "whole", and everyone will do the same when RA retires.  I live in VA. but I have always favored  Zenyatta. she is just so darn cute.

16 Nov 2009 1:14 PM
Pam S.

I am saddened by the death of Bobby Frankel.  I didn't know him, but my impression of him always was that he was his own man and that he put his horses first.

16 Nov 2009 1:14 PM
I love them both too...but

The game needs to learn from this year's failure...they should have raced and given the fans what they wanted. Find a way to figure it out, so this never hanppens again.

This vote is very similar to the BCS in college football...

Take the decision out of the voters hands and put it into the ones that can control the outcome...the players, the horses...and give us fans what we wanted to see...A GREAT RACE.

16 Nov 2009 1:16 PM

While I love both horses, I would have to give the edge to Rachel.  She's only three years old and look at what she has accomplished so far.  When Zenyatta was 3, yes she was an excellent horse but there was not as much hullabaloo over her three year old campaign.  Now because Rachel hit the scene and is, at the very least, as good as Zenyatta is, there is this whole discussion about who is horse of the year.  I just don't get it.  My suggestion is, for this one time, give it to both of them.  

16 Nov 2009 1:22 PM
John Horton, Jr.

Mr. Haskin, I don't know who will win HOY, my gut tell's me that probably Rachael will get the necessary vote because my gut also tell's me the voter's of the eclipse award are more east cost based than west coast. But I do know this, 20 years from now, when future thoroughbred racing writer's than are currently children look back on Zenyatta's career, they'll say how in the world did this mare win the ladie's championship in 08' and remain undefeated, and beat the best 3yr.old and older male's in the WORLD in the Breeders Cup Classic to retire undefeated, yet never was she crowned HOY. How did that happen will be what's asked.

16 Nov 2009 1:24 PM

The mistakes in these posts (both grammatical and factual) are so incredibly irritating, but yet I feel compelled to keep reading these blogs :)

I feel truly sad that we didn't get a chance to experience Zenyatta's  true greatness.  The exciting thing about horse racing is to see a horse tested, and unfortunately, she only had one race in 2009 that should have been any sort of a test.  She's a hall of famer for sure, but we'll never know quite how good she really was.  I wonder why her connections were holding her back?  (I actually thought she might not be good enough, but the Classic convinced me otherwise.  Why have such an easy campaign if they knew she was that good??  It's not like her races take all that much out of her.  I suspect they might have been just as shocked as many of us were at her Classic performance.)  

Racing in America is in a sad state these days if this is the kind of campaign we get from our champions.  Ghostzapper's campaign in 2004 is the only thing that comes close, but even his double of the Woodward and the Classic, might make that campaign more taxing than Zenyatta's.

16 Nov 2009 1:25 PM

Does anyone else remember Golden Vanity in the Walter Farley book "The Black Stallion's Filly"?  Brilliant, unstoppable front-runner...until he tanked in the last furlong at the Derby.  Much as I have been impressed by RA, I think she probably does have distance limitations, and I think it is very fair to factor in her not having run 1 1/4 miles when thinking HOTY.

16 Nov 2009 1:29 PM

I love them both but this year it is Zenyatta.  She was undefeated for two years.  If Rachel Alexandra is that good then she will be undefeated as a 4 yr old, carrying to weight and will get HOY 2010.  I think she will.  So my vote again is Zenyatta.

16 Nov 2009 1:30 PM

Mr. Haskin - you forgot to mention that Zenyatta became the first horse in the history of the Breeders Cup to win two different BC races. The fact that Mike Smith believes Zenyatta is the best horse he's ever ridden (and he was the regular rider for Azeri, who as you know was named HOY without even beating the boys)speaks volumes to me. It is nonetheless a very difficult decision for those of you in the industry with a vote. It's not the fans' choice. I've followed horse racing for over 35 years; never before have I seen such a heated debate. Up until a few years ago, it seemed that most people didn't even know what the Eclipse Awards are. While the interest may be good for racing, the animus being expressed on both sides is not beneficial. Good luck in making your decision.

16 Nov 2009 1:32 PM
Matthew W

An aside, I read the term "politically correct" on a blog post--Anybody notice how it seemed to be politically correct for handicappers to throw out Zenyatta as a contender in The Classic? Even locals, you just weren't supposed to go by anything but the Beyers, the #'s, and if you liked her you were called "emotional", or something like that---I can proudly say I had her, on top, along with Colonel John, and wish I had had Gio Ponti cuz he was the guy you look at after the race and go "how in the world did I leave HIM out"!! But there were signs pointing to her as the horse---fresh...22 2/5 move around the bend of her prep--as well as a very confident trainer--but no one wanted egg on their face, most every big tout was off Zenyatta--Trevor said, on the Willman show the morning after, his wife got 4-1 from a British firm, he said" those lads are seldom wrong but they were wrong on her, at that price"...Zenyatta's like the Dylan song, that paints a picture but doesn't give you everything.....Beyer didn't get her...

16 Nov 2009 1:44 PM

There's still one issue that will definitely  be considered by the voters and very well may ultimately decide the outcome of HOY voting.

Zenyatta's connections made an expensive trip cross country in May then scratched her from the $350,000 Louisville Distaff because of a WET TRACK!

The greatest of the greats never shied away from an off track. Rachel ran on wet, muddy, fast tracks....condition mattered not. All over the country on 7 different tracks.

As great as Zenyatta is, the fact still remains that she ran in one state on same type surface and when she had the chance to run one race outside those conditions, she didn't answer the bell. There was NO excuse. The greats race and win on any track condition. As did Rachel.

16 Nov 2009 1:45 PM

Two great horses who had great years. If Zenyatta had not won the Classic, Rachel I think would be the hands down winner. While the classic was on paper a great field. Derby winner, Mine That Bird, ran over the SA surface twice and could finish no better than 6th. The Super Derby winner, Regal Ransom finished 8th as the favorite in his only race over the SA surface. Girolamo, Twice Over, Rip Van Winkle and Summer Bird had never made starts over the surface. While Zenyatta did beat some nice horses in the rest of the field of the field, how can the Classic carry so much weight. I can't get past the fact that so many of the field were running on the surface for the first time or had run bad on it before. Zenyatta ran a great race, but knowing the conditions, I'm not going to give her H.O.Y. off it. Never beat a graded dirt horse on dirt the whole year......can't give her credit for beating them on synthetic.   Bigger picture......get rid of synthetic....if not, at least don't hold the crowning day of the sport on it. We wouldn't be having this argument. Two great horses............Rachel earned it with multiple great preformances, not one with question marks.

16 Nov 2009 1:54 PM
The Phantom

Jr Adam Man, the whole purpose of the BC was to bring all the best horses from around the world to compete against each other, yes we were all disappointed that the owner of RA didn't show and used the track as a excuse because his ego can't get over the crushing loss Curlin had at the track.He had every opp to bring her but refused.The track issue is lame she won on syn and maybe would have loved it more then dirt but this year we will never know.That's the reason I keep saying he's a phony , thankfully  owners with a great horses want to run against the best and support the BC this guy didn't and he's the only one to blame.Champions compete against the best field in the best race the BC Classic they don't go on vacation!Not the horses fault she would have run her heart out she is such a great competitor but the owner denied her the opp and didn't care about the fans or the industry because of his ego and afraid to put it all on the line.No HOTY skipped the BC if healthy and i do mean 100% which Holy Bull wasn't per his trainer Jimmy Croll.Jesse is a phony in my opinion for his ducking action and excuse.

16 Nov 2009 1:58 PM
screen prospect

American horse race fans show how ignorant they are in this post. Most of Zenyatta's races were in restricted stakes. In the rest of the world when we see a great filly or mare they run most of their career in open company. The likes of Hatoof, Ouiji Board and Goldikova had to run against the very best. They had to compete against the best fillies and mares and older males of all ages.In races like The Arc, Queen Elizabeth and the Guineas. Not just 1 race in open company, as a 5 year old on polytrack. Zenyatta is a great polytrack horse to be sure. When did she run in the Triple Crown races? When did she beat older males as a 3 year old? Rachel Alexandra is not only the best filly she is one of the best horses in America this year and perhaps the best filly of  all time. She has done what no other has. She is deserving HOTY.

16 Nov 2009 1:59 PM

Steve outlines at least six history making races that Rachel Alexandra participated in. However, she also set a stakes record I believe in the Martha Washington stakes.

There are other history making events in her campaign. Some have remarked that this is one of the few times, if ever, that a three year old filly, has defeated the boys (three year olds and older males) three times in one season.

Rachel is the first three year old filly I am aware of that got 8 stakes wins in a row.

I also believe that she is the first Kentucky Oaks winner to contest and win the Preakness.

So, we have eight races...and in seven of the eight history was made...

She also raced in six states on seven tracks...which is impressive for a three year old filly to well...succeeding on dirt tracks from just West of the Mississippi to as far East as Belmont Park.

And then we have the spectacular Zenyatta who was magnificent in the Breeders Cup Classic, but that was just one race...

Zenyatta had an impressive career, but HOTY is not a career award...and when you look at it the way while she finished her career with a record 12 stakes wins in a row...only 5 occurred this year. Last year, she was a much more deserving champion potentially...but she came up against a 5 Grade I winning Curlin who ran in the Classic, and also raced on turf, dirt and in Dubai...

She is a dual BC championship winner, but only one occurred this year.

It seems that some of the Zenyatta fans want this to be a career award, like Native Dancer's was...but Native Dancer did not have to compete against an impressive three year old filly in his year of winning HOTY honors.

16 Nov 2009 2:08 PM


Should Zenyatta lose out in the HOTY voting for a second year in succession, it would not be unfair, neither a reflection on the mare's ability nor greatness but simply a measure of her comparative campaigns and cumulative performances in 2008 and 2009 versus Curlin and Rachel Alexandra respectively.  That's what the HOTY is all about.  IMO Rachel has earned the title more convincingly than Curlin (who also deserved his) did last year.

"Big Z" is still a great one and will always be celebrated as such but in all honesty her campaign fell short twice and neither Rachel nor her connections should be "subsidizing" her and her connections by sharing the 2009 HOTY title.  Zenyatta, the queen of synthetics is still alive, long live the queen.

16 Nov 2009 2:09 PM
Steve Haskin

Dakota, good point. I had that in my original story and forgot to mention it here. I have added it. Thanks.

16 Nov 2009 2:10 PM

Would Zenyatta have done as well with another jockey? Mike Smith deserves a lot of credit for her victory.

16 Nov 2009 2:10 PM
J in NY

Steve you stated it when you said that Zenyatta had a great lifetime run, however, Rachel has had MORE historical records this past year then Zen.  How can someone base their vote for HOTY on just ONE race?  Sorry, but Rachel wins this year HANDS DOWN!  Zen did some great things, but of the 5 races she ran this year, 4 of them were run with the same fillies over and over.  Rachel has basically changed history. She beat the Belmont and Travers winner on HIS normal surface.  Summer Bird had to try Zen's regular track and try to run on a surface he is not used to running on.  The Breeders' cup on synthetics was nothing more than speculative for the dirt horses.  Although Zen gave us a GREAT race, it still does not sway me from the TRUTH that Rachel BELONGS as HOTY. The West Coast may feel sentiment over that wonderful mare, Zenyatta, but I've seen in PERSON what Rachel has accomplished here on the East's nothing less than SPECTACULAR!  

How ANYONE can say, "Oh, Rachel can have her year next year," certainly does not understand what these awards are for!  This is for Horse of the YEAR!  What did the horses accomplish THIS YEAR?  Again, hands AND hooves down, the Horse of the Year is Rachel Alexandra!!!!!

16 Nov 2009 2:10 PM
Pam S.

Screen prospect,

Rachel also ran in only one open-company race.  The rest were restricted to 3-year-olds.

16 Nov 2009 2:11 PM
Doug Peterson

The fact that Zenyatta is undefeated should have nothing to do with her credentials for Horse of the Year.  I suspect if she were 12-14 lifetime, there would be a lot less support for her candidacy.  This should be based on her five starts this year, and really it's down to one (the Classic).  It would be easy to dismiss it and point to the turf specialists who finished second and third, but she deserves credit for the performance.

As far as a winner and loser in this HOTY contest, look no further than Seattle Slew, who beat Affirmed twice in 1978, yet Affirmed was named HOTY.  There should only be one HOTY...this is getting like modern day youth sports, where they're afraid to have winners and losers.

16 Nov 2009 2:12 PM


The answers to your questions will be that "Big Z" competed in comparitively timid campaigns in the same years that Curlin and Rachel Alexandra raced.  That's no disgrace my friend.  The reality is that everything is relative and contextual.  Never forget the context when recalling history.

16 Nov 2009 2:17 PM
Rod B

Love both horses, they were great for the sport, brought a lot of good,positive coverage which is desperately needed. As for HOTY how can you not give it to RA, she raced more often and never lost. Her connections put her up against males and then took her out of her age restriction to face older males in a Grade 1 race, never dodged anyone.For those that say she avoided the Classic I have this to say,Take good long look at what her race schedule was like,for all you race fans,that is one tough dance card, it was as much as you can expect from a 3 year old filly. Jess Jackson did right by the horse and gave her the rest she so rightly deserved. I don't think it would have come as any surprise if she broke down when she was pressed into an open 3 and up Grade 1 race and if it happened, they would be calling for not only Jess Jackson's head but a federal inquiry into how greed has claimed another horses life. In 3 of her races she totally destroyed the field. I was there at Churchill the day Zenyatta scratched because the track was not to her liking only to watch RA,45 minutes later on the same surface  obliterate the field in Secretariat like fashion by 20 1/4. RA was every bit the horse Zenyatta was in the Classic, when she turned every challenger back in a blistering pace dual in the Woodward Stakes.Keep in mind she was 3 going against older males something Zenyatta's connections only considered when it was clear she had no chance at HOTY and she wasn't 3 she was 5. It's RA simply because more wins,tougher competition and better margins of victory. As a side note how about gateman of the year for the guy who collared Quality Road. Picture this scene, last televised race, on horse racing's biggest day and Quality Road runs amok with a blindfold on and smashes into the grandstand, breaks a couple legs only to thrash around on the track while the cameras continue to roll. It sure is nice to be arguing over horse of the year rather than defending horse racing from the likes of PETA.

16 Nov 2009 2:23 PM
Big George

As for competition, look at the horses that finished 2nd and 3rd in Zenyatta's four races coming into the BC:

Lethal Heat,Cocoa's Beach

Anabees Creation, Lethal Heat

Briecat,Dawn after Dawn

Life is Sweet, Allicansayiswow

Then the Breeders Cup which two turf horses ran second and third. Is that HOY material. Face it SYNTHETICS, and the reluctance to run on dirt this year is going to hurt Zenyatta.

16 Nov 2009 2:31 PM
Debbie O'Connor

First, I think Steve's article, very thoughtful and well balanced.  Zenyatta is a super star.  Her last race before the BC Classic, I was covered in goose bumps... there's not many horses that elicit that kind of emotion from me.  That being said, my vote goes to Rachel Alexandra, she has given me more thrills and pleasure than any other horse I've seen race this year.  There's a crucible that forges special race horses, and I really think Rachel was made from that very special clay that has just a bit of stardust in it.  She's spectacular.  I hope she's not through yet, I'd love to see her run older, I think she will just get better.  

16 Nov 2009 2:31 PM

Is the distance and the strong field of competitors is the true reason why Rachel was not in the Breeders’ Cup this year?  Since May of this year, Rachel’s connections had plenty of time to prepare her for the biggest race of the year.  I was surprised with Jess Jackson’s decision for not allowing her to participate in the Breeders’ Cup considering she has won on synthetic.  Last year, Jess Jackson’s other horse Curlin ran for the first time on synthetic in BCC.  Curlin ran well but faded.  At the end of the year, he was chosen to win the HOTY for 2008.  

Mr. Jackson’s choice of word in referral to synthetic track is very disturbing.  As a horse racing fan who lives in California I think his comment calling our racing surface “PLASTIC” is not appropriate.  It seems that he is saying that Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar DO NOT COUNT.  I think Jess Jackson’s comment gave a bad impression for horse racing in California and created more separation between east and west coast.  If Jess Jackson is truly a supporter of this dying sport, he and other horse racing fans should accept the FACT that we now have 2 types of surfaces (dirt and SYNTHETIC).  

16 Nov 2009 2:32 PM

One Euro fan shows how ignorant they are in your post.

Most of Rachel's races were in restricted company. 3 year old or a weight advantage against the males. EIGHT pounds in the Woodward.

Whatever the Euro horses had to do is irrelevant to the subject matter because they aren't pertinent to the HOY discussion.

Zenyatta was limited in her running as a 3 year old because her owners and trainers felt it not in the best interest to run her until she was mature.

Rachel is the best filly this year. Having seen all the races she ran in and knowing the level of competition she ran against sure doesn't compare to the greats and the fields THEY ran against? I'd say that is incorrect.

There were no Serena's Song's, Flanders, Personal Ensign, Winning Colors, Lady's Secrets in her races either. Fact is some of the females Zenyatta beat were far more accomplished than Stone Legacy or in the MG, Malibu Prayer.

I'd say that Winning Colors beating 49er who was much more accomplished than anything RA ran against in the TC, or Rags To Riches beating Curlin another more accomplished horse than any 3 year old RA faced says she is FAR from the best filly EVER.

Older horses? Macho Again at the wire? Now you have everyone in racing laughing.

Comparing common opponents? Look at how easily Zenyatta beat the horse that everyone was saying was just a notch down from STS.

Not to mention our own Gio and the common opponents Summer Bird etc, whose trainers ALL said LIKED the surface and were training well over it.

The two females accomplished a lot and it's going to be a difficult chore to separate them. But when all is said and done, none of this means anything to the horses and it really only has meaning to those in the game. Those who actually even care anymore.

Synthetics? Zenyatta's preference. Dirt/mud? Rachel's preference.

I assure you if the Breeders Cup were at Churchill this year? Zenyatta would have taken a different route. Their goal was the Classic. They didn't select SA as the venue and THEY have shown up at ALL the BC venues without all the whining.

RIP Bobby, now there was a man who loved EVERY horse and dog, every living creature as long as they weren't obnoxious humans!

16 Nov 2009 2:36 PM
California horse racing fan

Zenyatta's BCC win outweights any of Rachel's accomplishments. It's a negative that Rachel didn't show, but it's also a negative with Zenyatta running on her home turf the entire year. When you stack up all of their races and accomplishments, Rachel's is more outstanding. Rachel is HOY.

16 Nov 2009 2:36 PM
J in NY

Oh yes, and Zenyatta did NOT beat the WORLD'S BEST horses...Sea the Stars had retired and Rachel didn't go.  :-)

Like I said, this is for Horse of the YEAR...and NOT Horse of Lifetime Accomplishments.  Zenyatta will be in the Hall of Fame, as will Rachel. That will show BOTH of their lifetime accomplishments!  Right now, we concentrate on the YEAR.  

16 Nov 2009 2:43 PM

Kathy Y 16 Nov 2009 12:25 PM

The trainer did not want to take a chance of her breaking on the sloppy track and be euthanized just like George Washington on the sloppy track in Monmouth Park.  The trainer did a right decision!

16 Nov 2009 2:58 PM

Comment for JOAN:  I disagree with you--please get your facts straight--you obviously are unaware that the Queen ran in Hot Springs, Arkansas--beating older Champion Ginger Punch in 2008 on the DIRT.  

Unfortunately Zenyatta's home base was California where poly  surfaces were mandated...and she won on 3 different California track surfaces--Delmar, Hollywood and Santa Anita.

Queen Z welcomed all takers, it was a known fact where she would be racing in 2009 with the ultimate goal of Breeders Cup in November...competition was welcomed...her undefeated status was on the line every race.  Competition is competition--she would have won whether it were dirt or poly, California or New York.  

Oh and to quote you "The greats race and win on any track condition. As did Rachel."  I too wish she would have run at CD.  But why didn't RA show up for Breeders Cup, after all, she had won on poly at Keeneland.  Please no more tired Curlin talk by her owner...face the facts, RA is indeed great, but the classic American distance of 1 1/4 isn't on her dance card and probably never will be.

Zenyatta for HOTY--while the world of racing was watching, it was Zenyatta's show--she pranced and danced her way to the track, dealt with the delay like a pro, broke slow as usual, gave the boys plenty of racing room and then said "see ya" when the finish line was in sight. Imagine what she might have accomplished on the dirt and at longer distances...

16 Nov 2009 3:05 PM
njracing fan

Not even close. Rachel is HOY. The Zenyatta arguments are weak, especially using football analogies and not showing up for the so called big one. These are absurd. In football, you have to win your playoff games to make the big one. Zen did not even play in one playoff game. If the Patriots were just given a spot in the Super Bowl and their opponent had to win playoff games to make it, then play on the Pats home turf while being tired, who do you think would win? While I love Zen, her routine,and her fabulous career, pre-race dancing shows and winning in 2008 mean nothing in this vote. If BCC is the only race that matters, why even have races the rest of the year? If surfaces don't matter, why not race in sand or on asphalt? The BCC this year was a weak field of turfers, horses that shipped from overseas, some not too well according to their owners, some over the hill horses, some who hated synthetics, and a couple of very average horses. Cl. John was the best competition in my opinion, but the field as a whole was not very good. Rachel overcame so many more obstables than Zenyatta, who had all year to come east to face Rachel but didn't. Love Zen as she is so much fun to watch, but any independent rational vote would have to go to Rachel.

16 Nov 2009 3:11 PM

Joan C

Just letting you know Zenyatta was bred by Maverick Productions, Ltd,

do some reading .

16 Nov 2009 3:11 PM
John Horton, Jr.

Recently, watching ESPN, a basketball analysist spoke about how the great Wilt Chamberlain quoted all of his lifetime stats in comparing himself as to who was the greater "big man" between he and Bill Russell. Chamberlain gave all of his point totals, rebounds, blocked shots, etc. When this question and these numbers were put to Bill Russell he responded "The only numbers that matter to me are that I have 11 World Titles. Much the same is true in this case. Mr. Haskin's quotes all the number of Rachael's wins, stakes records, track records, and by-length averages. But Zenyatta has two World Championships. In 2008 in the Ladies Classic Division, and in 2009 in the Classic, beating the best males, period, to win that championship. So no matter who get's HOY, to me Zenyatta will forever be something Rachael can never be, UNDEFEATED, and until the day come's that Rachael proves herself to be a world champion, Zenyatta will forever be a CUT ABOVE.

16 Nov 2009 3:16 PM
Saratoga AJ

I’m tired of of this debate. Everyone has their opinion. They are both great horses in their own way, no doubt about it. But simply put, Rachel Alexandra accomplished more throughout the ENTIRE year. She ran more races and won more races, in front of more people, in more states, on more tracks, with faster times, faster overall BEYERS, on any track condition (Remember May in Louisville, Zenyatta fans?) and received much more media coverage in ALL of 2009 than did Zenyatta. And she is only a 3 yr. old filly.

If there is only one winner of HOTY, it must be Alexandra the Great.

16 Nov 2009 3:22 PM
Billy's Empire

Footlick, I will tell you that Rachel was a dream to be around. Hal trains a few horses we own, and our Colt was in stall 18, right next to Rachel. If you want to even see Rachel now, you have to wait til she goes to the track, b/c Asmussen has this lady that will yell at you if you even get close to the barn. Same thing happened last year with Curlin. I found it amusing.

Funny story, Rachel almost bit my ear off that morning. I was petting Rachel with my cosuin and Hal and his wife. It was Derby week, and it was raining. A few photog's had their umbrella's up, and this horse came around the corner and Hal said, "be careful, this horse is crazy." As soon as he said that, the horse saw the unbrella's outside of the barn, reared up and then bucked, so we all were backs against the wall. My back was against R/A's door and she started to try to bite my ear. I think it is pretty cool to be able to say I almost got bit by one of the greatest fillies in modern time. If there are three things a horse racing fan should do, IMO, it is go to the SPA, go to Delmar, and get to backside on Derby week, and of course go to the Derby. The yearling sale at Keeneland is quite the experience also.

All I know, is that both of these fillies have made a huge impact on horseracing, and we will all remember what they did on the track, not what they earned from the voters.

16 Nov 2009 3:22 PM

I have been a big R.A. fan since the Preakness and hoped against hope that Jackson wouldn't chicken out and would show up at the B.C. and settle the arguement by whipping Zenyatta. But, to the disappointment of millions, he was, as expected, a no-show. So the real gambling began between Jackson and Moss. Jackson's choice was simple. Be a no-show and hope Zenyatta would enter the Classic and lose the race and any hope for HOY, knowing full well that a Zenyatta win in the Ladies Classic would not be enough to get Zenyatta HOY. Moss' choice was to win the Ladies Classic and lose HOY to R.A. or run in the Classic where a win would, not only make history, but would give Zenyatta a very good chance to win HOY, whereas a loss would leave her with the same award as a Ladies Classic win would; older f/m of the year. Kudos to Moss for having the guts to run in the Classic and giving us our deserving HOY, Zenyztta. And to Jackson, shame on you.  

16 Nov 2009 3:36 PM

What is really funny yet at the same time sad is that both of these horses would in a "normal" year be a slamdunk horse of the year. But because they both happened to have an historic year in the same year, we are in this dilemma. The horse of the year award is really not enough for either of these fine and remarkable athlete animals. If we must vote for one over the other we are obviously saying that the one who is not voted horse of the year is not on a par with other horses of the year since they didnt get the award. This is, obviously, preposterous, but how else can you interpret it?

I suggest this...because this is such an extraordinary year in horse racing that we have NO HORSE OF THE YEAR AWARD but instead some special award for both of them that acknowledges that both have had accomplishments this year that transcend most horse of the year winners of the past. Perhaps we can name them something like ZENYATTA, HISTORIC MARE of the YEAR and RACHEL ALEXANDRA, HISTORIC FILLY OF THE YEAR. The aim should be to not dimish what either has done just because they happened to accomplish it in a year when another horse had equally amazing accomplishments.

16 Nov 2009 3:41 PM

I just don't understand the people who say that RA faced soft competition and Zenyatta didn't.  

I don't get why she had to run 1 1/4 as a 3 year when Zenyatta didn't until 5.  

I don't get why she had to carry 129 and more than the older males that she ran against to be legit.

I don't get why Zenyatta may be named HOY this year when minus one race, her year was last.  

I don't get why it's okay for Zenyatta to win by a nose over females but RA can't win by a nose.

Tiznow was not HOY because of one race.  Point Given was because he won, oh, some of the races RA did.  That was good enough then.

Zenyatta's BC win was amazing and I yelled for her all the way.  I don't know who would have won that day, no one does.  I think RA would have put up a better fight than the rest and it would have been a sight to see.  

Sadly, we didn't see it.  We don't know who's really better.  I'm just a factual person.  Zenyatta got cheated last year, but I see no way that HOY can be given to a horse for a day's worth of work.  


16 Nov 2009 3:56 PM

I like both females, but Rachel deserves HOY. She had many history making wins, including beating older males, which hadn't been accomplished in 122 years.

With Zenyatta, most of her claims come from either the Breeders' Cup or last year. And it's Horse of the Year, not Horse of 2 years or Horse of the Breeders' Cup.

Folks, let's imagine if the Breeders' Cup didn't exist. Rachel would have a complete and dominant campaign, while Zenyatta would have beaten up on mostly mediocre horses over and over.

16 Nov 2009 3:58 PM

I have read so many comments from people who think the Mosses were "chicken" for not racing Zenyatta on the day before the Derby because of the muddy track.  This is so ridiculous it's almost laughable.  Zenyatta was coming off a six-month layoff. This would have been her first start of the year in what was basically a meaningless race (quick - who won the race?) Rachel was pointed all year by Hal Wiggins for the Ky. Oaks. She was racing on the track she trained on every day and she loves the mud (see La. Oaks). He knew she liked the track.  John Shirreffs made the same decision almost any trainer would have made - if in doubt, wait for a dry track. It wasn't so much the fact that the track was wet, but that it would be sealed (packed as hard as possible so rain wouldn't penetrate). A lot of horses are injured on sealed tracks. Coming a year after Eight Belles' breakdown, Shirreffs made the right call.

I personally think the HOY award should be given to the best horse. I have a lot of admiration for Rachel and I think she is the best 3-yr-old this year, male or female. I think Zenyatta is the best horse, period.

I'm also glad Gio Ponti is staying in training next year and pointing for the Dubai World Cup (which will be on Tapeta at the new track). If the Dubai World Cup was going to be on dirt, Gio Ponti would probably be in the breeding shed next year.

16 Nov 2009 4:00 PM

It is pretty clear that Zenyatta should get the vote as she competed thru the end of the year and WON the Classic. Hand down she deserves Horse of the Year.

16 Nov 2009 4:06 PM

Absolutely agree that both are deserving and that the facts make a very clear case for either one.  So what's the deciding factor?  For me, it's the Breeders' Cup.  They're not called the World CHAMPIONSHIPS for nothing.  Rachel Alexandra didn't show up.  Zenyatta did.  Rachel's connections played it safe.  Zenyatta's connections took a chance.  They could've played it safe and let her beat up on the same females she's been beating up on.  But they risked her perfect career by asking her to do two things she'd never done before:  face males and run 10f.  In a sport (excuse me, business) so lacking in sportsmanship these days, THAT should be rewarded by giving the edge to Zenyatta for Horse of the Year.

16 Nov 2009 4:07 PM

Please no tie!

In my mind it comes down to one simple fact.

When the gate opened at the Breeders Cup Rachel was nowhere to be found. Does anyone really believe if the BC were held back east on dirt that Zenyatta would not have been there? You can not win by default, you have to show up for the big race, period.

16 Nov 2009 4:08 PM
Ron C

Rachel is Horse of the Year for this reason: Zenyatta's victiry was tainted by the fact that it was run over synthetic; this effectively eliminated the chances of half her competition - Summer Bird, Mine That Bird, Girolamo, Regal Ransom (and the fact that Quality Road was crathcehd. Steve Crist compiled the evidence: horses that made their last start on dirt finished 0 - 21 in tbhias years Cup; 0 - 43 over the last two Cups at Oak Tree. That says it all to me - I admire Zenyatta but her accomplishment was not quite the crowning achievement it appears to be. She beat half a field.  

16 Nov 2009 4:22 PM
Tim G

Billy, was looking to see which one of the ladies you are who owned that filly at CD in the Pocahontas.

Didn't you say Tiz Miz Sue? Hobby is her trainer.

Yes it's great to go to Del Mar, Saratoga and the Derby as well as the Breeders Cup. But realistically the only one that the common man can get on the backside is Saratoga.

THAT is something I'd love to see at most tracks, if it's logistically possible.

16 Nov 2009 4:28 PM

Steve, Mr. Jackson races his horses hard through midseason and they seem to burn out by Breeders' Cup day.  Let him prepare Rachel Alexandra for the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, and let us vote for Zenyatta this year.  In war and horse racing, it's the last big battle that counts the most, and Zenyatta...I'll treasure the memory of her Classic win as long as I live.

16 Nov 2009 4:29 PM
C. Hyde

AFter reading the intro touting having both horses in the votong, I scroll down and see the Bloodhorse poll which...lacks an option for voting for both. So I didn't vote, since I can't separate them.

16 Nov 2009 4:36 PM

Glad I lived long enough to see a heated debate regarding horse racing extending weeks past the Breeders Cup races about nothing other than which horse is best.

Either way it goes, its sooooo nice to just be talking about positives in our sport again!!

16 Nov 2009 4:46 PM
mike williams

If we want to wrap up the Horse of Year honours with fans of both Rachel Alexandria and Zenyatta, being satisfied, then the fairest decision would be to vote both horses as Co-Horses of the Year.

It is the first time that there has ever been such a compelling situation where both horses deserve the title. Let's make everyone happy so that there will be no losers, only winners.  

16 Nov 2009 4:59 PM
Steve Haskin

just to set the record straight, while I would like to see dual winners, I can understand why that likely won't happen. And I can certainly understand why many people want to see one winner. The purpose of the column was basically to say can't choose between the two.

16 Nov 2009 5:03 PM

Great story Billy.  Luckily you didn't lose an ear!  Too bad about not being able to see her  since the move to the new barn.  I hope your family's horses are doing well.  I've been to DelMar, beautiful track with the ocean right there.  I'm hoping to go to Keenland this Spring- a friend of mine is really into the 3-day eventing and he used to breed Arabians so he wants to go to the 3-day event held in Lexington.  I guess it's the only top-ranked one in the US.  And it is the same time as Keenland's spring meet and the Yearling sales.  I hear it is just an amazing time to be there.  But, we will see if it happens.  Hopefully your horses will have continued success!

16 Nov 2009 5:07 PM

I swear, if one more person talks about the '08 and '09 Breeders Cups being skewed b/c they were on synthetics, I think I'll scream.  ONLY here does that matter---maybe it's time we catch up to the rest of the racing world, where the surfaces are much simpler--it's either "Turf" or "NON-Turf".  At least, that's the way the folks at Timeform see it....and they do the global rankings.

16 Nov 2009 5:17 PM

Enough with the comments that RA can't run 1 1/4.  RA is THREE, Z didn't attempt it until she was FIVE.  RA ran 9 1/2f.  Since when is it expeced of a 3yo filly to run 10f to win HOY?  And btw, this week her sire had a 2yo colt win at 10f.  No one expects a 3yo filly to run against males three thimes either but she sure did!  And not fair comparing a whole career to the filly's outstanding 2009.  I have all the respect and love in the world for both of these fine champions.  But Zenyatta's connections picked and chose carefully.  Zenyatta coulda and she shoulda but they didn't let her.

16 Nov 2009 5:18 PM
Mike Relva


One thing that's constant regarding your posts,you are WRONG from the FIRST WORD you type,to the LAST WORD you type! Way to go!

16 Nov 2009 5:19 PM

ZENYATTA all the way!!!!

16 Nov 2009 5:24 PM

Hey, synthetic track critics: I didn't hear you whining that Curlin got HOY just because he was the only one comfortable with a sloppy track! Zenyatta deserves it. Period. She beat much better horses. Period. The great ones can run on anything, and she proved that in Arkansas. RA is great, but her owner let her down. She has won at KEENELAND, for God's sake, and last time I checked, that was a "plastic" track. They should have aimed her for the BC. Period. Zenyatta showed up and prevailed. RA had to stay home. :-(

16 Nov 2009 5:27 PM

Drop the Horse of the Year award this year and replace it with the following two awards and make it clear that both of these transcend the normal Horse of the Year award.



16 Nov 2009 5:29 PM

Steve, Just finished your article. Well written (as usual), but I think you missed highlighting one important fact. Rachel did not show up to the Breeder's Cup. Mr. Jackson professes to be a staunch supporter of our sport. By boycotting the BC, his actions did not support his words. If Mr. Jackson owned a football team and they were good enough to get to the Super Bowl, would he boycott it just because he didn't like the stadium where the Super Bowl was being held? I doubt it. Maybe Rachel does deserve the Award. But, Mr. Jackson does not. The TRA must that this into account or they may soon have nothing to write about.

16 Nov 2009 5:29 PM

I agree it's hard to choose, and I wouldn't be mad at a dual Horse of the Year award this once.  However, I disagree about having separate HOY titles for dirt and synthetic. Sure, I can see adding a third surface to the divisional titles, but we don't have a separate grass HOY and we shouldn't have one for synthetics.  If I have to pick one, Zenyatta showed up on Championship Day and beat the best field all year, and she gets my vote.

16 Nov 2009 5:29 PM

Why not have a BOTH option on YOUR pole? I can't even participate in this one because both girls have thrilled me all year long & I insist that if ever there was a time for this option it is NOW! If Rachel ran again this year & trumped the field I bet people would get swept up in the moment & the polls would be swayed again! BOTH or no vote!

16 Nov 2009 5:34 PM
Judy from Burbank,CA

Steve ~ I'm a nervous wreck! As always, you're writing has put me on the verge of tears! In a beautiful way!

Someone posted it's like "Sophie's Choice". That's how I feel, too!

The powers-that-be, as you stated, will most likely not give dual-honors. But, think how the history books would read if they DID! It would give a whole new meaning to GIRL POWER!

Queen Zenyatta should get Horse of The Decade for sure!!!!

I thank the Heaven's for living during this historial moment in time!! Thank you QUEEN ZENYATTA!! Thank you PRINCESS RACHEL ALEXANDRA!! Thanks for the wonderful memories...bless you for being you!

16 Nov 2009 5:36 PM

If I had to vote, it would be for Rachel Alexandra.  But I love and respect Zenyatta as well, and the fairest thing, I think, is Co-HoY.

There are counter-arguments to all the points put forth by both camps, so I won't list them all yet again.  But I would ask that those who criticize Jess Jackson for not bringing RA to the Breeders Cup this year remember that he did just that with Curlin last year---and got Curlin beaten on a track the horse didn't like.  How in the world can we ask one owner to face that dilemma two years in a row?  How would Zenyatta's owners like it if they had had to run her for two consecutive years on a dirt track?  (Yes, it can be argued that she would have won both times, but frankly, since it didn't happen, we don't know that.)

It was the whim of the BC committee to locate the Breeders Cup at Santa Anita for two years in a row, and put all the dirt horses (including those in the Classic) at a disadvantage.  That is not to justify giving HoY to Rachel; nothing discounts what Zenyatta did.  It is only to emphasize that too many elements enter into selecting one horse for HoY this year, and the only way to satisfy all requirements is to select both mares.

16 Nov 2009 6:31 PM

I came to this blog late, there are over 260 posts as I write this and I didn't read a single forgive me if I repeat what someone else has said.

For me it comes down to what HOY means to each it for the best campaign or the best horse? My (pretend, lol) vote goes to the best horse. So Zenya gets my vote.

16 Nov 2009 6:32 PM

When will the racing gods get out of the 19th century and into today.  What do they mean that they CAN'T have co-horses as HOY.  Bull-crap as far as I am concerned. Rachael & Zen both deserve this honor this year and it's about time that the voting populace rethinks their decision.

Is there a by-law that says this can't happen.  I would think long and hard and put in a write vote for both.  That is my opinion.  Rules are made to be changed so this should be the yeer.

16 Nov 2009 6:38 PM

Delightful reading, as always, Steve.  A lot of people have talked about wanting Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta to be co-champs.  I can't help but think, whether we want to admit it or not, there's a wee bit of sexism there.  Silly, yes, but fact is, male horses are generally considered "better" than female horses- the reason these two are the two leading (only) contenders for the award is that they are females who both beat the boys in sensational fashion- in RA's case, three times and in Z's case, in the biggest race of the year.  If they both had the same number of wins but were males, we wouldn't be having a co-champion argument.  One would win and one wouldn't.  (Actually, it would likely be  a male Zenyatta easily, in that case)  The fact that we have a year where the leading HOY candidates are both females is awesome, and I think the desire to name co-champions comes from knowing 2009 was a very, very special year.  But to name them co-champs, I think, downplays what they did, and feels like a "Oh, we should give it to BOTH the girls..."  Treat 'em like the champs they both are- one will get more votes and win the title and the other... well, the other won't care, because she's a horse, not a person.

As for me, my big hope is that more trainers and owners of terrific fillies will decide to take a chance more often and try 'em in open company.   I mean, come on, look how it worked out for Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra! :)  Because while I know it's silly to value a filly less because she races solely against her own sex, I'm only human and I love it when the girls run against the boys.  And beat them. I guess I'm being a little sexist myself!

16 Nov 2009 6:41 PM

As for competition, look at the horses that finished 2nd and 3rd in Zenyatta's four races coming into the BC:

Lethal Heat,Cocoa's Beach

Anabees Creation, Lethal Heat

Briecat,Dawn after Dawn

Life is Sweet, Allicansayiswow

Then the Breeders Cup which two turf horses ran second and third. Is that HOY material. Face it SYNTHETICS, and the reluctance to run on dirt this year is going to hurt Zenyatta.

all of those f&mares tower over any female RA beat. fact is even if RA had run in the LC she would have been thumped

16 Nov 2009 6:44 PM
John's Call

I'm tired of people comparing the Breeders Cup to the Superbowl or World Series.  Two completely different things.  Team sport vs individual.  If Tiger Woods won 8 tournaments in the year but didn't play the Masters which was won by Lefty, does that mean Lefty should be golfer of the year?   It's Horse of the YEAR.  While the Breeders Cup should have a large implication, it's not the defining standard.  It is my opinion that R.A. accomplished more during the year.  While Zenyatta did accomplish alot in winning the Classic, she did not accomplish more than R.A. over the course of the year.  In Z's other 4 races, she raced on the same familiar racetracks against the same familiar horses she's known for beating.  Just like R.A. never shipped for the Classic, Zenyatta never shipped out of her backyard.  

People are remembering Zenyatta's last brilliant performance, but let's hope they don't forget about Rachel's brilliant performances all year.

16 Nov 2009 6:53 PM

Amen, Steve. Well written, and how I feel.

To her detractors: Yes, Rachel should have been at Santa Anita - but please, don't mistake the HORSE for the OWNER. What, she was going to rent a plane or a van and get herself there? Even as talented as she is, it's highly doubtful... if anyone deserves your scorn for her not being in the starting gate on BC day, it's her connections, not Rachel herself.

Heap scorn and praise where it's due. Praise Zenyatta and Rachel for walking their talk, and scorn the connections of Rachel for not taking the chance on BC day. Maybe they should have skipped a race or two if they were afraid she was going to get too tired.  They, however are the ones who made the decision not to go, not the horse. Had she been there, she would have run her heart out the way she always does.

16 Nov 2009 6:55 PM

It will be very hard to give one of these great fillies an award without the other one getting one. I cannot go against Zenyatta. She won me over with her personality. I know it's the racing that counts but you just don't see horses that you can feel so close to like her. It's like she belongs to all of us. She danced, pranced and entertained all of us. Held her head up looking at everyone. She will be retired I don't think We'll see one like her again unless Rachel grows next year and becomes even better than she is now.Both HOY IMO.Could not pick just one.

16 Nov 2009 7:03 PM

"It's Horse of the YEAR.  While the Breeders Cup should have a large implication, it's not the defining standard."

Yes. Rachel Alexandra is plainly the Horse of the Year over a great horse who was not challenged this year until one superb race at the end. The rest is noise.

16 Nov 2009 7:26 PM
Tim G

Very interesting comment by someone who said Zenyatta competed until the end of the year.

I think that's a fair criteria. If people think Rachel was a 'tired' horse, then maybe they should have bypassed the Mother Goose (what did she prove running against 2 horses?), they should have by passed the Haskell, not like a filly hadn't won that one, and fairly recently too. So then you'd have had her with one race more than Zenyatta going into the Classic and she could have had a rest, then gone back to training.

As far as the filly not liking the synthetics? She won on them. Nothing like Curlin who was a dirt horse.

Jess being forced to do anything? Man you guys don't know him at all.  Truly if he thought this filly could run a distance and he wanted to make history? He'd have bought her before the Derby, run her in that, then the Preakness and then the Belmont. It wasn't like she laid off after any of those races.

Maybe a new criteria? IF the horse is healthy, their conections should not be rewarded for quitting early on them.

16 Nov 2009 7:31 PM



16 Nov 2009 7:47 PM
Susan Watkins Hot Springs, Arkansas

Steve....again you have written a brillant article and I commend you for that.  I am right on board with you and it MUST be a Co-HOTY (although my heart is with Zenyatta) Rachel is an absolutely amazing filly and Zenyatta is an absolutely amazing mare.  In a case like this I believe it is very unfair to actaully make people choose.

Again thank you for your thought.

16 Nov 2009 7:54 PM

Steve, great article as usual. But I think it is telling that all the pros you list for Rachel Alexandra are accomplishments achieved within a single year. Many of the pros listed for Zenyatta are things she's accomplished over an entire career.This award is for Horse of the Year, not who had the overall best career. Both horses were brilliant this year and I agree it would be difficult not to vote for a thoroughbred who hasn't taken one wrong step all season, which is what both have done...but in that case isn't the deciding factor which horse has the edge in raw 2009 accomplishment? I think, if people look at this debate logically, that Rachel wins. Unfortunately, I think emotion will carry the day and Zenyatta will win, which in my opinion will be a shame. It pains me that so many people are unfairly punishing Rachel for not "showing up" (never mind that she aced arguably the most ambitious campaign ever set before a three-year-old filly and the fact that Zenyatta could likewise be knocked for not "showing up" in tough races until the Breeder's Cup) and for her owner, who seems to be unpopular with a certain number of fans and members of the horse racing industry.

16 Nov 2009 8:13 PM
Mike Relva


You are on target as usual. I couldn't agree more w/ your opinion regarding Zenyatta,RA. One of the problems is,individuals can't and won't appreciate what both horses have accomplished. We owe them alot regarding the exciting moments we've witnessed. The so called fans that cry that racing is on a steep decline,then does a "hundred an eighty degree" by not appreciating what we have with these amazing two horses. I don't think for a second individuals have to slam one in order to raise the other. Makes zero sense!

16 Nov 2009 8:15 PM
John M Horse owner

Each one of these magnificent horse deserves Horse of the Year. This may be the only year ever it should be a tie.How can you separate them

16 Nov 2009 8:24 PM

Please do not include Zenyatta's dirt race for last year in this discussion- it is not relevant for Horse of the Year 2009, as it was for 2008. Also, her entire season LAST YEAR is not relevant to this year's HOY race.

16 Nov 2009 8:25 PM
My Juliet

  The Eclipse Awards, honoring excellence in horseracing, are said to be similar to The Academy Awards, honoring excellence in motion pictures. Sometimes the Oscar goes to the actor/actress or movie that was the best, sometimes not, since people vote there can always be bias.'Shakespeare in Love' won over 'Saving Private Ryan', which most movie critics admit was a mistake. Denzel Washington, one of the best actors,didn't win until 'Training Day'; many critics admit he should have gotten the Oscar before that, esp for 'The Hurricane'. Sometimes voters pick a year to 'make up' for past mistakes in voting or honoring other years. This is of course wrong, and denies the truly best performance of That Year the award. I think this is similar to this year in horseracing. Zenyatta's year was perfect, 5 for 5 ending with poss the 'race of the year',even 'decade', for many fans. Rachel's year was perfect also, and 8 for 8 (I don't know if voters consider whether the horse raced at diff tracks, then RA has an advantage in this area) ending with also poss the 'race of the year', also historic, both never been done, both happened this year-The BCC and Woodward.      

    Many comments for Zen as HOTY include her career, not only this year as they should. Many also state RA can get it next year, again a poor argument. The award cannot be given for whole career or based on the other being only 3, and able to win it next year.  Zenyatta closed the margin a lot with her win in the BCC, but in my opinion, Rachel still had the better year, won 3 more races and 2 more against colts. I am all for giving Zenyatta an award honoring her lifetime achievement and brilliant career. But the amazing filly, Rachel Alexandra for Horse of the Year 2009.

16 Nov 2009 8:31 PM
screen prospect

Pam s. I dont agree with you. Zenyatta had MOST of her races restricted to fillies and mares. Rachels fields were open company. Open to the best 3 year old fillies and colts. When she took care of that business she defeated 3 year and up colts. Look at Zenyattas record. You see restricted stakes all over. The Preakness is considered classic distance as well. The people on here make the case clear. Rachel Alexandra is HOTY. The rest are just Zenyatta fans. Nothing wrong with that. Rachel made more history broke more records and raced on more surfaces. Beat better horses. All at 3 years old. her year trumps zenyattas with ease.

16 Nov 2009 8:36 PM
Steve Haskin

I prefaced my last two points on Zenyatta by acknowledging that they had nothing to do with 2009. They were mentioned simply as a tribute to a magnificent career and her unprecedented accomplishments. As I have written my last words on the matter I felt this is where they belonged. They were not mentioned to influence people to vote for her. But some will read into it whatever they wish.

16 Nov 2009 8:54 PM
Storm Being

One thing: I'm glad I'm not voting. I would never be able to choose who would win.

16 Nov 2009 9:00 PM

It's Horse of the YEAR, not horse of NOVEMBER. Year: Rachel. November: Zenyatta. Stop basing things on Zenyatta's 08 performances. That's last year, guys.

16 Nov 2009 9:08 PM

I love both and think that both are deserving and will never be upset if one wins out over the other.  However, facts are facts and there should only be one winner.

I know that HOY is about the ENTIRE SEASON, but it is also about WHO IS BEST.  Based on facts, I think that Zen is the better:

• By my count Rachel defeated a total of 7 G-1 winners with 9 G-1 victories on their resumes when they faced her.  I know that several won G-1s later like Summer Bird and Flashing, but these wins were not on their resumes when they met and could be indicative of improvement later in the season.

• Conversely, this year Zenyatta defeated 10 different G-1 winners with a total of 21 different G-1 or Group-One races on their resumes, (not counting LIS win in the Lady’s Classic, but counting her earlier G-1 win in the Santa Margarita).

• Rachel defeated males three times, a credit to her connections and certainly an excellent and ambitious schedule.  However, her other five races were restricted to 3 y-o fillies and not one of those fillies won a G-1 against older fillies or mare.  As a matter of fact, neither did Rachel.

• Conversely again, the males Rachel defeated were easily handled by Zen.  Based on defeating males in the toughest G-1 race this year, the perception should be that if she faced males two more times this year she would have an excellent chance of winning.

As for the fact that Zen shouldn’t be considered for HOY because she had only five races and didn’t start her season until May, maybe people should realize that there is a precedent…….Ghostzapper: 4 starts – 4 wins: 1-G3, 1-G2 and 2 G-1’s in a season that didn’t start until July 4th.

One other point…….of the 25 HOY that have been awarded since the advent of the BC, barring injury, only one winner (Holy Bull) did not race in a BC race that year.  The injured horses (John Henry, Spend A Buck, Criminal Type, Charismatic, Point Given and Mineshaft) were all retired before the BC.  All the other winners participated in the BC Classic except Lady’s Secret and Azeri, both of whom opted for the Lady’s Classic, Kotashaan, who raced in the Turf and Favorite Trick who raced in the Juvenile……this alone is a statement that CHAMPIONS REALLY SHOULD SHOW UP ON CHAMPIONSHIP DAY.

Give one the award and the other a bushel of carrots.

16 Nov 2009 9:15 PM

Come on people quit using the synthetic as an excuse.  Rachel won on synthetic at Keenland!  So, where was she during the biggest horse racing competition?  Zenyatta was there and she defeated bunch of top notch with STYLE!   Yes, Zenyatta should be awarded for her lifetime achievement and brilliant career.  So, she should be named the Horse of the Year.

16 Nov 2009 9:19 PM


When I stated that Rachel never won a G-1 against older horses, I meant fillies/mares......We all know she won the Woodward.

16 Nov 2009 9:31 PM

As I previously stated, apparently no one was reading...

State that what these two horses accomplished exceeded normal HOY award and dump it for this year. Replace it with ZENYATTA-HISTORIC MARE of 2009 and RACHEL ALEXANDRA-HISTORIC FILLY OF 2009. By doing away with HOY for 2009 it will emphasize how special this year was and how special each horse's campaign was this year.

16 Nov 2009 9:32 PM

First as a fan and owner, I loved to watch both horses race this year...what a year it was...GIRLPOWER.

But this year was different than any other previous year. We were treated by 2 great horses in the same year. Time to throw out the rules and the HOY ballet should definitely have BOTH (Zenyatta and Rachel) as well as listed individually.

Personnally, if I had a vote BOTH would win, how can you not give it to both.  It's not Zenyattas fault that she never ran outside Ca. or on dirt this year, just like its not Rachels fault she didn't run in the BCUP. Probably just as well they never faced each other - though maybe that would have settled it - both horses campaigned unpresendented performances.  We as racing fans will never forget this year and those 2 fillies.

Up to this year I thought CIGAR was the best racehorse I ever saw run. In the words of Dave Johnson who called the MASSCAP when CIGAR won his 15th straight win..."and let this racehorse burn in your memory, we won't see another one like him in our lifetime". He was right - I saw TWO this year!!        

16 Nov 2009 9:55 PM

Both horses absolutely amazing!  I would like to say, though, this award is "Horse of the Year" and not "Horse of the Career".  What Zenyatta has done over her career seems, too often, to creep into this conversation and anything outside of THIS year should not apply.  I love both horses and yelled from my own home for Zenyatta in the BC!  And let me tell you, Sea the Stars would have seen the same blur go by just as all the other BC horses did!!!  Zen may very well be the bridge between the truly great horses AND Secretariat!  The BC competition has been somewhat embellished.  Rip Van Winkle was not what was hyped or he was "off" this day.  Summer Bird was annihilated by Rachel in a small field but just off Zenyatta at the wire.  Quality Road was finally "caught up" in his conditioning / training and ready but, well, you know.  Mine that Bird, really, come on, has not been a threat since the Preakness.  Let's not make too much of Regal Ransom, who was not a factor in the Ky Derby, etc., etc., etc.  Rachel has earned HOY honors.  She's done remarkable feats as a 3 year old, she's held her ground with blistering paces, the  boys ganged up on her at the Woodward, she DOMINATED the girls, and I mean DOMINATED!  If Rachel sits off the pace in the BC like Gio Ponti did and hits the jets coming off the turn, it's bye bye Gio Ponti and Zenyatta runs out of real estate to catch her!  But I digress!  Rachel stuck her neck out against the boys, she stuck her neck out as a YOUNG filly, and most importantly, SHE WON!  Horse of the Year 2009, Rachel Alexandra!

16 Nov 2009 10:06 PM


Those are not open company, those are restricted 3 year old races. The only open company she raced was the grade 2 (TWO) Woodward. Also, the Preakness is not classic distance. Classic distance is 10 FURLONGS (TEN). So when did you find out about the sport called horse racing? When the hype on Rachel was broadcast during the Preakness??

Rachel had a lot of races, quantity but Zenyatta had quality races.

Zenyatta HOTY!

16 Nov 2009 10:13 PM

Let me just add one last morsel for thought - Even over a career, and certainly not in 2009, WE STILL DO NOT KNOW WHAT ZENYATTA CAN DO IF PUSHED TO THE PACE, STRETCHED.  WE FOUND OUT WITH RACHEL!

16 Nov 2009 10:18 PM

Steve -

A little off-topic here, but your comments about QR in your BC wrap-up were dead on. I didn't catch the BC races live and just saw footage of QR in the gate. That was a textbook and heartbreaking example of a terrified horse exploding into full-blown panic. Kudos to the gate man who kept hold of QR.

16 Nov 2009 10:28 PM

I keep hearing it said that Zenyatta's undefeated record does not enter into the horse of the year discussion because nine of those wins are from previous years. This seems ridiculous! She hit the lifetime 14 for 14  achievement this year, so it should be counted. I remember last year, everyone was talking about how Curlin was North America's richest racehorse, and he did not earn all that in one year.

16 Nov 2009 10:35 PM
Two Bucks

Last time I voted for President, I didn't see an "either/both" option on the ballot.  So man up and make a decision.  It's great to have a choice this tough.

16 Nov 2009 10:36 PM
carolyn rogers

Steve don't worry about it, some the RA fans are trying to put people down and my goodness, they are really becoming obnoxious with there accusations, they can't stand Zenyatta fans. Who cares, I'm going to voice my opinion for Zenyatta and I don't give a rats butt who don't like it. She is the deserving horse for this award,When was the last time we seen a horse retire with her resume, her first times- She retires undefeated in 14 races, she retires being the first and only filly to compete against males in the BCC and win, first filly to retire being North America's richest filly. My goodness, what an outstanding resume,PRICLESS, PURE,PRICELESS!!!!

16 Nov 2009 10:43 PM

How about John Shirreffs. In two Synthethic Breeders Cups, he wins 2 Ladies Classics with Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet, Wins the Classic with

Zenyatta and beats Curlin and all other American entries with Tiago who finished third. What a trainer.

16 Nov 2009 10:53 PM
Scott J

Rachel and Zen achieved unprecedented greatness between them this year.  Accordingly,  unprecedented shared HOY honors would be a more than appropriate way to honor these two with the accolades they both deserve.  On a side note, turf writers frequently pen how the racing industry "misses the boat" at times regarding the best interest of the fan.  As a turf writer, HOY voting is in your hands, and you have the ability to get one right for the vast majority of fans of the sport who would have no problem with a shared award among these two greats!  

16 Nov 2009 10:53 PM

lets put it thisway on the big day life is sweet showed up and beat all the ladies with ease, RA was no show in this race.

On the big day Zanyatta showed up and not only beat all the U.S. horses including gio who could have taken the turf or had a good shot at it but Zanyatta beat a monster in the making that steve pointed out that is rip van, who gave the "ALL WORLD" horse sea the star a scare, now maybe this was the reason sea the star did not show up as his owner & trainer were not willing to go up against Zanyatta as there was "GREAT" money involved in his stud career if they would have lost.

Did RA do anything of this sort?

yes she beat 3YO fillies and the 3YO boys(but there are 3YO), she didnot come up against a stat studded group like Zanyatta, who in my opinion scared off "sea the star", plus she acted up going in the gate, plus the not only of QR's gate problems but without QR the pace shape totally changed all against Zanyatta's running style, and then the way she started, at the top of the stretch she had everything stacked up against her, and yet she won life a monster and was ready to run another race.

NOW i admire RA but is there anything close as to what Zanyatta did.

16 Nov 2009 10:58 PM

Oh good grief - Zenyatta didn't run in her first race until May 23 in 2009.  She had been off since the 2008 BC.  Her 2009 campaign was from May 23 to Nov 7 and consisted of five races (5 1/2 months).

Rachel Alexandra ran in 14 races from May 22, 2008 to Sept 5, 2009.  She ran in fourteen races over a period of 15 1/2 months.  She had the time of Dec 09 to Feb 15 off (2 1/2 months), so she actually ran in more than one race/month.  She had a very long campaign.

16 Nov 2009 11:31 PM

Wonderful commentary, Steve.

If I had a vote, I could never choose just one of them. If I couldn't split my vote and have Zenyatta and Rachel share the award, I'd  abstain.

16 Nov 2009 11:39 PM

Wouldn't it be something if those with votes just decided not to vote at all if "tie" isn't an option?  It won't happen but boy would that make a statement!

That said, I'm really tired of hearing that Rachel Alexandra shouldn't even be considered for HOY because she didn't show up at the horse racing equivalent of the "Super Bowl".  The two ladies had very different campaigns and for very different reasons.  In this country, the prestige races for 3-yr olds (both fillies and colts) are held in the spring and continue into the summer.  Consequently, Rachel's season spanned 7+ months from March into October.  Zenyatta's campaign was designed for a return to the Breeder's Cup, held again at her favorite track.  As such, she got a later start and had a shorter campaign, 5 months from summer into the fall.  Both horse met their goals and in the process exceeded anything we've ever seen.  My point is that no one should expect a 3-yr old filly to have a longer and more taxing campaign than a 5-yr old mare.  Rachel Alexandra should not have been kept in training 2 more months simply to meet the public's demand to race her against Zenyatta at the World Championships.  How unfair would that be?  Extend her campaign to 10 months and meet a mature mare on her favorite track?  Like him or not, Jess Jackson is a horseman.  He not only considered the welfare of the filly, he recognized that horses that predominately run on dirt did not fare well at Santa Anita last year.  This trend held true through this year as well.

I do not agree that there should be a HOY award for the top dirt, grass and synthetic horse, though I believe there should be a championship added for the top synthetic horse.  But I do feel when two horses display true greatness, there should be a way to share the top award.

16 Nov 2009 11:47 PM

Discredit anything i said then if you can Mike, i'd love to hear it.

17 Nov 2009 12:47 AM

About an hour after the BC race I essentially posted the same commentary that you have eloquently written on the Derby List; an internet set of relatively few, but which has been collecting views for at least 20 years now. Frustrating, but I didn't get one Lister to agree that both horses should share HOY. I thought RA's season was as spectacular as Dr. Fager's and Kelso's, but I wouldn't want to deny Zenyatta a share of the HOY. Unfortunately those on the Derby List believe there should be only one winner and I have no real understanding of why they would deny the connections of the other horse the award...

17 Nov 2009 12:55 AM

Are you aware of this site? Derby@lists.derbylist. com

17 Nov 2009 12:56 AM
long time race fan

After seeing both Rachel Alexandra

and Zenyatta race, I find the latter superior.  Rachel had to be

fully extended to win two of her races this, the Preakness and latter against horses of average

ability, a poor year for older horses.  Zenyatta has never been

fully extented in any race!  Even

in her narrow win, jockey Smith

admitted he made an error in moving

too late in race but the mare ran

the last quarter in a sensational

22 seconds to over come this.

Rachel was obviously the best

three year old, but Zenzatta was

the best horse of all ages and

sex - easily.

17 Nov 2009 1:01 AM

Setting records should not hold any bearance in choosing HOY. It should go to the horse who won the biggest races. Rachel Alexandra won the kentucky oaks, preakness, mother goose, haskell and travers. Zenyatta's biggest win was the Classic. For the most part, she was lightly raced and only in one state where as Rachel traveled track to track, she didnt need to have her racetrack to show her brillance. This kinda reminds me of what happened back in 1998. In that year, the big 2 were Skip Away and Silver Charm. They both avoided each other all year. Skip Away was leading candidate for HOY. But meanwhile Awesome Again, who was undefeated that year and had beaten Silver Charm earlier in the year in the Steven Foster was overlooked. Awesome Again wins the Classic and still got snubbed for HOY and you know why? Awesome Again only other Grade 1 win that year was the Whitney,he also won the Hawthorne Gold Cup and Saratoga Breeders Cup Handicap where as Skip Away won 5 grade 1's that year such as the Donn, Pimlico Special, Hollywood Gold Gup, and Woodward. He also added the the MassCap and Islin. Based on him having the tougher campaign, Skip Away won HOY. The same thing is going to happen this year. I believe it will go to Rachel just for the fact she had a harder season, but there will be alot of support for Zenyatta just for the fact of being the first female to win the classic.

17 Nov 2009 3:25 AM

Poor Jess Jackson - runs Curlin last year and loses; doesn't run Rachel this year and loses. So we'll never identify the HOTY based on a head-to-head (no match race, please). Despite that, while Rachel has an impressive resume, the sport at its best is still about how a special horse can stir one's blood. Zenyatta's Classic just might be the most memorable ever run. I've not been that moved by a filly or mare since Ruffian. My HOTY is Zenyatta - by a heart.

17 Nov 2009 6:03 AM


17 Nov 2009 6:49 AM

While Zenyatta has a brilliant track record,Rachel has won more of the big races this year.  She did not run in the Breeders Cup because she is a dirt horse.  I don't believe Zenyatta would had run in the Breeders Cup if the race were held on dirt.  To level this debate, I say Co-Horses of  the Year is the way to go.  Nobody is going to complain about that.

17 Nov 2009 7:13 AM

most of the races rach won were restricted races, against 3 yr olds. at equal weights,except for the woodward, wich was against 2nd tier older males, and her toughest race of the year. Zen. beat the best females on the west coast giving weight in most cases. and a horse she domminated on 3 ocations won ladies classic over best females in the country. She also beat the best horses intrainning at the time the world had to offer in the breeders cup classic. Rach had a great year, but now is zens time to shine. Rach should come back next year bigger and stronger, and i for one am excited to see what she dose next year, and if all goes well, next year will be HER time to shine.

17 Nov 2009 7:59 AM
Big George

Why was Zenyatta's connections "afraid" of leaving California and the synethetic tracks and race on dirt sometime during 2009. She raced at Oaklawn in 2008 , and figure wise was one of her best races of her career. The fact that they chose to race in California, against fillies and mares who very rarely left the state themselves, points towards a very clear plan of avoiding any vulnerableposition and chance at the win streak being snapped. Beating dirt horses on a synthetic surface is like ME BEATING PETE SAMPRAS IN PING PONG. The surface races totally different from dirt and more towards turfs. Thus the reason that sole turf runners seem to take to synthetics and shy away from any dirt surface.

17 Nov 2009 8:14 AM


Reading the comments on HOY, it's obviously a spirited but divided group.

One of the issues with HOY is the subjectivity involved since there is a distinct lact of objective criteria established for HOY.  

What do you think about trying to take some of the subjectivity out of the HOY and some of the other categories.  Let's take a lead from the PGA.  (You have to buy into the assumption that the winners of the categories including HOY, will come from winners of GI stakes)

Let's have some governing body assign a point system to each GI stake race.  The winners are the ones with the highest point total.  Possibly you could assign points for WPS if you wanted to fine tune it.  Would take the surface and campaign issues out of the determination.  

By the way, good point on the jocks who we overlooked in this.  Both riders deserve credit for knowing their mounts to even having this debate. Kudos to both.

17 Nov 2009 8:17 AM

Steve, your article was very heart felt and great for the fans. You certainly write your articles so owners and fans feel this love for the horse.

Taking nothing away from Rachael, her owner decided not to bring her to the dance. When you have titles to win in any profession you have to compete and follow the rules. If you purchased tickets for a concert and the main attraction did not show up I don't think the fans would appreciate that either.  Zenyatta showed up, danced, competed and won - ZENYATTA is entitled HOY hands down.

I am a horse owner and my horses have to run pertaining to the conditons of the race and what they are eligible to run in. I think it would be grand if I could run second in the Derby and then be told since my horse beat the winner in previous races qualifies my horse to to voted winner of the Derby.

How fortunate we owners and fans are to have had two great fillies like Rachael and Zenyatta. They have both given us thrills in each of their races. The biggest difference, Zenyatta showed up for the biggest race in thoroughbred racing, entered the paddock and danced for her fans then showed her kick to the finish line. As an owner I am still saddened that Rachael did not show up for the dance of her career. We will never know since they will never run against each other.





17 Nov 2009 8:50 AM

An appropriate analogy to put the debate into perspective for me is this: In a race, at the finish, the winner is declared by a definitive margin, if not, it's called a dead heat! Both deserving participants are declared the winner and celebrated as such. In the race for horse of the year Rachel' has put her nose on the wire by all fair measurement of performance and concurrently Zenyatta has done the same. My photo finish camera has it a dead heat. How can anyone begrudge one at the expense of the other in this situation. They both should be celebrated as deserving victors and that option should be available. Don't penalize one over the other and taint either remarkable accomplishment. I too could regress to personal ego and bias, but won't. Guess which coast I live on? A toast to both the QUEENS!

17 Nov 2009 9:15 AM

Steve's comparison stats on these 2 great horses are very telling--most of what is there for Zenyatta is coming out of 1 race, while Rachel's stats are spread out over many races.

I keep coming back to the argument that this is Horse of the YEAR--no matter how spectacular and historic Zenyatta's Classic victory was, it was still 1 race at the end of a short season that did not present any significant challenges prior to the Classic.  If voters are forced to choose, it should be on the entire year's record, in which case it goes to Rachel.  And let's also keep in mind that Rachel is a still-immature 3-yr-old, to Zenyatta's mature 5.

But I think everyone acknowledges that this was the rarest of years, in which 2 potential all-time greats blessed us with their brilliance, and it is somehow not right to choose between them.  To me this is no different than if Secretariat and Man O' War had run in the same year, but never met on the track.  How would you choose between them?

17 Nov 2009 9:26 AM

I think screen prospect makes an excellent point...the Preakness is run at a Classic distance...given that it is one of three American Classics run annually.

Thus, there are really three Classic distances...10 furlongs,9.5 furlongs, and 12 furlongs. Often the BC Classic run at 10 furlongs is used to suggest the one and only "classic" distance, but that is not the case.

One more point, how many of the people who felt Zenyatta should win horse of the year last year were concerned about the fact that she had not run and won at 10 furlongs. Zero. They were willing to forgive Zenyatta for not running and winning at the distance last year, but this year, suddenly because she can list it as an accomplishment it means everything in the world.

The reality is that Zenyatta's career work is impressive, but before the BC Classic, running the same four races she ran last year, her resume was unspectacular. My feeling has always been that giving HOTY honors for one race is acceptable, ONLY if there have not been any other standout race horses that year. This is why I supported Native Dancer getting the award based upon his Met Mile win. But, in his year, there was no Rachel Alexandra.

For this reason, it is clear that there really is only one horse that raced spectacularly throughout the year making history in seven of eight races.  

17 Nov 2009 9:38 AM

You cannot wage a Horse of the Year campaign racing in one state.

It cannot be done.

This is why Rachel Alexandra will win when the final tally is taken.

She raced from just west of the Mississippi in Louisiana all the way to the Atlantic Ocean at Monmouth Park and Belmont Park...

She waged a campaign.

Zenyatta spent 90% of her time in her barn at Hollywood Park in her comfort zone.

She raced spectacularly in the Breeders Cup Classic, but that race was over what her connections have repeatedly said was her best surface. A surface that all but one of her competitors had not been successful over this year.

Personal Ensign's legacy has not been diminished one iota because of her not winning Horse of the Year.

This debate is healthy for horse racing.

But Rachel Alexandra should be the winner.  

17 Nov 2009 9:45 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks, Ro. Hope to see you in the grade I's again soon. I cant argue with your reasoning. And if Zenyatta wins, I will accept that. As I said, having seen both these great fillies compete all year, I -- and I speak strictly for myself -- simply cannont vote against either one. So, I will not "man up" as one poster urged, and will let others decide something that eventually will be drowned by the sheer magnitude of each filly's accomplishment.

btw, regarding that suggestion from the poster, if a woman feels the same way I do, would she have to man up as well, or is OK for her to woman up?

17 Nov 2009 9:46 AM

After reading all the comments posted here it is obvious that we can't seperate these two brilliant horses without bringing in the owners into the equation. Since they are the one's accepting the award(The girls just want to race) I don't think there's any other way. So let's stop bashing these two once in a life time racehorses and look at the connections. Now I think this is where RA's let her down. JJ used her in a way that was selfish because he just wanted to punish the BC for Curlin's loss last year. He's probably just sitting back chuckeling at the kaos he created so what kind of great sportsmanship is that? The losers are the fans who have to pit these great horses against each other. The sad part is if he had a more talented trainer he may of won last year with another brilliant horse named Curlin but he still got HOY so don't reward him again this year!

17 Nov 2009 9:49 AM

Fantasy Stakes -- biggest margin in the history of the race.

* Kentucky Oaks -- biggest margin in the history of the race.

* Preakness -- first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years…first horse in history to win from post 13.

* Mother Goose -- biggest margin in the history of the race, previously held by Ruffian... fastest time in the history of the race.

* Haskell -- second biggest margin in the history of the race…second fastest time in the history of the race by one fifth of a second, and two fifths of a second off the track record set by Spend a Buck 24 years ago.

* Woodward -- first filly in history to win the Woodward.

Faster than Ruffian??? Looks like Rachel did more this year than zenyatta. Every race history made.Records made. zenyatta ducked Rachel on top of it all. zenyatta doesnt deserve it for 1 race. Zenyatta doesnt deserve it this year for what she did the last 2 years. This year the choice is clear. 8 for 8 multiple beat the boys and record setting Rachel Alexandra.

17 Nov 2009 9:56 AM

I wanted to vote, but there was not a choice for BOTH, so I abstained.  ;-)

17 Nov 2009 9:58 AM
Lupe Aranda

Thank you Steve,very good comment. This is very hard, both Horses have stolen our hearts both are absolutely AWESOME. Why not make history and NAME THEM BOTH HOY, THEY HAVE BOTH ACCOMPLISHED THE ULTIMATE IN THEIR HORSE RACING CAREER!!!        Horse lover in TX

17 Nov 2009 10:01 AM

Steve, I have a random and unrelated question for you. What is I Want Revenge's status? I haven't heard anything as far as him being officially retired or if he's in rehab and trying to return to racing. Do you know anything about him? I followed him closely before and after the Derby, but then information about him just stopped coming.

17 Nov 2009 10:13 AM

Mr Haskin great article. My problem is you make the case better than I could myself for RA. Comment 1 for Zenyatta is biased. Ghostzapper's field I would think the best yet in the BCC. 2 most probable. 3 has nothing to do with this years awards. 4 and 5 true enough. The rest has nothing to do with this year. So you outline better than I could why the HOTY should be Rachel Alexandra

17 Nov 2009 10:13 AM
Spicer Willits


Ghostzapper and/or Invasor are in this year's BC Classic (assume they handle the surface well). Does Zenyatta still run them down?

17 Nov 2009 10:16 AM
Rachel Fan From Arkansas

I have been around the game long enough to know that this is not a competition, I would say its pretty simple, take the big 5 races both ran in.

Zenyatta/Milady - R/A Ky Oaks

Zenyatta/Vanity - R/A Preakness

Zenyatta/CL Hirsch - R/A Mother G.

Zenyatta/L.S. - R/A Haskell

Zenyatta/BCC - Rachel Woodward

Now one campaign pales in consideration of the other. Rachel ran in the Ky Oak which trumps the Milady-Preakness trumps the Vanity, Mother Goose and CLHirsch tie, Haskell Lady's Secret, Haskell wins. BCC trumps the Woodward. But when you take the marquee race away from both ladies whose campaign is more impressive.  This is a sad and laughable conversation we're having, I feel sorry for the Zenyatta fans as she'll take home the second place trophy yet again. But there is nothing wrong with being second place to a filly that is compared to Ruffian and is most likely better than Ruffian.

My vote for HOY

1. Rachel Alexandra

2. Summer Bird

3. Gio Ponti

Zenyatta's campaign pales in comparison with all three of these horses.  Should have learned a lesson from last year Mr. Moss or not been afraid to let your horse come east to race against actual competition, there are no Hot N'Dusty's in the East just a number of Grade 1 horses.  As a matter of face in the filly and mare division out West other than Zen and Life is Sweet who else is Grade 1 caliber competition.  I'll Wait for your answer but wont hold my breath.

17 Nov 2009 10:37 AM
Billy's Empire

Tim G, You are correct. Tiz Miz Sue is trained by Hobby. She lost to the BC JUV Filly winner She be Wild by 5, BUT, she was left standing in the gate, and then made a huge middle move to get the lead, then tired in the stretch, but held on for second. She then raced at CD, and the instructions were for her to lay off the pace, so I guess in broken english to Castanon that meant to put her on the lead, which again was not where she likes to be. She is a 1 run horse, so she needs to come off the pace. Let's hope we get Julien to ride her next. I am hoping she will run again by the end of the meet at CD, but we will see. We have a 2yo First timer racing on Thanksgiving at CD, so we will see with him. I am hoping he turns out to be a nice colt. Last thought on this blog, RACHEL FOR HORSE OF THE YEAR. Her body of work was better than Zenyatta, although Zenyatta may be the better filly, Rachel has the better year. Zenyatta should win horse of the Decade, Rachel HOY

17 Nov 2009 10:37 AM
Lou in TX

Steve, let me first apologize for doing this but no one is updating the Tracking Barbaro's Brother site. I felt like the FOB's need to know that Lentenor worked out Nov. 14th, 4 furlongs. :51:00 Breezing, Rank 26/28. I didn't know how else to get the info out there. Thanks.

I have thoroughtly enjoyed reading all your articles. This one in particular. I'll woman up and say my votes for Zenyatta. I love RA to but to show up at the biggest race besides the Derby and win, goes a long way in my book. Both have made wonderful records for themselves and I will love watching RA next year and rooting for her to win every race she enters. If, and that's a big IF, they should do co-hoty I'd be very happy.

17 Nov 2009 11:12 AM
J in NY


The Woodward is NOT a G2, it's a G1 - and RACHEL ALEXANDRA won it!  

The more I read this blog, the more I see how passionate people are regarding these girls! LOL!  I'm VERY happy there are so many racing fans out there, but, seriously, one race does not a HOTY make and career accomplishments really mean nothing for HOTY, UNLESS it was done in the same year.  I LOVE both horses, but this is NOT a case for Co-HOTY.  The BC Classic is NOT the entire year of racing.  ALSO, do not base this on being East Coast/West Coast biased - that's just lunacy. Feelings aside, you need to look at what both horses have done collectively.  This means taking into account which races they have been in, whom they have beaten, which surfaces they have raced on, how many records they have broken, etc. You may have strong feelings for the horses, but this needs to be approached from an objective point of view. Both connections of both horses chose their races carefully, but both filly and mare rose to the occasion for those races.  

This being said, however, one of them accomplished more in rising to every occasion beyond MANY expectations!  Especially for being so young.  Who knows what she can accomplish NEXT year, but that will have to wait.  There is a CLEAR choice for HOTY and that's Rachel Alexandra.  Zenyatta SHOULD win older mare of the year, but she just has not accomplished as much as Rachel has in THIS YEAR.

The BC Classic is the prom, but it doesn't take away from the fact that Rachel is the Valedictorian.  NO WAY is this one race used to determine HOTY! Someone show me the Eclipse Award Rule Book where it says that!  Until they change those rules, then Alexandra the Great should be crowned Horse of the Year 2009!

17 Nov 2009 12:08 PM

I love both RA and the Zen.  I cannot dimiss one in favor of the other.  They are the 2 best horses

racing in America today, and both should be recognized for their accomplishments.  I favor, at least for this year, co-HOTY.  They

each are deserving.

17 Nov 2009 12:09 PM

Zenyatta is the Queen . Rachel is the princess. I couldn't click the button to vote either.

17 Nov 2009 12:20 PM
Rachel Alexandra

Zenyatta took the best males by their throats and didn't let them up.

She is the "Horse of the Year". Bar none.

Quality over quantity. That's the difference between the queen and the princess.

Who did Rachel Alexandra beat?

She beat Macho Again and that Kentucky Derby fluke (Mine That Bird) by 1 length in the Preakness. Mine that Bird reminds me of 2005 Kentucky Derby Winner (Giacomo). The worst Kentucky Derby colt in 40 years. Did Mine That Bird lose to "Soul Warrior" and "Big Drama" in the West Virginia Derby?

Who are these horses "Soul Warrior and "Big Drama"?

Its an absolute joke to think Rachel Alexandra beat any type of "quality" this year.

I think Zenyatta demolished this year's Breeders Cup Ladies Classic champion "Life is Sweet" multiple times, didn't she?

Didn't "Life is Sweet" finish 3rd in the Hollywood Gold Cup against aged males?

17 Nov 2009 12:29 PM
Steve Haskin

Do you mean assign a point system before or after the race? Myoldnags, Assigning any point system is the height of subjectvity. If you assign them before the year starts, what if one race with a high ranking comes up with a very weak field and a race with a lower ranking comes up with a very strong field?

17 Nov 2009 12:42 PM

I will reiterate: You don't have to pick one or make them share the HOY award...DROP THE AWARD FOR THE YEAR and say it was transcended by both horses this year and give them their own special award:ZENYATTA HISTORIC MARE 2009, RACHEL ALEXANDRA HISTORIC FILLY 2009. By doing this you slight neither and put them above most HOY winners as they should be rightly placed.

17 Nov 2009 12:47 PM

Ro (assuming Parra) hit the nail on the head. Other than a few who were embarrassed by Rachel on the track? I think his take represents most of us horsemen.

Guess abstaining is the only way to go Steve. I admire your stand. Some of your colleagues made up their minds months ago and nothing will sway them.

I figure you're manning up big time, admitting that you can't separate the two. While the others in your fraternity are afraid to say they've had a change of heart or can't decide between the two. THOSE guys are the wimps in my book.

Hmmm, kinda interesting about the Fla Derby being moved up.....

17 Nov 2009 12:48 PM

"I am a horse owner and my horses have to run pertaining to the conditons of the race and what they are eligible to run in. I think it would be grand if I could run second in the Derby and then be told since my horse beat the winner in previous races qualifies my horse to to voted winner of the Derby."

But HOY is not a horse race.  It is a comparison between bodies of work (and some other "intangibles" ;) ) over the course of a year.  This type of analogy does not hold water.  As to the other point, of course your horses have to run under the conditions you stated (they have no vote), but YOU don't HAVE to enter your horses except where you CHOOSE to run them.  And even then, you still have a scratch option.

17 Nov 2009 12:55 PM
Rachel Fan From Arkansas

NIJINSKYTOM, does the term "Zero for 43" mean anything to you, does the term "Started her season in February" mean anything to you, Rachel was behind the 8 ball either way, why would anyone ask this young filly to race for 9 months when she was clearly tired from a long hard campaign.  That can't be said of Zenyatta who started racing at the end of May, her connections skipped the Louisville, Personal Ensign, Go For Wand, Beldame, Pacific Classic and Goodwood, all races the public clammored for. Seems like a double standard to me, its a good thing only certain people own race horses as we'd have people running their charges 12 months out of the year and absolutely devestating these beautiful athletes.  She deserved a rest, Zen couldnt run without 2 months rest between each race.  1 horse was put through a HOY campaign and the other horse was put through a freshman season campaign, thats right for 2 year olds.  5 races ducking dirt and real competition very sad for horse racing fans and the sport in general. 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and it'll be more lopsided than last year, there is nothing wrong with 2nd place two years in a row Zenyatta fans. Especially the West Coast fans you dont have much quality out there do you. lol, nope sure dont, I'll ask again who are the Grade 1 fillies and mares in Cali racing besides Zen and Life is Sweet.  There arent any, all allowance horses or optional claimers.  Hot N'Dusty, give me a break.

17 Nov 2009 1:02 PM
Tim G

Billy, she finished 8th right? Jesus is a heady rider, hmmm.

Is your cousin the owner?

Was a good day till the big race, oh well, live on to fight another day.

Steve on the points system, it's been suggested before. It would have to be on a Graded stakes basis because strength of field is too subjective. First, Rachel's Mother Goose would be thrown out completely.

I think it could be assigned points to be adjusted similar to the purse increases at Saratoga.

The starting point for the race and then if 5 or less in the race then a reduction in the points, make it clear that's what will happen.

The more prestigious the race, historically and a G1 the more points. The TC races, the G1's for older horses and then finally the BC would hold the highest point total.

Point totals/earnings are used to determine the TC runners, The BC runners and face it, the Trainer and Jockey of the year.

Points set up in a logical mathematical formula are far less subjective than human emotion. Surely in the point/earnings/handicap/grading system in racing, SOMEONE is smart enough to come up with a more logical process. Even though this is truly the NTRA/DRF awards, maybe someone there can come up with something. They do determine the nominees after all.

17 Nov 2009 1:12 PM

Dear Steve,  I appreciate the fact that you have a passionate feeling for horses.  How can one NOT!  I too would love to see a dual crown, especially this year.  The Horse of the Year award, like any sports award, includes only one individual and excludes countless others who have excelled at their game.  The only consulation for Rachel, if Zenyatta wins the award, is that she could come back next year and win it.  We are so fortunate to have these two beauties in our midst.  Thanks for your article!

17 Nov 2009 1:20 PM

Great column, Steve. Except for 2-year-olds like Secretariat and Favorite Trick, how many HOYs in the last 40 years did NOT win at 10 furlongs? Did Azeri and Lady's Secret win at 10 furlongs when they were HOY?

Zenyatta has definitely eclipsed Personal Ensign by defeating not two males (total), but a field that included many Gr. 1 winners in the biggest race of the year.

17 Nov 2009 1:39 PM
Backstretch Believer

The measurable difference between Zenyatta and Rachel is their age.  Rachel achieved her victories at age three - Yenyatta at five. And for those who grudge her not making the trip to the BC, one should ask, "where was she at age three?" the road from east coast to west coast is a two-way street.

17 Nov 2009 1:40 PM
steve s

Zenyatta winning Classic is like a women winning the Heavyweight Champion of the World in Boxing or MMA.

17 Nov 2009 1:46 PM


Assign the points based on whatever makes the most sense.  I agree with your comments on the quality of the field.  However, I could also make the point that the people who are assigning Graded staus -  GI, GII, etc.  are shooting in the dark as well.  They are betting on the come.  Assigning them beforehand like they do and giving them points levels the playing field, in my opinion, because everyone knows what the points are to be.  Choose to run or not.  No system is without issues (ala the NCAA BCS).  And I'm sure my suggestion has several.  Right now, and please correct me if I'm wrong, It's all subjective based on what the voter thinks the criteria should be which in my mind is what is depicted in many of these comments. I'm just as opinionated as most in this blog. I'm just looking for a way to make the outcome have a little more objectivity but yet fair to the horseman.  I think it reduces the controversy on who runs where, on what surface, and how many times, etc. because you know the criteria.  

17 Nov 2009 1:47 PM

The east couldn't win on the racetrack, but they're going to do their best to beat us on paper.

HOY is so east coast biased. It makes me wanna puke.

17 Nov 2009 1:56 PM

Hi Steve:

Absolutely its a stalemate.  I want both RA and Zenyatta to be awarded the highest honor the system has to offer them.

Perhaps if they have a Filly of the Year category that could go to RA.  It would still be HOY in her category.  Much like Lady's Secret was Horse of the Year in the mare category.

But after Zenyatta's un be liev able win HOY should go to her.  She was balky to load, then had to unload, just to load again.  Then she got off on the wrong lead.  Trailing my a mile once that freight train started moving and Mike got her clear she took off and didn't stop.

And totally off the subject of her race--how many horses high step on their way out to the gate as consistently as Zenyatta?  Yes, she's rewarded with cheers and she's learned that this is her reward for doing the Zenyatta.

And I know Len Goodman was only kidding around but I still liked his comment about how when she dances she makes the other boys look like they have four left hooves.

My vote for HOY (since they won't do co-Champs like they should) is Zenyatta.  And the system needs to change when this kind of thing arises.  

Bloodhorse and the industry are always trying to find ways of interesting fans in the biz--this could be a very far reaching draw.

But this is only my own opinion.  Let the fireworks begin...

17 Nov 2009 2:00 PM

I still stand by my original contention above, but considering all the points and counterpoints being made, none would matter if the two had met on the track. The winner of that one race, dirt or synthetic, east or west, male or female, older or younger, 1 1/4m or 1 1/8m, would be HOY. So maybe we ought to drop the debate about the horses and vote the connections of both horses Party Poopers of the year for not making it happen. In the mean time, I like oranges and I like apples and will enjoy both regardless of who has the most to sway the vote at the end of the year.

17 Nov 2009 2:03 PM
carolyn rogers

How can you people say RA is still young, she is not a baby,still nursing her mother, My god,she was running when she was two, Zenyatta didn't start running til she was three, both have had the same time on the tracks. My god people read sometimes and do your homework.

17 Nov 2009 2:16 PM
Karen D

Some of these comments are really disappointing because I’ve come to expect better from the fans, who usually have a greater appreciation and respect for these remarkable athletes than the racing establishment.   There have been a lot of what ifs, so let me present one more.  What if Zenyatta had run the same campaign Rachel did at three?   My guess is that, considering her size, she never would have made it to a five year old season.  I’m glad she landed in hands that let her grow to her superstar potential.  

Another popular argument: Rachel should have showed up for the Breeders Cup.  If this is the decisive voting criteria why not just hand out year end honors along with the Breeders Cup trophies?   Forget her hard fought season.  First, the horse shouldn’t be penalized for this decision and second, we wouldn’t be having this discussion if Mr. Jackson hadn’t given her the opportunity to compile (and us to witness) one of the most remarkable seasons in history.  Even Secretariat lost against older males at Saratoga.  And because of Mr. Jackson, we get the pleasure of seeing her return next year.  Have we forgotten that so quickly?

HOY should be about the extraordinary.  I don’t see how anyone out there can say that label does not fit both these incredible horses and their accomplishments this year.  I hope the voters step up and show the same class these horses have.  It’s my feeling that if we don’t take this dual opportunity to acknowledge greatness, the only loser will be us.

17 Nov 2009 2:16 PM

Mr. Haskin, I also believe there should be a points system for helping decide certain Eclipse awards but NOT based solely on a G1 races system.  Instead, something along the lines of

awarding points per


For example, award X amount of points for winning handicap races in which the horse carries high weight (less points for place or show), X points for setting time records, X points for winning on 2 and 3 surfaces, and so on.   There would have to be points for winning graded stakes, too, to ensure that horses competing only at the lowest levels don't win HOY.  

It wouldn't be carved in stone that only the horse with the most points could win.  But I think it'd be a good way to remind voters of each contenders accomplishments and perhaps help overcome coastal biases, etc.

I think if there had been a points system in the turf category last year then your pick, Red Giant, would have gotten more votes. Instead, a horse that only won one race in this country got the award.  

Keep in mind that you have a vast knowledge of racing that many of your fellow voters don't possess.  So I think there should be some sort of system implemented to got horses like Red Giant more attention at voting time.

In the trainers category I think there should also be a points system that includes a punishment per doping violation (like subtracting significant points per conviction that


17 Nov 2009 2:17 PM

Yes, quite a dilemma, Steve.  I don't envy the predicament you and other voters are facing at this juncture.  It does seem to be an East Coast versus West Coast rivalry, in a way.

RA and Zenyatta gave the racing public a most fantastic year of racing.  If I had a choice, I am not sure I could make it either.

All I know for sure is watching Zenyatta's style of winning and deep closing maneuvers have left me in awe time after time.

RA's determination in the Preakness and Woodward was strikingly impressive especially for a three year old filly.

I only wish each voter could have your heart, which is rather rare these days.

17 Nov 2009 2:19 PM
Racing Through the Ages

The only way I could possibly separate Zenyatta and Rachel by having to vote on one or the other for HOY is by acknowledging that Rachel will have another shot at it in 2010, and Zenyatta won't. Hence, a vote for Zenyatta. As for a more balanced geographical voting group needed for actual HOY honors, this column's online poll where Zenyatta leads 60% to Rachel's 40% says it all, assuming respondents are nationally balanced (vs. Eastcoast based actual HOY bestowers.)

17 Nov 2009 2:20 PM
AW in TX

I cannot vote in your poll because there is no option to vote for both. I refuse to choose one over the other - they are both too good - neither one should ever be a loser in any contest. That's one reason I'm totally against a match race. I'm so glad that they never raced together. If they did, one or both could die trying to beat the other.

17 Nov 2009 2:27 PM

My final answer: Zenyatta

The athlete’s ability is measured by the ability of their competitors.  Great athletes not only win but they also defeat the best.  Zenyatta defeated the best group of horses assembled for this year.  

17 Nov 2009 2:28 PM
Tim G

All this talk about East/West bias?

Well a lot on here are KY based. Ro(sad to see you move your mares to Louisiana) George, myself and a bunch of others who are looking at this with Zenyatta as the frontrunner.

For all of you saying look at what Rachel accomplished at 3? Are you the same ones moaning and groaning because we don't run them past that age?

To accomplish some of these things as a 5 year old, that's pretty impressive that she's still running and healthy, part of that is they didn't push her while she was bigger physically than her maturity. Tons of you all write about that all the time too. Don't start running them until 3, don't push them until 4 etc, etc.

I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that Rachel won't be running at 5 and may not even run at 4 DESPITE what they say now.

The throwouts of some of Zenyatta's races? The same holds true for throwing out some of Rachel's. Starting with the Mother Goose and the 2 fillies she ran against.

Is the Breeders Cup the end all and be all? Well in a lot of categories, yes it is.

Is it the final answer? That was what they intended when they set it up. A gauge and tool to help with JUST these situations.

You have to look at who they give the other categories to, and if it's based on what a horse did at the Breeders Cup in a close race? How can one category use that as the deciding factor, yet another can't?

But when all is said and done. Zenyatta will be in the Hall of Fame so that's far more important than the NTRA-DRF HOY.

Do we really think if Rachel does come back next year and gets beat more than once (stranger things have happened) they won't just up and retire her due to some mysterious 'malady'.

If not she could end up like some that I've read many of you complain about, the once upon a time STAKES champion who is now running in Allowance races. Must have seen 50 posts about that on a different blog.

So Steve, if all the others don't vote then will we have no HOY? LOL

17 Nov 2009 3:23 PM

The eastern writers went from Zenyatta can't defeat an improved and rested Music Note to she has not left the state of California rather quickly.  Many seemed to have "voted" as soon as RA was put away.  Sorry folks racing continued...How many times did RA race IN California?  This is the better question.  

17 Nov 2009 3:58 PM


Not only did she stay unbeaten, and beat the best horses in the WORLD, she did it without ever being asked for all she had! She's never been tested and Mike has never had to get to the bottom of her speed. She's won all of her races in hand, with her ears pricked and ready for more. If you know anything about horses you'll know that when a horse runs all out, they pin thier ears flat on their heads and Zenny has never done that. She always has more in the tank and how can you argue with an unbeaten record with a horse that has never been tried? We never got to see how much this mare truely has in her tank and we didn't need to. Hands down, she would've beaten Rachael (if she had showed up) and any other horse to step foot on the track. A TWO time WORLD champion. Not just a ONE time AMERICAN champion.




17 Nov 2009 4:23 PM


17 Nov 2009 5:23 PM
Saratoga AJ


Not once and rightfully so. Because until they come to their senses and change those tracks back to natural dirt, California does not represent true American dirt racing anymore. You can't hold the championships for DIRT horses on a surface that is more like turf racing than anything. They are at a total disadvantage and they are the representatives of American racing. Dirt IS American racing...has been since the very start. Dirt and grass...nothing else. Especially man made crap.

Rest assured it will be quite a while before DIRT championships are held on RUBBER again.

And the day will come when it goes the way of Astroturf. Time to rectify a terrible mistake.

17 Nov 2009 5:23 PM

raceyrobyn, As mike smith was giving Zen the stick time and time again in the BC homestretch, call me crazy, but he was asking the big girl for everything she had!!!

17 Nov 2009 5:25 PM
Steve Haskin

Spicer Willits, I will answer your question (below) if you tell me what point you're trying to make.

"Ghostzapper and/or Invasor are in this year's BC Classic (assume they handle the surface well). Does Zenyatta still run them down?"

17 Nov 2009 5:28 PM

To robinm- If one follows your train of logic, then I imagine you feel there should be no Juvenile races as part of the BC. It is not just three year old races that fill racing cards from spring to fall; there are stakes races for both older and younger as well.  It was Jackson who was responsible for planning RA's career after his purchase; it was him who could have given the filly some time off during the summer and planned her campaign to include a BC race.  He chose to wimp out, instead, rather than take the risk if losing two years in a row with 2 different horses.  RA had a phenomenal year; she didn't, however, show up at the big dance.  Zen did, not to mention breaking Personal Ensign's record THIS YEAR as well as outearning RA THIS YEAR.  Body of work is not defined by the horse who ran in more races; it is defined by the total achievements of the animal in 2009.  While I have no objection to sharing the award, if that's not done, then it's Zenyatta who has achieved more this year.

17 Nov 2009 6:37 PM

rachel fan from arkansas, I dont know how you can say there is no quality out west. I f you look at the breeders cup results you will find that cal. horses took home four trophys, including the 2 biggest ones the classics. East Coast horses (if you want to call them that they were mostly campained in kentucky) took 4. Europe took the rest. Just dont give us this garbage about california having no quality horses.

17 Nov 2009 6:44 PM

It was Rachel until Zenyatta showed up the boys in spectacular fashion in winning the Breeder's Cup finale for 5 million. After all, The Big 'Z' was nearly 20 lengths behind some very great studs after a faulty break and ending up on the wrong lead. Still she showed her magnificence in closing with a heart-thumping drive to gain the glory. The bottom line for HOTY is that Zenyatta is still undefeated and until Rachel can beat her head-to-head then it has to be Zenyatta. Rachel had her chance just as did Gio Ponti. Ponti was clearly looking like the winner until the big Dame strode up and by. You don't win too much at dice by passing your roll, you have to take the gamble. Simply put, Rachel didn't roll the dice one more time while Zenyatta did...most effectively.

Have A Happy...What a year for the girls.

17 Nov 2009 6:58 PM
Fire Slam


Thats the point about The Birds. This was a very weak three year old crop. However, RA beat them in record or near record time, on a "real" surface.

Zenyatta is "Plastic" Horse of the Year. She beat a turf field on a fake surface. Those are facts. Cry to the idiots at the Breeders Cup for messing this one up.

RA actually ran the race. She dont sit back and wait for others to get tired. She ran them into the ground, and then digged deep to hold off the closers.

Also, RA cant choose who her owners are. Owners have nothing to do with who should be HOY.

17 Nov 2009 7:43 PM
Spicer Willits


  My question about Zenyatta vs. Ghostzapper and Invasor comes from the observation that every other year or so a horse comes along that is "the best we've seen since Spectacular Bid." People who are now touting Zenyatta (or Rachel)as the second coming of Hindoo were saying the very same things about Ghostzapper and Invasor when they were beating everything in sight.

 I was simply curious to learn how you might compare Zenyatta to the other superstars of the recent past and using an imaginary race as a starting point.

17 Nov 2009 7:45 PM

Okay Tay, I'm not raceyrobyn, but your wish is my command, you're crazy.

Mike actually hit the mare 4 maybe 5 times. He showed her the stick but that was it. He got past the last horse and shut her down.

HE said he had another gear, Mike is known for being pretty straightforward. Calling him a liar?

17 Nov 2009 7:56 PM


You made your point very well by reminding us of what transpired in the 1998 HOTY vote for Skip Away.  There was a very strong case for Awesome Again who went undefeated in six starts that year including defeating Silver Charm twice but Skip Away had the stronger campaign.  I'd have to say that the writing is on the wall ...for those who can read Racing history.  

17 Nov 2009 8:59 PM

A little off topic but couldn't help think today while I was reading all these comments how much I would like to meet all these "regular" posters out here who have been posting for months and even a couple years already. I would like to meet Footlick, Da3hoss,Dray,Mike Relva,Ranagulazion, Laz, Gunbow, Wanda, Monica,Paula Higgins, Ghostzapper,Greg J, Stardustyros,Karen in Texas,Karen in Indiana, longwaytomay,LDP,helsbelles....just to name a few. Wouldn't it be fun to all meet somewhere with our screen names around our neck? LOL

Do you think that would ruin the fun?

17 Nov 2009 9:21 PM

Come on quit using synthetic as an excuse.  Oh yeah sure, races in Keenland, Turfway Park, Arlington Park and Cal major race tracks do not count.   Just accept the fact that we now have 3 types of surfaces (grass, dirt & synthetic).  Any good horse can run and win on any surface even broken glass.  You forgot Rachel did not hate synthetic she won on it.  Let me remind you that Zenyatta the queen of synthetic also won on dirt.  The fact is Rachel’s owner had plenty of time to prep her for the big race and choose not to.  Zenyatta was there and not only she won, she beat the best group of horses put together for this year.    

17 Nov 2009 9:34 PM

Steve Haskin,

I'll answer that for you.

Ghostzapper and Invasor would not beat Zenyatta on the Pro-Ride.


Front runners collapse on this surface (NO MATTER HOW GOOD THEY ARE).

Pro-Ride would swallow Ghostzapper and Invasor. The last two furlongs (1/4 mile) is where the race is won on Pro-Ride.

You don't draw away on this surface. Understood?

Ask "Landry" and "Careless Jewel" about the Pro-Ride synthetic surface. Careless Jewel went backwards after going 1:09 and change.

You don't have to tell me how good Ghostzapper is because I know how good he was.

17 Nov 2009 10:12 PM

I'm applauding your stalemate Steve.  Good for you, especially as a voter, for speaking up and laying out the dilemma as it truly is.  Those who seem to have a clear favorite for HOY seem caught more in the speculation of "if this happened, then that would be the result".  And, I just have to address this “who’s ducking who” rhetoric.  Clearly, a great proven horse does not need to show up for the BC to win HOY!!  Especially after the aggressive campaign RA ran.  Jess Jackson showed astute insight in designing RA's campaign, and never ducked the next challenge.  She did far more than enough, and Jackson deserves praise for his guts in pushing her forward time after time after time.  If some of your readers think he ducked the synthetics or Zenyatta, then Sherrif/Mosses ducked all the many opportunities to face RA as well.  The argument negates itself.  Zenyatta had a far more conservative, although impressive, campaign and Sherrif's does need to be applauded for Z’s campaign.  At the 11th hour she took on her greatest challenge and not only ran down the entire BC Classic field, but ran it with heart thumping decisive championship delivery.  All I can say is WOW!!

What I just do not understand is the lack of "getting" the whole picture of what happened this year in horse racing.  I really think if the voters and fans "got it", there would be no question about 2 HOY awards; and forget the 3rd contender...there is no one.  There just are not effective enough words to spell out the exhilaration, excitement, history making and breaking, record smashing, unprecedented-ness of this filly/mare duo!!!  Both of them gave us those extremely rare kind of memories that will always make us remember where we were and who we were with when we saw them triumph over amazing odds, time after time.  We'll tell these stories to our kids and grandkids.  And they’ll pass on these stories of THIS year of horseracing.  We witnessed for the FIRST AND ONLY time in the history of horseracing, a filly/mare duo that magnificently raced their way to the absolute top of the horse racing world!! NEVER done before!!  The entire year of this duo has a glow that radiates far beyond the “two great horses in one year” perspective.

And the Eclipse award voters want to sit back in their comfy zone and stick to comfy "tradition”????  Not this time!!  This argument about diluting the status of the award just reflects minds and hearts that are so stuck you'd think they were the ones with blinkers on.  Blind, stuck, and not “getting” it!  Clearly, if "they" insist on only one HOY award, "they" will have missed not only this screaming historical moment, but they will have also dramatically diluted it.  I’d worry a lot more about diluting the historical moment than clinging to some historical notion about the award.  It’s a moment that this industry desperately needs, and RA and Z have offered it up…with far more than the necessary facts to back it.  I say Carpe Diem!! Two HOY awards.

17 Nov 2009 10:27 PM


Plastic, dirt or turf or water the great mare Zenyatta would have beaten this field including Rachel.

Why do you think Rachel was not scheduled for the Breeders? Um. No chance of beating the mare.

17 Nov 2009 10:42 PM

My answer to PomDeTerre is this:

Juveniles don't start their campaign until late spring or early summer.  It is intirely appropriate that juveniles have their own races in the BC.  They cap off a typically 4 to 5 month campaign in the fall.  If you check the stats, you'll find the average # of starts for the 2-yr old fillies prior to the BC was 3 or 4; the colts averaged 5 races.  My point was that Rachel Alexandra had already had a full and long campaign before the BC world championships due to her participation in the prestigious races for 3-yr olds held in the spring and summer.

I entirely agree with your comment that the year's "body of work" should determine the HOY and that this is defined by the total achievement of the horse in 2009.  I'm not sure how you do the math, but Rachel Alexandra has won the greater number of important races and set more records (both actual and historical) than Zenyatta has in 2009.  

Once again, here's to both these fabulous ladies.  I don't disagree with those that favor Zenyatta; I will continue to strenuously disagree with the comments that the award belongs to either horse "hands down". Both horses had fabulous campaigns that in almost any other year would earn them HOY "no contest".

18 Nov 2009 12:57 AM

I believe spicer will's comment is more on the question of estimating Zenyatta's ability as something close to the "old champions of yore" when such estimates are inaccurate, coz honestly, nobody has found a way to measure it.

Zenyatta is like YEATS.  YEATS was an 8yr old who won the Cartier Champion Stayer award and NOT HOY, despite having a list of victories longer than your arm.  If YEATS didnt deserve HOY even despite winning ONE big race--the Ascot gold cup-- why would ZEN?

All estimates on the "strength" of competition is subjective-- what is SECRETARIAT to you, may be 'allowance' horse to me;  we can only depend on the number of victories, BSF speed/time, and length of campaign to judge horses with.  "Impartiality" is the key word here.

Afterall, horses that have been winning every month everywhere at speeds of 100 BSF above for 10 months MUST BE really STRONG.  But to say that "this field is weak" or "that field is weak" depends on WHO IS LOOKING-- "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  And to excuse the horse for not running 6 months in the year, but PRAISING her to the heavens when she wins ONE BIG RACE afterwards, is very very SUBJECTIVE to me.  To start judging competition is hypocritical at this point, after that HUGE overSight.

Give Zen a champion award like YEATS for winning the BC, but give RACHEL ALEXANDRA the HORSE OF THE YEAR 2009.  Rachel alone deserves it.  No co-HOYs please.

..and I dont get to vote either.  But this is my opinion.

18 Nov 2009 1:48 AM
Steve Haskin

Spicer, It's difficult comparing horses from different years, especially a filly to colts and a filly who ran almost exclusively on synthetics to colts who raced strictly on dirt. I dont think anyone is calling Zenyatta the next coming of Hindoo. She is, however, one of the great fillies of all time.

18 Nov 2009 2:20 AM

I think the only thing that will truly satisfy most people this year would be to declare co-HOYs.  As a follower of racing for 40 years, I would truly be OK with that. If we can't have co-champs, how do you choose objectively? Can you? Many of the arguments for one candidate and/or against the other have centered around type and number of races won, number of months raced, and number of tracks raced on.  Rachel Alexandra raced eight times in seven months at seven tracks this year, with eight of those being in races restricted to three year olds at weight for age, and with twelve races and ten wins over 14 months total.  Zenyatta raced five times at three tracks in nearly six months this year, with those races being in the open division including handicaps carrying top weight - and the Breeder's Cup Classic. Her lifetime totals are fourteen races and wins in 23 months, with two different Breeder's Cup wins.  (And yes, I do know we're looking at this year, but HOY has been given as a "career award" in the past - see Native Dancer below).  Both had truly historic seasons.  Now on to history: Ghostzapper's HOY campaign consisted of four races from July 4 to the BC on October 30 - less than four months.  Three of those races were in NY/NJ, the BC Classic in Texas.  Native Dancer's 1954 HOY campaign consisted of three races, all in New York, in four months. (He did not win HOY during his heralded three year old year in 1953, losing to the undefeated handicap champion Tom Fool - here's the "career award" I was talking about.) As far as geography,how many HOYs of the past never travelled more than 250 miles from their East Coast tracks/bases?  Quite a few, especially when transportation was more difficult and most of the major races and tracks were concentrated within that 250-mile radius.  When train travel became feasible, horses could winter in Florida or New Orleans and maybe run a race or two for conditioning purposes before moving north for the rest of the racing season.  Were horses penalized for not traveling farther?  Not if you raced on the East Coast, but horses like Swaps (at two and three when he lost only one race each year) and Seabiscuit (most of the time) were knocked as only "California horses" and passed over for respect and awards - until they went east to race.  In the 1960s a few major East Coast champions ventured to SoCal in the winter in search of high purses - California was an ok place to be in the winter when the money was good, but not after early April or so.  Racing was becoming regional, but the most "important" races were still on the East Coast from late Spring to mid-Fall.  Now, more major tracks, each with their own major graded races, have opened year-round all across the nation.  They have various surfaces ranging from very soft dirt, sandy dirt, deep, tiring dirt, rock-hard dirt and every dirt in between and now many different synthetic surfaces -now mandated in California - as well.  (Being Americans, let's face it, we mostly ignore the grass most of the time.) Top horses, especially in the handicap division, need never travel across country to meet each other in search of that elusive Grade I, they've got them at home- so it's really only the major historic graded two- and three-year old races (primarily, but not exclusively the Triple Crown and a couple at Saratoga) that are "must runs" in many minds.  Back in the 1980s the Breeder's Cup was instituted to provide a venue to bring the best horses from all around the country and from around the world to race for "the World Championships" of Horse Racing.  The Breeder's Cup was to be a way to test the various "regional" stars in an attempt to determine the best horses of the year, and for the three-year-old to take on their elders in a truly Big Race.  There will always be injuries, bad racing luck, horses who don't like to ship or hate one surface or another, including differing synthetics, differing compositions of dirt, grass, and/or muddy tracks, and major upsets for no apparent reason whatsoever.  That's just racing, and you factor that in. For whatever reason, Santa Anita was awarded the Cup two years in a row - don't blame the horses for that.  And remember that in the 2006 BC at Churchill Downs most of the horses on the board in the dirt races were so-called synthetic specialists if they weren't Euros -why was that? Better horses perhaps? Maybe.  They hadn't raced each other before so who knows.  Remember the Monmouth Monsoon Mud Festival of 2007?  Who didn't run their race that day?  Did it still count?  Sorry about the history lesson, but I say again that if the Breeder's Cup races do not carry more weight in determining year-end champions than other Grade I races, ESPECIALLY in close contests - then why bother having them?  It'll be just another (lucrative) day at the races. If they are truly the World Championships, champions and wanna-be champions should show up if healthy enough to do so. If someone truly just has an off day, i.e. Curlin(possibly, but I think he was just tired and may have been past his best) last year, factor that in - oh wait a minute, we did that. If a horse runs their race and loses - so be it.  That's racing too.

18 Nov 2009 2:37 AM

Again, for the 100th time, BOTH Rachel and Zen are UNDEFEATED in 2009.  Below are their actual races in 2009, which will determine HOY:

RACHEL -  8 victories (3 G1 races against males, 5 G1&G2 races against females; Dirt runner, ran in 5 states.

ZEN - 5 victories (1 race against males; 4 against females); exlusive California Pro-ride runner

I tire of reading that Zen is 14-14 undefeated.  No horse can run 14 times in 11 months!  Zen's actual 2009 race is ONLY 5. NOT 14.

About this argument that RA didnt show up at BC so she cant be HOY.  It was NEVER etched in stone that all HOYs should win the BC Classic.  Otherwise, we may have to change the name of Eclipse HOY awards into the BC Championship awards. That way, all BC winners automatically become HOY.

It would be nice if horses do win the BC, but it is NOT required.  Just ask CURLIN or HOLYBULL.  They are HOYs but they either skipped or lost the BC in their day.

Then, some repeatedly argue that RA has to run at the classic distance of 10 furlongs to be HOY.  Lots of horses, including HOYs, have run at 10 but lost.  Some have won.  Lots of them have shortened to 9 and have won.  But for as long as the horse CAN RUN and WIN, they became HOY.  I dont see why the adding of 1 furlong only, can make the difference between HOY and home boy.

Lastly, some argue that RA has to win in a matchrace against Zen to be HOY.  Is RA's stellar 2009 resume not a SIGN of her superior ability?  If looking at her races in 2009 is not convincing, then NOTHING will be.  By the way, Rachel's BSF of 116 remains unequalled even by Zen or any of the colts up to this day.

Fans have short memories, and even shorter attention spans.

But all things considered, RA is the HOY for 2009.  toss Zen out.

18 Nov 2009 2:39 AM

Steve great article

18 Nov 2009 2:41 AM

The moderator on another blog

would not print my note of sad

regrets at the passing of Bobby Frankel. He was a man of such stature in the industry and we will never know all the things that he contributed to the job

integrity of many trainers and

owners. So sad....

18 Nov 2009 3:30 AM

Comparing RA and Zen is kinda murky coz of all the feelings, craziness, and euphoria involved.  But to show how LAUGHABLE is the argument for Zen to be HOY, let's put it in the simplest analogy, like this:

Let's say YOU have two students vying for VALEDICTORIAN.  One kid shows up for class almost every day in the year.  She aces every project and exam, and submits her homework on time.  She got high scores everywhere, and so she becomes the favorite candidate for V.

Right before the Finals, a new kid shows up for class.  She took in what's left of the semester, and scored average on tests.

Come Finals time, the favorite got sick and was absent.  The new kid nearly got a perfect score.

Will you make this Johnny-come-lately kid the Valedictorian for 2009 because she nearly perfected ONE exam, the Finals?  what you gonna do about the fact that the kid WASNT there all year until the Finals.. ??

I've seen college students get perfect Finals time and again.  Some think this is the "icing on the cake" because they have a CAKE to begin with.  Good performance all year capped by an equally superior encore,  What could be better?

But for students who HAVEN'T done much all year, ace-ing the Finals is just A SHOT IN THE DARK.

For all it's worth, they would get a little bit higher Final scores because of the Finals.  But NOT VALEDICTORIAN... not even Salutatorian.. Not even cum laude.  NO.  Perfect score or not, Valedictorian goes to the 'favorite' who labored all year long getting high grades.  

So you see, RA is the worthy HOY 2009. Any other horse (toss Zen out) is just another wanna-be.

18 Nov 2009 3:46 AM
Holly Walker

As reported by a friend of mine, no one seemed to notice that Zenyatta also became the winningest North American Mare (passing Azeri) and also became the FIRST HORSE TO WIN TWO DIFFERENT BREEDERS' CUP RACES  What more needs to be said, she should be Horse of the Year!!

18 Nov 2009 4:18 AM

WHOOPEEE.  This calls for a celebration!!

Bloodhorse poll this morning shows RA is fast GAINING ground on Z:  42% to 58%.  Zenyatta's lead has been CUT to less than 60%. Amazing.

Wow.  And today is just the middle of November 2009.  I cannot wait until December...

In all honesty, I believe that no other horse but Rachel deserves the HOY 2009.  

Rachel should be rewarded for all that THANKLESS hard work all year, when naysayers said she couldnt beat MTB in the Preakness, when SummerBird wanted to make her "run her eyeballs out" in the Haskell, and all the older horses just were so NASTY to her in the Woodward making her run 12 sec in the first quarter.  

This baby deserves this HOY award, believe me.


RA for HOY 2009!!  Whoopee...and I dont vote for HOY, so this is just my voice.

18 Nov 2009 4:25 AM

HOY 2009 is for 2009 not including 2008

Zenyatta is her 4 races 2009 before the Classic she beat a total of 14 horses.

Some 2 and 3 times

Then she won Classic with only 2 other synthetic horses in it

We have created a new category in racing

BCDAY 5 of 6 synthetic races where won by horses coming off synthetic races, 13 of 18 in the money

What Zeyatta did in 2009 I can see being repeated

What Rachel did in 2009 I doubt will ever be duplicated

I just glad we had two outstanding girls

Maybe this proved all those people wrong that criticized Larry Jones

that fillies should not with the boys

18 Nov 2009 7:27 AM

Sreve- I almost used that phrase in one of my posts, but then I didn't know how many bloggers would really know who Hindoo was!  

18 Nov 2009 8:26 AM


you have it all wrong as usual. So what you are saying is that RA had no risk of loosing when she ran in her last 3 races?

18 Nov 2009 8:45 AM

It is amazing that there is even a debate. Rachael Alexandra was fully extended to beat Macho Again and Mine That Bird-two ordinary horses. Zenyatta beat the best handily. What is there left to debate?. This borders on the ridiculous.

18 Nov 2009 8:52 AM
Rachel Fan From Arkansas

Well jim2365, all you have to do is look at the PPs to understand what I mean, in any race in NY you could face 4 or 5 Grade 1 horses in any division especially on the ladies side. In cali I believe that if you give out the names Zenyatta or Life is Sweet you are done talking about the depth of the ladies division out there. I will wait to hear about the other great horses in the go for it im listening.

18 Nov 2009 9:00 AM

Karen2- that's a great idea.  It would be very fun!  And make quite an interesting conversation for the other tables to hear!!!

18 Nov 2009 9:35 AM
Soldier Course


It's interesting that you suggest a meet-up for all the Blog Stable regulars, because I have long thought that this would be so much fun. I visit Lexington every year around Derby time, and I've wondered how many of us would be able to gather there.

As an ice-breaker, we could have a game where we tried to guess everyone's correct identity. The person who has the most correct guesses wins an autographed copy of "Draynay's Handbook on Handicapping".

Seriously, this would be fun.

18 Nov 2009 10:02 AM
Soldier Course

Steve, re your post at 17 Nov 9:46

A man has to "man up".

A woman has to "woman up".

A Horse of the Year has to "show up".


18 Nov 2009 10:17 AM

WWSTP: GREAT POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

18 Nov 2009 10:24 AM

Pasturelands- you do not have an impartial bone in your body.

18 Nov 2009 10:27 AM
njracing fan

Charlie, why do you think Zenyatta was not scheduled to race against Rachel when there were so many opportunities? It's because they knew for months Rachel would never run on the polycrap at SA and they would have their only argument. I could argue that Zenyatta's connections knew Rachel could spoil their undefeated record and would only race her if they had huge advantages, some of those being  being surface, home track, more rested, lack of travel, and being comfortable in her environment that she knows so well. I could easily make the argument they didn't want to face Rachel if it would actually be a fair race, because they knew there was a good chance they would lose. You're probably right. No chance Rachel wins that race with every advantage possible going to Zenyatta in advance. Moss would only race Rachel if the deck was stacked against Rachel, which it was.

18 Nov 2009 11:04 AM


You'll get "Horse of the Year" next year, but this year belongs to the greatest racemare of all-time "Zenyatta".

Zenyatta went 7-0 last year and didn't receive the HOY hardware. Zenyatta left the state and  went to Oaklawn Park last year and took on the best (Ginger Punch - 2007 Breeders Cup Distaff Champion). She destroyed that field.

In fact that 2008 Apple Blossom field was so good that every horse in that race came back and won their very next start.

Why would Jerry and Ann Moss leave the state of California this year (when the HOY vote for Curlin was a landslide last year). This sent a message to the Zenyatta connections. The message was sent "loud and clear" and  told them that it doesn't pay to leave the state of California and prove yourself.

Meanwhile, Curlin finishes 4th in the Breeders Cup Classic and becomes the "All-Time Earnings Leader". Curlin is later rewarded "Horse of the Year".

Zenyatta went undefeated again this year. She took this year's "Breeders Cup Ladies classic winner "Life is Sweet" out behind the woodshed (multiple times). She becomes the "All-Time Earnings Leader" for a filly/mare after powering home in the "Breeders Cup Classic"

Zenyatta is "Horse of the Year".


18 Nov 2009 11:07 AM
Lou in TX

Steve...Thanks so much for keeping us up to date on Quality Road. Enjoyed your article.  Hopefully he will be alright. Hope they don't push him too hard. Sounds like he's really got an issue with the gate. I agree with with who ever suggested they make the gates a little larger, if possible.

18 Nov 2009 11:53 AM

Steve, thank you for another heartfelt article. For something I found eloquent & unbiased you sure opened a can of worms yet displayed amazing patience throughout your blog!

Ro & Tim G

Thank you for your posts. You both completely summed up everything I wanted to say!

Zenyatta = HOY

18 Nov 2009 11:57 AM
Pam S.

Laura, I think you have offered the very best post on here, bar none.  If you ever write a book, I would like to humbly serve as your collaborator.

18 Nov 2009 12:04 PM
Mike Relva


Just because you think RA deserves HOY not everyone agrees w/ you. Why don't you accept it? Everytime you blog is always something neg. regarding Zenyatta. If you had the first clue regarding race you would realize what a great horse Zenyatta is. Like others' the only way you can raise RA is to slam Zenyatta. That's one of the differences between you and myself,I APPRECIATE BOTH HORSES FOR WHAT THEY ARE! Do you think for a minute that Zenyatta's connections care what people like you are saying regarding their horse? I bet if you had their # and called them,it would be a very short conversation before you heard click!

18 Nov 2009 12:37 PM
Mike Relva


Thanks for that,I'm flattered. I also agree!

18 Nov 2009 12:40 PM

Great article. Writers have to write with emotion or they are just news tellers. Zenyatta's performance was so beautiful in that Classic that I stood in front of my TV and cried as she ran past her competition. Rachel's races almost ALL made me cry. Watching her was like watching living art.

Rachel gets the HOY award.....No Rachel...what a stupid predictament to be in.....they are both Horses of the Year.....

Thank both of you gorgeous ladies for the thrills! You were not just great for the sport, you were great for our hearts.

18 Nov 2009 12:46 PM

Pasturelands, your valedictorian analogy - it's a joke, right? Rachel didn't get sick for the "final"; she played hookey. Zenyatta didn't skip the whole season and come in at the final; she ran four other times, three times beating the eventual Ladies Classic winner. But I get it. You are passionate about your opinion that RA deserves HOY. Good for you. Good for everyone and their opinions because it's good for racing. I think what this forum has shown is that when debating these two remarkable horses, it is possible to make a credible case for either.  Everyone will give factors different weight, depending on how they define "accomplished the most" in a given year.  Is it number of races won? Is it margin of victory? Is it quality of competition? Is it distance? Or is it something more intangible, ushc as historical impact? There is no clinical, purely objective measure. Which is fine. One reason why horse racing is such an incredible sport is because it affects people on an emotional level. At its best, it can be magical. The Eclipse voters will choose one, but ultimately, time will tell which horse's name is spoken with reverence and whose accomplishments are the yardstick by which greatness is measured.

18 Nov 2009 1:47 PM

Zenyatta would get my vote.  I waited many times to see Rachel Alexandra run and often she would not be put into a race where she had a chance of not winning.  Cherry picking the races doesn't prove much to me.  Zenyatta is/was fabulous.

18 Nov 2009 1:47 PM

I've been an observer for a while.

That suggestion of meeting up with each other? Just don't do it near the paddock when I have a horse running, please.

The feuding that has gone on, on some of these blogs might blow up there and scare the horses to death. LOL

18 Nov 2009 2:37 PM

I think Zenyatta should get HOY because I think she is the better horse, and that's my criteria. However, I will not be indignant nor upset if Rachel wins because of the astounding and outstanding year she had.

For the people who said one race (BCC) does not horse of the year make: How many of them think Goldikova should be grass mare of the year. As an example Paul Moran at ESPN has said he is voting for Rachel at HOY (which I don't have a problem with) but he's also said Goldi is grass mare of the year. How does Goldi get her ONE race in North America to count so heavily, but Zenyatta does not? This logic escapes me.

18 Nov 2009 3:22 PM

njracingfan wrote: "Charlie, why do you think Zenyatta was not scheduled to race against Rachel when there were so many opportunities?"

What, exactly, were these "many opportunities" njracingfan? Rachel raced outside the 3YO division once, and it was too close to the BBC for Zenyatta's connections to consider a 6,000-mile round trip.

18 Nov 2009 3:26 PM

Zenyatta is HOY in California and on synthetic surfaces.

Rachel Alexandra is HOY in the rest of the country and on what American Racing is all about and has been since the beginning of American thoroughbred racing...REAL DIRT!

California no longer is representative of true American racing. Until they get rid of the man made junk.

18 Nov 2009 3:48 PM

i can't believe some of the things folks are writing about two of the greatest female horses to ever set foot on the track? why do insults get hurled about?

this hoty is exactly that..rachel ran more races on different surfaces,raced a wide assortment of accomplished runners and had a much harder schedule than of the year not horse of the breeders cup!i would love to see them both get it because i think they are both great but it won't work that way..if zenyatta had run even once out of california this year then i would say she is hoty.trashing j.j. is just stupid..if he hadn't bought her she never would have raced the boys.

we should have a debate without the rancor towards these two beautiful girls

18 Nov 2009 4:10 PM

i would like to know which races pepinjean was left wondering when or if rachel was running?i can't seem to remember any that i was left hanging for.facts.

18 Nov 2009 4:15 PM


Great post.  I agree with you that the Breeder's Cup should help to determine the champions and be a kind of tie-breaker at the end of the year BUT that requires racing on a surface that is generally considered fair to all.  The results of two consecutive Breeder's cup on Pro-Ride leaves no doubt that dirt horses have no chance of showing their true ability on it.  You should be able to agree with this point and therefore see that this year's BCC results would not be to any assessment of dirt horses.  I would think that Jess Jackson made the right call in skipping the BC with Rachel Alexandra although I had disagreed with his decision initially based upon the principle of the BC being a championship event.

On the historical point of about Native Dancer being awarded HOTY, it seems that an attempt was made to rectify an injustice the previous year.  No such situation obtains with Zenyatta, neither last year nor this year.  Ghostzapper had a history of leg trouble therefore voters seem to have been lenient on him and gave him the edge for HOTY over Smarty Jones. Hewas deserving though.  Always remember the context when referring to history please.

18 Nov 2009 4:58 PM

Repeat: I'M OK WITH A TIE. REALLY. They both had fabulous, historic years.  I do want to point out something, though.  A couple of people here have said that Zenyatta could have gone east and raced Rachel "many times" this year.  That is not quite true.  Rachel was running in restricted three-year-old races until August.  Her connections said she'd run in either the restricted Travers or the Woodward, and were leaning to the Travers (my recollection at the time, and I could be wrong) and then they chose the Woodward at the last minute - too late for Zenyatta to have shipped.  Rachel was then mentioned for the Beldame; Zenyatta was pre-entered as well and then Rachel dropped out and went to the barn for the year. Just when were they supposed to meet?  Again, I'M OK WITH A TIE.  I just want everyone to take a deep breath, do their research, get their facts straight, and make rational arguments.  Screaming gets us nowhere and the horses don't care one way or the other.  Let's just celebrate a truly memorable year.

18 Nov 2009 5:04 PM


    If I remember the 06 Classic correcly Invasor was nowhere near the lead, so how do you get that he would not beat Zenyatta, since he was not a speed horse. Also tell Midshipman, who won going wire to wire last year over the surface and almost did the same again this year that the surface will swallow up frontrunners. There are exceptions to every rule.

18 Nov 2009 5:08 PM

Stalemate ?  Zenyatta has no wins this year on turf or dirt.  When in history of the sport have we given HOY to any horse with no wins on dirt of turf?  In Zenyatta's previous 4 races she beat a whopping 14 horses.  Anyone who believes Zenyatta deserves HOY is doing it based on one race on a poly track.  Only two horses in the race against her had a G1 win on a poly track this year.  We are now going to give HOY to poly specialist?  Just forget about Rachel winning at Saratoga, Belmont, and Churchill?  It would be a terrible black eye for racing and a farce the sport would never recover from in the eyes of many.

18 Nov 2009 5:35 PM
Vickie Miller

I love both horses dearly. I think they both deserve the title. There can only be one horse of the year and that is the darling Rachel Alexandra. She wrote history over and over in all her defeats. How could it be another horse. Give Zenyatta an "Honorable Mention." Please! It's the only way to handle it!!

18 Nov 2009 6:39 PM

Tiznowbaby-  Not sure there was a filly/mare on the turf who was better though, so if you believe the best horse should win, then yes, Goldikova should win.  If you beleive she needed to run more races here, then she shouldn't win.  

18 Nov 2009 7:23 PM
My Juliet

  Pasturelands, Good posts, Well said. I agree Rachel should be rewarded HOTY for the very hard work This year, that it's an award for This year. Who knows what 2010 will bring; both horses 2009 campaigns are all that should be looked at for this award.

18 Nov 2009 7:29 PM
Greg J.


     What a great idea!, I have often wondered if I could put a screen name with a face?  I would love to meet some of the "Regular Bloggers", So much great knowledge, It would sure be an interesting encounter! As the 2010 Derby gets closer, Maybe it will come to fruition...

18 Nov 2009 7:35 PM

It really was a memorabile year for racing fans.  I loved both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta!  However, I feel Rachel did more this year to deserve HOY.

18 Nov 2009 8:10 PM
Soldier Course

I know you are sincere in your beliefs, but I hope you won't mind my telling you that it broke my heart to see Zenyatta and "Honorable Mention" appear in the same breath.

18 Nov 2009 9:47 PM


I love your passion for Rachel.......It seems to be almost as much as your dislike or disrespect for Zenyatta.......Personally I think that they are both great, but one thing that I question is why Zenyatta is so far ahead of Rachel in the BloodHorse Poll.....Maybe by the end of the month the vote will become much closer but I would have thought that Rachel should be FAR AHEAD by now.

18 Nov 2009 10:08 PM

(Blushing) Thank you for the kind comments.  I'm just a librarian who loves horses and racing.  I grew up in the midwest boonies in the 70s with no access to a track so I followed racing any way possible -books, newspapers, magazines,  Wide World of Sports, etc.  I was the only girl I knew with subscriptions to Sports Illustrated and Sporting News.  (Sorry, BloodHorse, I didn't know about this mag. until I was in college - my folks wouldn't let me go anywhere that might have carried it <grin> ) I studied and I learned in those days before cable and the internet, all for the love of the horses.  I never even placed a bet until we took my daughter, another horse lover, to the track for her birthday three years ago.  I just love the horses.

My comments re Ghostzapper and Native Dancer were merely in response to those who said a five-race season was not enough for HOY, nothing other than that. Ghostzapper certainly deserved his award, and Native Dancer got his 1954 HOY as a career "thank you" on those three races.  He and Tom Fool should maybe have split it the year before as they both deserved it- Tom Fool won the Handicap Triple Crown and went undefeated after all.  Like I said, I'm a librarian and historian - my head is full of information like that! And information, they say, is power.

Another piece of trivia that I mentioned above: the 2006 Breeder's Cup dirt races at Churchill were dominated by synthetic horses too - look it up.  Maybe it's easier for horses to go from syns to dirt than the other way 'round.  I don't have an answer for that, but Rachel Alexandra ran a 1:09 6f at Keeneland last year on syns so her form obviously didn't suffer.  She should have run in the BC if healthy enough to do so. Zenyatta ran the best race of her life prior to the BCC in the dirt at Oaklawn last year.  She can obviously handle it just fine. She came to the big dance, and won when the "experts" said she couldn't.  (Remember, her "home" track is Hollywood - not SA, as different as Saratoga is from Belmont). Saying that, I'll repeat: I'M MORE THAN OK WITH A TIE, FOLKS.  They are each separately and collectively deserving for amazing years.  If only we could have this problem every year!  What a boost to the sport we love that would be.

18 Nov 2009 10:49 PM
Marilyn K

Your column had a box asking readers to vote for Horse of the Year and only listed Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra as choices.  Considering the column content and the controversy, shouldn't you also have had BOTH as a 3rd choice even though this would probably not be a choice available to the votes? This would certainly better reflect the fans and readers positions.

18 Nov 2009 11:12 PM
Lou in TX

Greg and about Skype? Not sure if that's how u spell it. You can buy the camera at Walmart or Radio Shack for very little and it's free to subscribe to Skype. My daugher talks to a friend in Italy all the time, for free. I thought about getting one for my grandson so we could see each other when we talk. Now we just text.  Just a suggestion.

18 Nov 2009 11:16 PM

Footlick, I believe Goldi is the best grass miler in the world, but I don't know if she's the best grass mare in North America -- she raced once at a mile here. I'd like to see more.

19 Nov 2009 12:14 AM

Tiznowbaby- after seeing Midday dismantle our Filly/Mare turf field, I would have to think Goldikova would pretty much outclass them.  Midday was probably the third best 3 yr old filly in Europe at a middle distance, behind Sarkisa and Stacelita.  Goldikova would at least be able to stretch out to 9 furlongs here and possibly longer.  But I understand the hesitation.  It comes down to whether you feel Goldikova's dominance over her mile field is enough.  When I was little I thought each horse that won the award was the best horse in that division.  When I got a little older, I realized that many times the best horse didn't win the award.  That's ok.  That's voting.  I would like to see her win it because she towers over them, in my opinion.  But I understand the reluctance.

19 Nov 2009 10:15 AM
Robert Peter

Wow...What a response.  There really are a lot of racing fans out there and a lot of good comments.  Subjectivity is what it's all about.  My terse comments from 11/16(I think) aside, A real and positive solution may be HOY for:Dirt, Synthetic, and Turf.  When racing historians look back at the events of 09' it wood be good to have HOY behind both the filly and the mares names.  This, in my mind, would be lengths better than completely excluding one or the other from HOY recognition.  peace.

19 Nov 2009 11:31 AM
Dave R

Horse of the Year award is based on a single year's performance.

In my opinion, Rachel Alexandra's performance in 2009 was much more deserving than that of Zenyatta's.

Zenyatta had basically one signature great win in the Breeders Cup Classic on her favorite surface and track.  It was a great win by a great filly.

However, Rachel Alexandra did more on different tracks over a longer time span this year.  My vote goes to Rachel Alexandra.

19 Nov 2009 1:43 PM

I totally agree with Dr. Sarah's comment made on Nov. 11 @ 12:28am. Horseracing needs Amazing Horses like Rachel Alexandra & Zenyatta to revive the Sport. Therefore reward both of them for their Outstanding Achievements in 2009. Allow both to win the HOY :) It is the only fair solution.

20 Nov 2009 9:45 AM

Two amazing horses, they have done so much for thoroughbred racing, ( at a time when the industry is on its knees).  Hopefully the powers that be, will recognise and capitalise and keep up the momentum. It is such a tough call, both filly and mare are true champions, but in my heart I think Zenyatta should get the HOTY, she showed up at the World Championship, and won the hardest, longest and most testing question of her career.

20 Nov 2009 10:02 AM


I have no problem having the Breeders Cup races carrying more weight than a regular race...but how much more?

Enough that a win there supplants a robust record throughout the year?

I could see giving super weight to a BC race...and it counting for 1.5 Grade 1s or something like that...but that would still make Zenyatta half a Grade I and a Grade II and a stakes race short of Rachel Alexandra's race record this year.

She made history in seven of eight races...which is pretty darn spectacular.

Zenyatta is getting consideration only because of her victory in the Classic. Had she won the Distaff again this would not even be a question. So, based on a performance in ONE RACE you think she deserves to be co-horse of the year?

What about all the other horses that deserved to be co-Horse of the Year like Personal Ensign, or Medalia D'Oro or other horses?

Isn't a co-HOTY solution here just a cop out?

Would we think of doing this if we had two male horses vying for the award? Is it a little sexist to suggest a co-horse of the year solution when we have two quality female horses, but we would not think of such a solution for two quality male horses? Or why wasn't last year an opportunity for a co-horse of the year award between Curlin and Zenyatta?

20 Nov 2009 10:03 AM

Reg. comments by pebbles. Not all grade 1 races are equal. The purse values and in some case prestige like the BC classic is to attract the BEST horses. Plus more value including purse money is given to longer races, one race here got All Along the HOTY, but, two super races did not get "pebbles" that.

At the beginning of the year we knew who Zenyatta was and her connections charted out her races eyeing the BC classic.

RA had to prove she was super, she was not even in the fillies juvenile race in 2008,if her connections were eying for HOTY they would have first run her in the KY derby and after the triple crown, could have given her a short rest & brought her back for the classic after a tightner, but, because of her inexperience she needed to prove against the 3YO boys then the distance and the older boys before taking on a solid class of classic runners.

Zenyatta had a lot to lose if she lost, the HOTY, with this title what is going to be the value of her little ones, and lets not forget the undefeated status. In my mind she even forced the early retirement of "sea the star".

RA could have gained a greater stature if her schedule was altered a bit to run in the classic(i dont think her connections would have chosen the classic, instead they would have gone for the ladies classic).But she would have run and won the classic we would not have this debate. Plus, we are still respecting RA, and if she has a good form next year, I do not think she will run in the classic.

20 Nov 2009 9:15 PM

As brilliant and as exciting as the two ladies are.  the horse of the year  should rightly go to zenyatta.  had racheal raced her like  people  had asked it would be more clear.  but im sure they are trying to keep racheal ready for next year so she doesnt shadow zenyatta like sham shadowed secretariat. so its only right that zenyatta get her  prize.  give her the horse of the year, next year just might belong to racheal.

22 Nov 2009 10:44 PM

Fascinating--almost 2,000 votes for Rachel from Friday afternoon to Sunday night. Looks fishy.

23 Nov 2009 11:37 AM

those votes were from the east coast.  it should be votes from across the  nation.  let the whole public speak. as fantastic a horse as racheal is, it rightly should go to zenyatta.  at her age alone she  did the  miracle.  

23 Nov 2009 7:36 PM

I think Rachel put together the better year between the two and is more deserving of HOY. Zenyatta played it too safe running on 3 tracks in 1 state, 3 races at 1 1/16 which is laughable for a 5 year old that people are saying is as great as Secretariat. The BC is not the worlds championships, that's just a marketing ploy used by the BC committee, it's a tag they gave themselves. The biggest stage of the year was the Preakness as evidenced by TV ratings. Rachel brought in over a 6 share and Zenyatta brought in 0.9. Gee, the bull riding and figure skating the following Sunday brought in a 0.8. Apparently the nation and the world has spoken - more people were interested in watching Rachel face off against the colts in the Preakness then they were in watching Zenyatta in the BCC. The polls are bombarded with Zenyatta fans voting over and over, that's pretty clear. Reading the articles and blogs from real voters is more revealing as they have cast more votes for Rachel than Zenyatta.

Rachel is HOY 2009!

29 Nov 2009 2:44 PM

There are too many posts here to read them all today. The thing that will decided HOTY will be that Zenyatta raced last. If Rachel ran the Woodward next week and won like she did, everyone would sway in her favor. It is certainly not a fair way to make this judgement but it's human nature. I belive, "As MUCH as I adore" Zenyatta, that Rachel deserves horse of the year for her races and what she accomplished. Zenyatta's team played it safe all year. Rachel ran and won a Triple Crown Race. She faced the BOYS MORE than ONCE and WON. She just didn't win the last race run this year. I do not think that is a reason to vote Zenyatta. Look at the statistics ..Rachel wins!

06 Dec 2009 10:59 AM
mach 2

not only is ZENYATTA the horse of the year...She is also the female athlete of the year and amybe the decade

11 Dec 2009 7:55 PM


I understand quite well that not all purse values are equal...

But Rachel did run in 4 races valued at $400,000 or more -- all but one that were higher values than those that Zenyatta ran in...

Whether we knew who Zenyatta was or not is not the issue...she still has to put together a winning campaign. IMHO, her 2008 campaign is more impressive than 2009 since she beat a champion once on dirt and once on synthetic. She went 7-0 in stakes races.

Zenyatta's connections are good people. A talented trainer. A loving owner. True friends of horse racing and much better with the fans than her competitor owner. However, they made a muck of it charting out her campaign for 2009. They scratched her on an off track -- a sealed track at Churchill Downs the same track that Rachel ran on later that day...had they not scratched her -- and she had won on that track her case for HOTY would be much stronger.

You also seem to forget that Rachel was owned by two different persons who had different goals for her. This had a lot to do with the campaign planned for her. If you listened to her owner he said he did not believe in running fillies against males...which is why she did not run in the Kentucky Derby...or don't you pay attention to the newspapers?

She was challenged in at least five races this year...a three year old filly doing more than a 5 year old mare...

AND Zenyatta had NOTHING to lose running in the Classic. She would win older female horse no matter what -- whether she won the Classic or not. HOTY was already going to her ONLY CHANCE was to run on the Classic. Zenyatta was no longer in the conversation for HOTY until she entered the Classic if you were paying attention.  

Forced the early retirement of Sea The Stars? Oh come was highly unlikely he was coming over to the Breeders Cup UNLESS the Arc turf came up too noted you really need to pay attention to the papers...and not leave so much to conjecture...

As for Rachel running in the Classic you are ignoring one major factor again...the change in ownership...there was never any plan under her original owners of her challenging for HOTY...until after she had run 4 races already in 2009...when ownership changed...and she was entered in the Preakness. After her win there...her connections then started to plan a campaign for her which MIGHT include the Classic...but what they fouond out on September 5th is that she was tired having been campaigned harded than Zenyatta was ever in her career...

In 07 Zenyatta's race record was 2-0, in 08 it was 7-0 and in 09 5-0...while Rachel's record in 09 was 8-0...all stakes wins.

Rachel campaigned and won more races than any other horse in training this year...any horse...

She raced in more races than Gio many races as Einstein...

The major older only horses that ran more than her were Bullsbay and Richard's Kid who ran 11 races...

So, Rachel -- a three year old filly...raced as much or more than most of the older horses...and more than Zenyatta and you think she should have raced more?

Come on...

14 Dec 2009 10:30 AM

I'm sorry, but the only big race Zenyatta ran this year was the Classic. Sure, she's had a phenomenal career, but Horse of the year is just that, Horse of the YEAR.If the only race that mattered was one, Breeders' Cup, then why race at any other time of the year. Horse of the year should be a cumulative effort throughout the year, not just one big race. Had Rachel raced and beaten the same fillies repeatedly,on the same track, no one would be in awe of her. But she broke the mold and went for the golden ring, and somehow that just isn't good enough. HOY shouldn't even be an issue. She's had a year few can even imagine. She beat many of the horses that Zenyatta beat in the Classic and she even runs in the rain! Imagine that.

16 Dec 2009 8:13 PM

again & again...i have said...........what more proof is it is:

Zenyatta, with 18 votes, finished a distant second to Williams, who received 66 votes from the 158 ballots cast by editors at U.S. newspapers who are AP members. The 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), finished seventh with 10 votes.

22 Dec 2009 11:09 PM

People who post that Zenyatta only beat the same "weak horses" in her races before the BCC or Rachel did more this year are just spreading Jess Jackson's propaganda. Some even argue that the 2009 BCC, loaded with G1 winners, was a weak field because Einstein, RVW etc. didn't fire their best shot. To say that nothing Zenyatta did counts because it was on a synthetic track would mean that no California based horse can ever win an Eclipse Award.  Ginger Punch, Hysterical Lady, Music Note and Life is Sweet are not weak horses, Big Z just made them look weak. JJ is nothing if not a master spin doctor. Last year when Curlin was up for the award it was all about lifetime achievement. Leading all-time money winner blah, blah. Now, it's you can't consider anything but 2009, RA wins 8 to 5.

In 2009 Zenyatta completed several historic firsts that she began in 2007 and 2008. Tied and then broke Personal Ensign's unbeaten record for a horse competing in graded stakes. Completed the unique double of BCLC and BCC, which we may never see again in out lifetime, no disrespect to RA I would really like to see her do that too. Became North America's all-time leading money-winning distaffer and did it all with flair and style that captured the hearts of racing fan's around the world. Add to that the first female to win the BCC and that's why I think Zenyatta is 2009 Horse of the Year.

06 Jan 2010 5:39 AM

Honestly, can't we just feel so lucky to be alive to witness two of the greatest race horses of all time?  Reading about the accomplishments still gives me chills.  I love them both.  They are what compelled me to watch horseracing this year.  How dare anyone belittle either horse.  I worry bitterness will follow whichever wins the Eclipse for HOY. I, for one, am so glad they never raced each other.  I couldn't stand to see either lose.  And I am so glad that Rachel's owners gave her a well-deserved rest after her grueling campaign.  To those who say the decision was "bad for racing", I say--Do you even remember Ruffian??  Should we force and exhausted animal to race, just so that we can see a match race?  If one of them broke down, like Ruffian, THAT is what would be bad for racing.  THAT is what would make me not want to watch anymore.  We horseracing fans should never forget that.  Horse breakdowns are the worst thing for racing, not forgoing match races.  So, I'm just going to bask in the memories of watching both magnificent athletes over the past year, and I won't be bashing either animal.  They both ran their hearts out and came back in one piece.

06 Jan 2010 7:25 PM
Judy S

I am in complete agreement with this article.  To pick just one would do an injustice to the other.  These are interesting times in the sport of Thoroughbred racing (The tragedy of Barbaro, the Cinderella story of Mine That Bird, synthetic vs. dirt....)  I'm just thankful I was able to witness two great great females.  It takes me back to 1973 when Secretariat won the Belmont.  I don't need to know who wins the honor.  The honor is that I'll never forget them both.

08 Jan 2010 3:14 PM
Laura House

Good job, Steve. I have a simplistic mind when it comes to the bottom line as well. [ Complex in variables, research, attention to detail, facts, stop watches, etc.... ]..but you get it!  Simple.  Some horses do well on turf, dirt, synthetic..sloppy, muddy, firm and on and on.  In a simply broad example, look at tennis.  Clay, grass, concrete, cement or whatever? Nonetheless, the same competitor. Yet, in football, it's narrowed to inside/ouside, or artificial turf vs. whatever.  Go to basketball, though!  Not many variables there.  I think that horses should be run on their "preferred" surface and then let it be.  Horse of the Year doesn't have to be EVERYTHING TO EVERYBODY ON certain SURFACES , much less from which coast or area of the world they are from!!!!!  Simply, expand the categories , or be HUMAN and start something NEW AND INVENTIVE!!!!! ?  Add a few categories.....   Like "Racing Fan's Choice," or "Most wins," or "People's Heart" type awards.  Why not invent a "Triple Crown" that encompasses, the Kentucky Derby, World Cup, and Breeder's Cup?"  This is the sport of Kings (as well as Queens) as we have seen this year....hmm... I do recall the Queen of England being in Kentucky .  Wouldn't it be awesome to see our President honor Zenyatta in The World Championship??

19 Jan 2010 4:30 AM

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