Let Californians Have Their Day

On Friday, the late Buster Millerick was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Be honest now, before you read about Millerick's accomplishments, how many of you knew anything about him? OK, then, how many knew he trained Native Diver? How many even know who Native Diver is, or the brilliant sprinter Kissin George?

If you live east of the Mississippi River and were unable to raise your hand to any of those questions, then you can have some idea how deep-rooted the so-called "East Coast bias" is to California racing fans, and why they are so vehement and protective of their beloved Zenyatta and her place in history.

For decades, California racing existed in a world apart, far removed from New York's garden of champions that produced the vast majority of Hall of Fame horses. To many New Yorkers, California racing was an afterthought. Sure, they had their heroes - Swaps, The Shoe, Johnny Longden, Silky Sullivan for a brief while, and, yes, Native Diver, a black tornado who blew the roofs off three Hollywood Gold Cups. The days of Seabiscuit were long gone following its frenzied moment in time. But even California's first national hero had raced 47 times before he even set eyes on the Golden State. And once there, he still raced 23 times outside of California, including several excursions to New York.

John Henry became one of the most beloved Californians of all time, but he, like Seabiscuit, was the lost, adopted child they took in after spending most of his life toiling in racing's basements and back alleys. And, also like Seabiscuit, he did quite a bit of traveling, racing 16 times outside of California after arriving at trainer Ron McAnally's barn.

Californians had Precisionist and his epic battles with Greinton, and they had Ancient Title, and Best Pal, and Snow Chief, and Kona Gold, and Lava Man. And how about a California-bred, Tiznow, winning back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classics? Northern California had a star sprinter in Lost in the Fog. And there was the first great grass/dirt horse, Round Table, but they had to share this equine vagabond with almost every major racetrack in the country. Another adopted son was Ack Ack, an Eastern-based horse who faded into the shadows of Arts and Letters, Majestic Prince, and Top Knight in 1969, only to find fame and fortune in California two years later.

Only on occasion during the glory days of the 1960s did California fans get a live glimpse of all-time great superstars such as Buckpasser and Damascus, who came west for the Strub Series, or Dr. Fager, who stormed into to town, won the Californian Stakes, and headed right back home. They saw only a shell of what was the real Kelso when the five-time Horse of the Year failed miserably in his only two appearances at Hollywood Park. The following decade, they saw a worn-out Seattle Slew stagger home in his only start in California.

They took great pride when their hometown hero, Majestic Prince, the world's most expensive yearling, journeyed to Louisville and knocked off a small, but star-studded field in the 1969 Kentucky Derby. But unlike their other Derby winners of that time, Swaps, Lucky Debonair and Determine, they never saw "The Prince" again.

Through the 1950s and ‘60s, California racing fans, just as passionate and rabid as New York fans, had to be content cheering on their own, while reading about all the great ones back east in their daily newspapers or in the trade publications. East coast horses rarely journeyed to California after the winter, and those who did stayed only briefly. The fans did reap the rewards of Citation's return to the races after a year's layoff, but again only saw the remnants of what was once one of the great horses of all time.

During the early-to-mid 1970s, Californians never saw Secretariat or Forego or Ruffian unless they traveled back east. They did get an occasional visit from 1970 Horse of the Year and champion grass horse Fort Marcy, who had several memorable battles with West Coasters Fiddle Isle and Cougar II. And they saw 1969 Horse of the Year Arts and Letters once, but he was injured in the Californian and never ran again.

It wasn't until 1978-80 that the folks out west were able to get their fill of great horses such as Affirmed and Spectacular Bid. But once again, these weren't hometown heroes to worship, like Swaps and Native Diver and John Henry, but more like superstars on loan until they returned back east for the big fall championship races.

Ferdinand was a perfect hero for Californians, winning the 1986 Derby for 73-year-old Charlie Whittingham and 54-year-old Bill Shoemaker, two of the most legendary figures in California racing. The following year Ferdinand defeated '87 Derby winner Alysheba by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Classic and the West Coasters went wild. But Alysheba would twice get his revenge on Ferdinand the following winter.

The most heated East vs. West rivalry came in 1989 when the Californians took great satisfaction in seeing Sunday Silence, also trained by Whittingham, then 76, beat the pride of New York, Easy Goer, in three of their four confrontations. This was Charlie and PVal, and for one race, McCarron, taking on the blueblood Phipps establishment. New Yorkers still were convinced Easy Goer was the superior horse, and if there had been an Internet in those days, the verbal battles would have gotten ugly.

California produced several other Kentucky Derby winners, but none they could embrace over a period of time, as horses like A.P. Indy and Point Given would head east to earn their Horse of the Year titles, as would the late-developing Tiznow on two occasions. Except for a brief, unproductive return in a grade III race, their Derby queen, Winning Colors, also deserted them.

Then there were the true-blue California fillies, like Bayakoa, Paseana, Typecast, Flawlessly, and Horse of the Year Azeri. All were charismatic champions, doing the bulk of their racing in California.

But never before have Californians had a hero of the magnitude of Zenyatta. They didn't embrace her; they worshipped her, and defended her as they would any deity. Unlike their previous superstars, Zenyatta has never tasted defeat and each race (16 of the 18 have been in California) has brought her closer to a coveted and unprecedented 20-for-20 career record and being proclaimed the greatest female racehorse of all time. California has never had an equine hometown hero regarded as "THE greatest," although many feel their adopted son, John Henry, is the greatest grass horse of all time.

But, just as was the case with Swaps, who had his Nashua, and Sunday Silence, who had his Easy Goer, and Round Table, who had his Bold Ruler and Gallant Man, and Winning Colors, who had her Personal Ensign, and Native Diver, who had the specter of Kelso hanging over his head for half a decade, Zenyatta had her Rachel Alexandra.

When, in their minds, the "East Coast bias" gave the Horse of the Year title to Rachel, Californians were livid. They felt their hero had been unjustly deprived the national recognition she deserved. Just once, they wanted one of their own - a Californian from start to finish -- to stand alone and capture the hearts of the entire nation. But to the majority of the country, Zenyatta was a TV hero, and even then only if they had TVG or HRTV. Her fans across the country longed to see her in the flesh, but had to be content to thrill to her victories at home. Thus, Zenyatta's heroics never reached the mainstream media as it should have.

After all, Zenyatta has been unlike any other Thoroughbred in memory. Whether she actually possesses human traits or is perceived to possess them, she is the ultimate diva who has entertained her fans like a Ziegfeld ingénue. She not only inspired a toe-tapping Country Western song and video, she even danced to it. She has always known how to work a crowd and work her way into people's hearts.

As she kept winning and winning and winning, anyone was welcome to hop aboard the bandwagon, and thousands did, from big cities to small towns, with the understanding that Zenyatta belonged to California. But many also remained loyal to Rachel Alexandra, which brought about more than a year of Filly Fisticuffs and Matronly Melees. Unfortunately, to this date, those battles have only been fought by proxy off the track and nothing has been settled in the arena. And who knows if it ever will.

Despite Zenyatta's unbeaten record, an unforgettable victory over the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and her occasional heart-throbbing finishes, the poison-dipped arrows kept coming from the East, most of them directed at Zenyatta's connections for going back on their word and keeping her sequestered in California, while running against inferior competition. Zenyatta's followers reacted aggressively and gave as good as they got, often dishing it out with more fervor than the enemy.

Californians couldn't give a hoot about their hero being a homebody. They just wanted to live the Zenyatta experience as often as they could, and it didn't matter in the slightest who the competition was.

How the final chapter will read when Zenyatta's place in history is determined, no one knows. She will go ‘all-in" in her second attempt at the Breeders' Cup Classic, this time traveling back East, running on a strange dirt track, and likely meeting a deeper and more talented field than she did in 2009.

If she can pull if off, Californians finally will have the "greatest ever" horse (in this case a filly) they've been searching for for the past 60 years. Some feel they already have it. Even if she doesn't pull it off, Zenyatta's heroics, as localized as they've been, will forever be part of California racing lore. And over time, her greatness likely will be recognized nationwide even by the skeptics. A defeat in the Classic will not dry the tears of joy Zenyatta's fans - all over the country -- have already shed in bucketfuls.

So, if you're a Zenyatta detractor or a Rachel Alexandra zealot or simply object to the way Zenyatta has been campaigned, let the Californians worship their goddess as they wish. They've been waiting a long time for her.


Leave a Comment:

Steve Haskin

At the request of the moderators, with whom I am in total agreement, I will be the first to comment on here to ask everyone to please refrain from starting another Zenyatta--Rachel pissing match. That is not what this is about. It has nothing to with the merits of the two horses. It is about California -- its fans and a little history of racing in the state. Any comment bashing either filly or comparing the two in any way will not see the light of day. Thanks.

15 Aug 2010 7:00 PM

Steve, first let me say is was great pleasure to meet you and your lovely wife at Monmouth yesterday. I read your article with a smile since I wasn't sure if the quick question I asked you about Zenyatta inspired you to put pen to paper (sort of speak). Anyway if it did,I am honored,if not, don't tell me and play along.LOL! Anyway, I have alot of West Coast friends and I am happy they have gotten to enjoy Zenyatta. When a friend of mine emailed me a short video clip he took at her last race I truly understood why the Moss's don't want to leave the comfort of their homebase. The fans are just crazy over their mare. My friend was high in the grandstand, up on the final turn; there was no way the fans there could tell if she had won that race, yet they were crying, highfiving each other and celebrating to the max! It is true love and they have fallen head over heels for the big mare. I,living in NJ can only watch with envy and wish my situation was different, so that I could make it out west to see her. Tee shirts, DVDs and photos will have to do for this east coast fan. But in my heart I can't blame Zenyatta's connections, because she is their prize and they are doing what they feel is best for her. And that, to me, is the most important thing an horseowner can do.

Hope to met you again someday.

15 Aug 2010 7:13 PM

Thank you for this one, Steve. I love your mention of Mr. Millerick - I am very happy about his induction.

15 Aug 2010 7:27 PM

Mr Haskin- Thank you.  I'm not a West Coast fan, my home track being Arlington Park, but I appreciate what team Zenaytta and Zenyatta herself have done to support Californoia racing, and I appreciate what you have written.  I am a fan of horse racing, but am a huge fan and supporter of Zenyatta.  Thank you again.

15 Aug 2010 7:30 PM
Greg J.

Great read Mr. Haskin, I enjoyed it immensely, Thank You.

15 Aug 2010 7:31 PM

It is not just Californians but all the West who thinks that Zenyatta is the greatest.

15 Aug 2010 7:39 PM
Laura from Monroe GA

Ahh, but it's not just the west coast that worships her.   She has legions of zealots east of the Mississippi as well.  I can't wait to bow to her in Novemeber.  BC, here I come!!!

15 Aug 2010 7:49 PM

Done. Now, how about that Sidney's Candy as a new California "STAR"? We may have a legitimate challenger to Goldikova in the BC Turf Mile! Yippee-kay-yay! BTW, do you think they will give Sidney back to Joe Talamo?

Also, great recall on the West Coast icon, Ancient Title. I saw him many times as a kid, and we could never get enough of this wonderful champion.

15 Aug 2010 7:52 PM

A superbly crafted commentary.  I am neither an East Coast nor a West Coast resident.  I live in Texas.  And, I've been waiting a long time for Zenyatta, too.

I've been following racing for over 40 years and I've never seen one like her.  

Too bad so many can't appreciate what is in front of their faces.

15 Aug 2010 7:53 PM

This was a really cute read, Steve.  As an East-coaster, it was fun to read more about the past California heroes.

But you can bet your house I'd have been a rabid Easy Goer supporter in those years!

15 Aug 2010 7:54 PM

Thanks for trying, Steve! You're a class act. Personally, I can't figure out why anyone who understands and follows horse racing would knock a horse with a perfect record. Really. Why is that? I guess some of it may be "east coast bias", but here is a race horse who has already made history, no matter what she does in future races, and I don't care if she's considered "Calfornia's" horse. She's out there for all of us race fans to enjoy. I have to laugh when Zenyatta wins another race and people knock her. Oh the things I've read on these blogs and message boards. It floors me. Sure, people are entitled to their opinions, but the same people knock her or her connections over and over and over again. What's the point? Go find another hobby. Zenyatta's going down in horse racing history as one of the best, like it or not.  Rock on, Z! I adore you, and your connections!

15 Aug 2010 7:54 PM

Thanks Steve for another well written article. I guess you would consider me an east coast fan I live in TN,and I am a Zenyatta lover also. I agree also they should be allowed their time in the sun. The short history lesson was very interesting. I have never stopped to think about it like that. For me the draw to her is not just the racing it is that "whole" horse. I will be there at the BCC and hope to see history made. I saw her at Oaklawn this year and it was an amazing experience. So many people there just to watch her. I hope that one day both sides of the country will realize that there is amazing talent on both ends. We are blessed by the talent running this year. Safe trips to all concerned.

15 Aug 2010 7:55 PM

As a Californian I cannot express how proud and in love I am with Zenyatta. My fiance and I will be in Louisville cheering on our hometown girl!!! We are also looking forward to seeing Rachel. I am so excited I cannot wait. The two great mares in racing right now will finally run against each other (fingers crossed). Go ladies kick some male booty!!!!

15 Aug 2010 7:57 PM

Steve,  I live on the east coast but I am a diehard Zenyatta fan.

I say let her run her next race in Cali,  when she comes east she cant find anyone willing to take her on. She is coming to KEntucky in Nov.    that is good enough for the naysayers.  Zenny dont have to prove anything to anyone except to run in the classic,  if she choses not at the last minute,  so be it,  I wont love her any less.  I think she is the best filly I have lived to see ,  I will be pulliing for her forever,  she can do no wrong in this fans eyes, and her connections have done a superb job with her.

Zenyatta is the only horse that has done everything they have asked of her, but yet some claim she hasnt done enough.   Thats their ignorance.   She is so great,  that everyone is scared to take her on,  especially on the east coast.  They do everything to dodge her.

15 Aug 2010 8:04 PM

Nice article Steve and I especially appreciate your historical references. I applaud those who keep racing these talented horses long enough to endear them to the public. That's what's been missing... That's what will bring people back to the sport.

15 Aug 2010 8:05 PM

Racing, itself has been waiting for a star that could light up the nation. I think overall, the RA vs Zen is good. I agree with you, had there been internet the Easy Goer and SS rivalry would've gotten nasty. Personally, I never got to see those two duke it out, but IMO the you can't make a case for a horse who lost 3 out of the four times the two met. Easy Goer was, in his own right brilliant, and was probably better at distances over 10 furlongs, but 10 furlongs is the champions distance here and SS won 3 out of the four matches fair and square.

With RA and Zenyatta, it almost seems like the two horses were swaped. SS, the west coast horse was the quicker, more agile horse. EG had a monsterous late kick, with that big long ground eating stride, like Zenyatta. It's like those two came back in female form and switched coasts.

I can understand why there might be the thought of East Coast biased, but there are those out there who really could care less what coast the horse is from. I've liked plenty of West Coast horses, and I'm on the east. Colonel John was my pick for the Derby, and POTN was the next year. I loved Lava Man. Everything about him was just so fairytale like. Heck, I'm also a Rail Trip fan, though RA is my favorite.

I understand the want to keep such a treasure like Zenyatta all to themselves, but in all honesty, when RA had a hard time early in the year, that was the time for the connections of Zenyatta to step up and let their mare light up the entire country, instead of just one coast. I'm not saying she would've saved racing, but Zenyatta does evoke emotions. She has that aura that RA seemed to lose early this year. She's such a superstar, such a bright and shining light that she should've been allowed to burn all the greater.

What I don't get is the need to trash one filly. The "poison tipped" arrows went flying from the west as soon as RA went down to Zardana. They still come after she has won. I know in a way, to some, it is vindication, but the truth is, both had great years in 2009, RA just had a YEAR, litterally, for the record books. Either one would've been a deserving winner. In all honesty, even if Zenyatta had won HOTY, then had been the one to come back and lose, I would not feel vindicated. The year they both had last year cannot be taken away from either one of them. Not by an award, or a loss a year later.

I know that way back when the West was severly looked down upon. I understand stars have "deserted" them, and that Zenyatta is now a hero, deserving of her worship. However RA belongs to the east. We lover her, and fans like me aren't going to stop. Just because person that you have never met, except through interent exchanges, wants to act like an idiot and post idiodic slams does not mean responding by slamming the other horse is right. Those who slam Zenyatta and can't appriciate her are not the ones deserving of your time and thoughts. The same goes for any Rachel Fans. Both are treasures, both deserve respect.

15 Aug 2010 8:08 PM

i agre no rachel in here its zenyatta only she great i hope she wins her 2nd bcc i am a new fan brought into  the sport in for watching her, becasuse of zenyatta she has someting special and can bring more new fans to the sport its badly needed and we will miss her next year

15 Aug 2010 8:16 PM

I had the pleasure of grooming horses for Buster Millerick when Native Diver won the first of three Hollywood Gold Cups.  Buster was truly an outstanding horseman and my stint with him helped me immensely during my own training career. Great horses and horsemen come from everywhere.

15 Aug 2010 8:16 PM

Wow..how anyone can read this with a dry eye needs a reality check. Thank you so much Steve. You touched my soul when you wrote this. I had the pleasure of seeing Zenyatta run last weekend at Del Mar. It was my fifth time seeing her in person and I came away even more convinced. Zenyatta is one of the greatest I have ever seen run. Parents who brought their kids were telling them to take in what they were watching because they'd never see the likes of her again. After she crossed the finish line. People were hugging and high fiving each other until they got  to the parking lot. Then it was every man for himself. My husband who had never attended a horse race until he met me seven years ago. Had tears of joy in his eyes as Mike Smith paraded Zenyatta in front of the stands. Citation and Seabiscuit were before my time and many of the other greats that you mentioned. I was either too young or unable to see them run in person. As long as Zenyatta remains in California. I will make very effort to see her run before she's retired to her new career.

15 Aug 2010 8:19 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Woohoo !!! I love that first comment. Zenyatta is one of the greatest of all time but won't get her due unless she wins or comes very close to winning the Classic this year. Her stride, the ground she can gobble up in no time, and her will to win is exceptional. Her antics pre-race add to her charm. She's a real lady. I suspect there will still be a few detractors even if she wins The Classic this year, but they will be wrong. Let's hope she can do it to prove that she is one of the greatest of all time. I want to pay tribute to another great California horse-Lost In The Fog whose losses at the end of his short career and life were when he already had the cancer that took his life. He was a dominating sprinter who I believe would have been considered the greatest sprinter of all time had he not been stricken with the disease. He won the first 10 races of his career with Beyer Speed Figures from 102 to 116. He ran a six furlong race in 1:07.1. He ran a seven furlong race in 1:21.1. He shipped to Calder to win The Carryback by over seven lengths, earning a 116 Beyer. He is my King of California racing, and Zenyatta is my Queen. I also loved John Henry and was lucky to see him at the track.

15 Aug 2010 8:21 PM

Mr. Haskin,

FINALLY, somebody understands us and how we feel about OUR Zenyatta, the perceived or real eastern snobbery and our feeling that, if the rest of the U.S. fails to recognize her greatness, we are very content to keep her HERE, where people are absolutely in love with this amazing mare.

It doesn't surprise me in the least that YOU are THE ONE, among the turfwriters, who gets it and gets it completely. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

15 Aug 2010 8:22 PM

Being a native Californian who saw Swaps run as a child I deeply appreciate your column Steve!  Now it's Zenyatta's turn to shine on our state in all her deserved glory.  I love and appreciate all the horses, they do their best for us after all, but I do hold Zenyatta very dear.  Not just for her abilities but for her loyalty to California.  I thank the Mosses, Sherriffs, Steve Willard, Mario, etc. for bringing her our way!

15 Aug 2010 8:22 PM
Rachel O

I've been around a while, nearly 78 years, always loved horses because of their unearthly beauty--to me they are the most ravishing of all the earth's species, and there are more than a few. I don't usually see them as highly intelligent, but one exception has come along. Her name is Zenyatta.

I've never seen any horse more stunningly beautiful than Zenyatta. But that's just the beginning. Californians are greatly blessed to have her in the vicinity, and I've been fortunate enough to get down out of the hills four times--having driven thousands of miles--to watch her run. And she is SMART, always knows just where the finish pole is.

One thing to remember is that she is a huge horse, and that she has been cared for with such brilliance that she is still sound after 18 wins. Her connections, as conservative as they have been, care much more for her well-being than they do how much money she makes, and--well, how much has she earned by now? Quite a sum indeed!

Perhaps it is the most fun to watch the effect she has on people who set eyes on her. She came from Kentucky, originally, not California, but she has been described as otherworldly, so it scarcely matters where her home barn is. When thousands line up to see her and get their first glimpse of her, some kind of rapturous fire ignites in them.

If you want to know how beloved she is, just ask the jockeys. They adore her. They know just how beautiful her rear end is, too, having experienced that vision many times.

No one wanted to see Rachel Alexandra more than I did, and I hope to see both horses in the BCC on TV this fall. We've all been disappointed that the 3 matchups between Z and RA did not take place, for whatever reason.

The main point I'm trying to make is that Zenyatta is like no other being you could ever see. There will never be another horse that will thrill the fans so much as she has, so if you are lucky enough to have the chance, go see her in the flesh. Seeing her is an unfortgettable lifetime experience, and in times like these, much better and longer-lasting than pills, dope, or booze.

The last two years have been very rough for me in terms of personal loss--not just money loss. The Big Z has carried me through it. Like Shirley Temple and Seabiscuit, who came along to brighten peoples' lives in the Great Depression, Zenyatta has done much the same today.

She is one of a kind.

15 Aug 2010 8:26 PM

This is probably a most inappropriate comment but I think I love you for this blog entry. It stuns me how perfectly you capture our sentiments about our Queen, how far we'll go stanning for her against all her detractors. Even in my moments of doubt and my skepticism over the management of her campaign - which I no longer complain about after what I heard of her condition following her trip to Oaklawn this year - I'll never give an inch. She is ours. She is our racing superstar. She is the one we look at with adoring eyes and say, "She's California, through and through. West Coast represent!" Doesn't matter she was born and bred in Kentucky; she moved here, she trained here, she debuted here, she won her Breeders' Cup races here. I was in the crowd for her Classic victory and people were sobbing over what they just saw - our horse, beating the best the rest of the States and Europe had to offer.

You can't get better than that.

15 Aug 2010 8:29 PM

Great article! Both mares are wonderful for racing and I hope they both continue their great careers.

15 Aug 2010 8:31 PM

Steve, thank you so much for this wonderful blog. As a long-time Californian who has missed many of the greats because they haven't run here, I am overjoyed to be able to see Zenyatta campaign here. I will be traveling from the northern part of the state to Santa Anita in October if she enters the race now named for her, the Zenyatta Stakes. To have this impressive mare here is a tremendous gift to us California fans, and I am grateful beyond words for that.

This is an aside, but I wanted to suggest a future topic if you are so inclined to cover it, unless you already have and I just missed it. I would love to hear your thoughts on why there are still so few female jockeys competing at the top tier of racing.

And as always, thank you for your insightful articles, which I look forward to. I'm not only a fan of Zenyatta, but of you as well.

15 Aug 2010 8:32 PM

"...meeting a deeper and more talented field than she did in 2009."

Says who? They haven't even taken entries for the race yet. I guess it must automatically be deeper just because it's in the eastern time zone on dirt as old as the eastern bias. You don't want a Zenyatta vs. Rachel Alexandra debate, but you're asking for an east coast - west coast debate.

15 Aug 2010 8:34 PM

Loved the article and couldn't agree more with the intent of your comment.

Hailing from Illinois, I think I'm a centrist of sorts.

15 Aug 2010 8:38 PM
John T

California racing deserves there day in the sun.I know the day after Christmas when I have had my fair share of that old Turkey one of the things I most look forward to is opening day at Santa Anita.It,s a great meeting not only for their great program for 3 year old colts and filles leading up to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks but also what a great turf meeting they have and I always look forward

to that final turf stakes at the meeting,the San Juan Capistrano over a mile and three quarters.

California racing is a very important cog in the wheel of North American Racing.

15 Aug 2010 8:38 PM

Thanks for the trip down memory lane... No grudge against CA fans & sportsmen/women.  They deserve their hometown heroine .... And the rest of us who have plenty of room in our hearts can live vicariously thru them.  For now, I'm content to watch the replays online and the rare live race I can manage to pick up.  

15 Aug 2010 8:48 PM
Judy Loves John Henry & Queen Zenny ~ California

"John Henry became one of the most beloved Californians of all time, but he, like Seabiscuit, was the lost, adopted child they took in after spending most of his life toiling in racing's basements and back alleys. And, also like Seabiscuit, he did quite a bit of traveling, racing 16 times outside of California after arriving at trainer Ron McAnally's barn."

"California has never had an equine hometown hero regarded as "THE greatest," although many feel their adopted son, John Henry, is the greatest grass horse of all time."


If John Henry had a baby sister ~ he would chose ZENYATTA!

15 Aug 2010 8:54 PM

East coast west coast, don't give a flip. Just give me a fast pony to cheer for. An unbeaten Graded stakes winning mare going "all in" for a second time? Awesome!!! I remember drifting from racing and tuning in the the BCC one autumn afternoon and watching all the pre-race bios and they did one on Tiznow and his former owner. The thought that Queen Z could be in the exclusive 1 male and now 1 female back to back club is AMAZING! Go Z! We are rooting for you in Ohio!!!

15 Aug 2010 8:57 PM

I don't know why folks keep saying her greatness is not being recognized.

15 Aug 2010 9:03 PM

Nice article Steve.

I'm a former East Coast resident who did in fact cheer for Personal Ensign over W.Colors and for Easy Goer over Sunday Silence, but I am now a huge Zenyatta fan.  I understand that it is nice to have a local hero but with racing needing stars it is fustrating to hear or see people denegrating horses for things they have no control over.  "Zenyatta can only run on plastic or can only win in California". Obv. both are false but even if it were true who cares? She is amazing to watch run. Enjoy her and her accompishments.  They don't happen all the time.

I do however,  think that you might be premature in stating that the field for the 2010 Classic will be deeper and more talented than last year's Classic.  It does look exciting with Q.Road, Blame, Zen and Looking at Lucky pointing toward the race but who knows what will happen by November.  I do hope you are right since I have pretty good seats!

15 Aug 2010 9:07 PM

Zenyatta has gone to Arkansas twice but that's still west of the Mississippi.  She was going to race at Churchill on Rachel's Oaks victory day, but was scratched because of the wet track. I wonder why Silver Charm and Real Quiet didn't make the list.  I have lived in Boston and California but am originally from the Midwest.  Maybe that's why I could care less where Zenyatta is from.  I just feel her charisma, racing style and success make her one of the most memorable horses ever.  The fact that she is Forgo's size helps also.  She does have Forli in her pedigree.  It is because of her size that Sheriffs didn't want her on a wet track.  She would sink into the mud.  Forgo had that problem. I think Rail Trip, Blame and Lookin At Lucky are her biggest threats in the Breeder's Cup since I don't think Quality Road is at his best at the 1 1/4 distance.  Perhaps a European horse might also be in the running but their lack of dirt and clockwise racing experience may  serve as disadvantages.  I am not casting aspersions on Rachel Alexandra at all, but  I also think she will experience distance limitations. I think she could beat Zenyatta at a mile and a sixteenth and it's a tossup at a mile and and eighth but not at a mile and a quarter.  We should pinch ourselves that such great distaffs are still racing. I don't think Personal Ensign ever ran out West but it didn't effect her prestige.  If it had been a dry track I think Winning Colors would have won, despite having already run one of the greatest three year old filly campaigns ever.

15 Aug 2010 9:09 PM
Kit J

Great article Steve!

Such a way with words and my goodness do I remember all of those great old horses. My Dad STILL talks about seeing Seabiscuit when he was out there.

At one time the California fans and tracks were among the best in the country. ALL of the biggest of the bigs trained there, Charlie Whittingham, Jack Van Berg, Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella, Ron McAnally, Laz Barrera and on and on. The jockey colony was always considered among the best in the country.

Then the state fell on difficult times, lots of factors caused issues at the tracks, ownership of the tracks, fiscal issues that caused some trainers to leave and the advent of casino gambling not to mention the installation of synthetics. Now they are in trouble, but then again which tracks aren't?

However having the honor to travel there to see Zenyatta and family members traveling there several times to see her? The fans LOVE her and rightfully so.

In a time of economic difficulty, foreclosures, job loss, the threat to the tracks? I personally cannot see how anyone can begrudge the fans there a heroine. She's becoming that to even casual fans as well as some who never WERE fans before her. I say anything that can bring some of the old luster back to Cal racing? Hip hip hooray!

15 Aug 2010 9:15 PM
Mike Relva


Well written,I've been a die hard Zenyatta fan for the past three yrs but also respect RA as a once in a lifetime horse also. Too much time is spent knocking both horses instead of appreciating two rare racing treasures as they deserve to be.

15 Aug 2010 9:16 PM

Zenyatta is a wonderful California horse. She will have a place in history and I actually hope that she can pull off the BBC this year. It would cement her place and quiet some that have doubted her along the way. Anyone that likes this game should love to watch the special ones run. California also had Lava Man and he ran an impressive string of races together in California. His didnt end so well so lets hope that the girl can do it. I will cheer her on in the BBC but my money will be on others that day. The sport needs champions and lets hope that this one works out.

15 Aug 2010 9:24 PM

Well spoken, Steve.  As a native Californian living in Kentucky, I can appreciate both horses.  I do hope we'll see Zenyatta in the east, and I wish Californians had been able to see Rachel, at her best, in the west.  All the arguments on both sides make sense to me (I generally go with the thought that Rachel's schedule won her the title by a sniff last year, and this year, everyone will have to go some---go a lot---to beat Zenyatta).  

15 Aug 2010 9:24 PM

The internet, with it's blogs and interfacing sites, has provided me with quite the learning/life experience.   Apparently, loyalties are regional, and I see now that I was very foolish to spend Thanksgiving weekend '08 crying for an east-coast horse named Wanderin' Boy, to the extent that I was unable to attend Zenyatta's parade the next day.  Now I realize what a fool I was to miss out on that.  

15 Aug 2010 9:25 PM

As a native New Yorker who has only laid eyes on "the  Great Z" from the hued pixels of the small screen, I have relished each and every heart pounding stride across the finish. As much as I would have loved to have seen her run in the Beldame at Belmont Park, I will still be shouting for her in the confines of my living room. East vs. West will always be a debate for the ages. I will, as I'm sure many will (and have done before me) wonder...what it matters where they come from, for GREATNESS knows no boundaries and surely doesn't have any location. Thank you, again, Mr. Haskin!

15 Aug 2010 9:33 PM
needler in Virginia

Steve, I promise I will NOT defame either mare OR their connections, but I must say this. I really do not give a rat's patoot where Zenyatta hangs her hat, except that I haven't gotten to see her live and in living color yet. AND, while we live in Virginia, I think Zenyatta is one of the greatest things that has happened to racing in years. She is the total package with personality and talent to burn, and I LOVE WATCHING HER RUN. And when anyone asks "well, who has she REALLY beaten?" we can answer that she has beaten the best males in the world in last year's BC Classic and seems likely to do so again. She has brought people to the tracks who have NEVER even seen a horse race, she attracts little girls and little boys, and grandparents and GREAT grandparents, and friends of friends,  and has given everyone memorable moments and  flashes of an almost supernatural presence, so  Californian or not, three cheers for the big mare!!! You go, girl!

SEE, Steve? I really can behave myself for the odd moment or two.

Cheers and safe trips.

15 Aug 2010 9:34 PM

Great article! Thank you for writing this. I grew up in California and not old enough to have seen all the greats you mentioned, but I love reading about them!

15 Aug 2010 9:34 PM

Great piece, Steve! I hope my fellow Californians realize how truly lucky we are to have Zenyatta as our representative. As her connections have said, she is an "experience", and let me say it has been an exhilarating experience for me ever since I saw her break her maiden. She, like Tiznow, has made proud to be a part of California racing.

15 Aug 2010 9:36 PM

I am from the east coast and frankly I love Zenyatta. I am a huge fan. I thoroughly understand how Californians love her. I do too. I have not felt this way about any other horse since Buckpasser. It is not just being a Californian to love her. There is something about her; her dance before the race--something about her that is so compelling. I can't describe it, but I do feel it as well.

By the way, I remember Native Diver very well too.

15 Aug 2010 9:41 PM

As a California native, currently living on the East Coast for an extended period of time, I can say with conviction that California has always maintained a superiority complex. California has never taken a back seat attitude toward any other state. And why should they? The current political/financial abyss aside, it has everything to offer & more. And now they have the glitz horse & there's no way they aren't going to show their admiration & pride. Zenyatta is the quintessential Hollywood horse: glamourous, talented & larger than life with a unique personality. She has star power.  Where else would a celeb of this magnitude hail from but California.

15 Aug 2010 9:44 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Lovely article. As a new fan of racing, I can't express what a great experience Santa Anita's Breeders Cup Classic was for me last year. How can we not love Zen? What personality!! She is so "Hollywood"!

15 Aug 2010 9:45 PM

While I'd admire and respect Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta is, indeed, as Mike Smith said, the horse of the decade. I love her!

15 Aug 2010 9:52 PM

Wonderful read, and oh, so true! She has captured the hearts of California fans in a time when racing most needs a Goddess.

She has also captured the hearts of maybe more people than is thought across the country.Zenyatta has what few horses before her have had, charisma and a love of her adoring fans. She plays to them before, during and after her races. And she never has disappointed them, not even once. And no, I am not a California native, nor do I live in Cali.

15 Aug 2010 9:57 PM
Pam S.


This was such a great piece, and it highlighted yet another aspect of Zenyatta's uniqueness:  She is California's hero, no one else's.  California racing may be down, but it's not out -- it has Zenyatta.

I live in Nevada, but when it comes to racing I'm a Californian.  I loved Azeri.  She was somewhat like Zenyatta and ran in many of the same races, but she suffered an injury in the middle of her stellar career, then changed trainers and left the Golden State.  Zenyatta, on the other hand, has been in continuous residence at Hollywood Park and is like a beloved family pet to her connections.

Yeah, except for Oaklawn, she never left California like she was supposed to (per Mr. Moss' comments after the Eclipses), and she ran in all the same races AGAIN.  To all the Easterners who never got to see Zenyatta, we would have loaned you our precious mare (as long as she came right back).  But I think there was a re-evaluation of what was best for her following the Apple Blossom trip, and maybe after the big girl is retired, we might hear more about this.

One goal remains for Zenyatta, and that is defending her BCC crown.  I believe another goal was to support California racing and perform for all the West Coast fans who consider her "their" horse, and she's been doing that all along.  Perfectly.

15 Aug 2010 10:00 PM

Zenyatta belongs to all of horse racing, not just to California.  She is an incredible animal, who puts on an incredible performance every single time she walks over to the paddock and races.  The racing industry has done itself a huge disservice to not embrace her (and all other greats including Rachel Alexander) and use them to market our sport.  We have a sport in trouble and we somehow can't get Zenyatta's antics on main stream news?

15 Aug 2010 10:01 PM

Great article! It really opened my eyes to California's racing history. Kinda makes me think of my little hometown track of Canterbury Park. In the eastern part of the country but not really a part of the east coast racing. :(

15 Aug 2010 10:03 PM

I grew up on California racing- Cougar II, Manta, Fiddle Isle, et al.  Back in those days they showed the feature races on network TV every week.  I was so proud of Ack Ack, Typecast, andCougar II when they won championships.  I always felt an Eastern bias.   One reason I loved Lava Man was because he was a California horse who won over every kind of surface.   I am sure my love for Zenyatta is partly because she's a California girl.  I feel that since the introduction of synthetic surfaces in California the bias is MUCH worse.

15 Aug 2010 10:03 PM

Superb history lesson Steve, as per your usual.  I know you have been asked before but please let me ask, when are you going to write a book on Native Diver?  You would do the great black tornedo justice.  Ah and to remember Majestic Prince, Ack Ack, and a lesser known but determined Corn Off The Cob who stood at Rancho El Murieta.  Thank yoiu again Steve.  

15 Aug 2010 10:06 PM

Great article Steve!

No one will ever be able to take away all the wonderful memories that Californians have made with their beloved Zenyatta.  

There are many of us "back East" who bow with greatest respect to the best horse that many of us have ever known.  Yes, we wish that she had made it out this way a few more times... but I give full credit to her connections for a well laid battle plan.  To those who say that she has faced lesser horses by staying in California...

ONE:  You should pay attention to that pesky little number at the end of most of the races that Zenyatta has won... you know... "Grade 1"


TWO:  the last time I checked... the transport jets flew BOTH ways... East AND West!!

Maybe once she retires to make "Baby Z's", they can find a way to keep her in California- I just hate the idea of splitting up Team Zenyatta and taking her away from all her fans out there!

Debs from NC...

A Zenyatta Fan!

15 Aug 2010 10:14 PM

I have loved watching Zenyatta run and win her races.  I will even arrange my schedule to see her run.  Unfortunately just on TV since I don't live in CA anymore.  We are planning to go to the Breeders Cup, for the first time, with the intent to cheer her to another historic win.  We can't wait!

15 Aug 2010 10:14 PM

As a life long Californian and a racing fan, thank you.  I am a fan of both Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. I don't think it has to be one or the other.  I enjoy watching both of them run.  Should they ever meet on the track I will cheer for them both, hope that they both come home safely and may the best filly/mare win.  

15 Aug 2010 10:18 PM

Ther are many California stories, but the greatest one is the one that never happened. In my opinion the greatest horse that raced in California never got pass Chicago. However, his greatness has been realized in the breeding shed and was not always given the best opportunities for success there. Nevertheless, his legacy lived thru his son Forego and his blood flows in the veins of both Champions Rachel Alexandra,Zenyatta, and many others.

15 Aug 2010 10:19 PM

There has never been a mare like Zenyatta and there never will be.

Aren't we blessed to have her living is sunny California.

15 Aug 2010 10:25 PM

Thank you, Steve, for explaining just how important Zenyatta is to us California fans.  We have world class racing, but all too often we seem to be looked down upon by the East Coast writers and fans.  Today, it's all about the synthetic tracks, but before that it was the "cardboard" dirt tracks that were maligned.  Maybe they are just jealous of our weather?

Anyway, Zenyatta is truly our first "home grown" great horse, so I hope those outside the state can forgive us if we get a little delirious when we talk about her.  Also, a great part of Zenyatta's magic comes from simply being in her presence, something those who haven't had the chance to see her in person just can't understand.  She is a great racehorse but more importantly she is a great individual.  The same type of personality that made Barbaro such a favorite is Zen's ace in the hole.  You can't see her and not immediately fall in love with her.  Her joy at running and showing off her dance moves is infectious.  THIS is why we love her and sometimes get a little crazy in her defense.  As the Police sang, "Every little thing she does is magic ..."

15 Aug 2010 10:25 PM
Karen in Indiana

I'm from Indiana and I agree with the Californians who think the 'East Coast' bias cost Zenyatta Horse of the Year. She has captured some attention from mainstream media - she was #2 last year on Sports Illustrated's Female Athlete list, behind one of the Williams sisters (I get them mixed up). But the horse racing industry has done nothing to build on that exposure to the general public, to its shame.

15 Aug 2010 10:29 PM
Karen in Indiana

P.S. Thank you once again, Steve, for the history and background that sheds light on one reason why people's attitudes and feelings run strong on this issue.

15 Aug 2010 10:30 PM
Meydan Rocks

Thank you Steve!

Thank you for sharing another beautiful piece and THANK YOU especially, for your first comment.

May all posters take heed! Let's enjoy these gorgeous equines for the pleasure they bring us while risking their lives!!!

Have a great week!

15 Aug 2010 10:31 PM

As I was reading this my apprehension grew.  I knew another firestorm would be brewing about our two current superstars.  When I read the last of your article and your comment, I just laughed and smiled.

What a neat idea.  I've let a lot go as Zenyatta nears the end of her amazing run.  I've always adored her, and this article helps me understand and appreciate the history so much more.

I pray for Zenyatta's safety, her health, and her happiness, and I can't wait to see what unfolds.

15 Aug 2010 10:32 PM
Julie's Twin Charm

Great blog! Hadn't ever considered California racing in such an extensive historical context. I don't blame California for wanting Zenyatta all to themselves :) Just wish we could have shared for more than two races (soon to be three!) of her career.  

15 Aug 2010 10:35 PM
Janesville Liz

Zenyatta is not just a horse California fans can be proud of and love, but all horse lovers. It does not matter where she races--she has won twelve Grade I races, 8 of them in a row. She has beaten the best horses assembled in such races as the BC Classic. To those who criticize her connections for staying in Califirnia--well, opponents have every opportunity to come and take her on. Her record is totally one that entitles her to be called not just great, but possibly one of the greatest of all time, male or female. Californians have every right to be happy that this magnificent creature is based in their state. But as a horse lover and racing fan, I consider myself blessed to not only have Zenyatta racing, but Rachel Alexandra, as well. They are two gorgeous animals, both have earned the right to be called great, both are surely Hall of Famers in their first year of eligibility, and racing fans should enjoy them both, as we will probably never see the likes of either again in our lifetime. I for one don't care who is better--I love them both and feel blessed to have two such wonderful horses to enjoy.

15 Aug 2010 10:39 PM

Steve: Thanks so much for such a moving tribute to the horseracing capital of the West and all it's magnificant stars.  Although I live on the East Coast in the heart of horse country (near Middleburg Virginia), I have been drawn to the stars of California.  It was the  heart warming book about Seabiscuit and then the wonderful movie that captured my fancy.  And then it was in watching the reality series about Jockeys on Animal Planet that I first saw this charismatic and mightly dark bay mare with the unusual name "Zenyatta".  I was mesmerized by this Black Beauty and her amazing running style.  I was instantly a fan and have watched her every move since then!

I have viewed most of her races over and over on the internet and especially enjoy all the You Tube videos by John Sheriffs, Larry Zapeye and others. I have never been so taken by a horse and I can't say why that is except that she seems to possess so many human traits.  She is a phenomenon and deserves a place in history among the greats! As a native Virginian and "east coaster" (who loves Secretariat and all the fabulous East coast stars!)I say "Let the Californians have their Day"! They deserve it !

15 Aug 2010 10:42 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

We in CA have had some pretty nice horses run here: Best Pal, Bertrando, Stardom Bound, Kona Gold, Real Quiet, Surfside, Cardmania, Lost In The Fog (I still consider him a CA horse even though he ran all over the US), as well as the horses listed above and many others. We have waited a long time for a horse like Zenyatta and we in CA do love her for all of the thrills and sometimes heart stopping finishes she has given us. The best part is she has always won! Then on top of that she liberally adds Muhammed Ali-type theatrics that Hollywood writers only wish they could dream up. I never thought any horse would grab my heart more than Personal Ensign did, especially in her BC Distaff win, but I lose my breath each time in in Zenyatta's presence. I feel so lucky to have seen Zenyatta win all three starts in the Clement L. Hirsch, the 2010 Vanity for her 17th consecutive victory and two other early races in her career. Yes, there was a time that a person could view Zenyatta without thousands of people swarming the paddock for even a faint glimpse of this great mare. The most amazing thing about this equine phenomenon is I think she has yet show us her best effort. The game mare St Trinians gave us all a fright in this years Vanity against Zenyatta, but in her gutsy 2nd place effort St Trinians was completely spent, ended up body sore and has been resting since. Zenyatta could have run the race again. Zenyatta is truly something special that every race fan should embrace because she may well be a once in a lifetime horse.

BTW, Rachel Alexandra, I love you too! There was a time, but no longer, do I want to see you race against Zenyatta. One will have to lose and you are both very special.

15 Aug 2010 10:48 PM
Laura in Kentucky

Since last October, I have taken 6 trips west to California to see Zenyatta.  I even flew out last Christmas Day to bid her farewell... or so I thought.

As I waited to hear if she would run at Del Mar, I considered staying at home -- why go out yet again, not even sure if she would be racing?  In the end I bought a plane ticket, got a hotel and rental car and made my way to Del Mar.  As she was pulling up after the race, and I quit screaming and jumping up and down, I realized that I was at Del Mar because to experience Zenyatta on the track is what racing is all about.

It looks like she will run next on Arc weekend -- I actually considered skipping the Arc this year, but in the end, there will be a few consolations of the best in Europe to see, but I'll still be missing seeing the Zenyatta show...

You can bet I will be front and center at Churchill Downs the beginning of November -- win, lose, or draw, just seeing her dance by will make the day for me.

The last time I remember a horse pulling out fans the way that Zenyatta does was for Cigar during that amazing summer of love in 1996.  That was a long time ago.

I think I had lost some of my passion for the sport until Zenyatta and another special girl made racing exciting again!

15 Aug 2010 10:49 PM
Keso Fan

What a wonderful article as usual, Steve, and one that every horse racing fan should appreciate!

15 Aug 2010 10:59 PM
Lynnie B

Steve- Thank you so much for your wonderful comments about Zenyatta and California racing.  I've been a racing fan for over 40 years and I've been lucky enough to see many great horses race:  John Henry, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Cigar, among others, but I've never seen a horse like Zenyatta. People react to her in a very different way.  She's an ideal of purity and perfection that we can never reach.  She brings joy to all who see her. I've been waiting for her all my life.

15 Aug 2010 11:38 PM

Great article. Although it would have been great to have seen Zenyatta here in the East,you can't fault the owners/trainer for this year's campaign because it has kept her sound...a significant accomplishment considering all the fine horses that have dropped out with injuries. That said, it would have enhanced her reputation even more to have taken on the boys and/or the fillies on dirt at 10 furlongs at least once. It does not look like she will have had this experience before the Breeder's Cup. Time will tell if this makes a difference. If she can beat the likes of Blame, Quality Road, and Looking at Lucky without this advance preparation then she will have answered all the questions. While I will be rooting for her, I have to believe the conditions are not nearly as favorable as they were last year.

15 Aug 2010 11:42 PM
Lynnie B

Steve- Thank you so much for your wonderful comments about Zenyatta and California racing.  I've been a racing fan for over 40 years and I've been lucky enough to see many great horses race:  John Henry, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, and Cigar, among others, but I've never seen a horse like Zenyatta. People react to her in a very different way.  She's an ideal of purity and perfection that we can never reach.  She brings joy to all who see her. I've been waiting for her all my life.

15 Aug 2010 11:42 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Thank you for mentioning Lost In The Fog, a fantastic sprinter who gave me goose bumps every time I saw him run. Not only did he do a lot of his racing in Cali, but he did it in Northern Cali, a double whammy as far as the blue noses are concerned.

To be fair though, I realize that not all eastern noses are blue :) and it makes me feel very good when people from other parts express admiration for West Coast horses, trainers, jockeys and yes... even owners.

Although rivalries are supposed to be good for the sport I fail to see the benefit of the trashtalk that has been going on lately.

Our whole industry is hurting, must we inflict the wounds ourselves?

16 Aug 2010 12:05 AM

I DO live in california and admit im a huge zenyatta fan who..if i can somehow get a ticket..go to churchill to see her in the BCC. im also a SPORTS junkie, not just horse racing. ive been to the world series, the superbowl etc..some great events but the atmosphere and vibe of being at the track when zenyatta runs is something that cant be explained. it has to be experienced.as many have said before, after zens amazing run at st. trinians for win #17,people crying, hugging etc..was like nothing ive seen before..almost spiritual.

finally, as for the back n forth about RA and ZEN. all i can say is that people REALLY need to just stop and enjoy them both because what they've done collectively, we may never see again

16 Aug 2010 12:06 AM

I live in So. California and I'm a huge Zenyatta and horse racing fan. I can appreciate a horse who is perfect, even if some fans can't. I was into racing for a while in the mid 80's and sort of got out of it until about 3 years ago. So many races, so little time, especially with HRTV and TVG on the tube. Zenyatta is special. I've seen her several times and what an experience! It is an absolute blast to be part of the crowd cheering her on down the stretch.  Sometimes it doesn't seem like she's going to make it. Then, to watch the race over and over and relive it a few more times is a high I can't explain. I feel like I own her...like...she's MINE! Zenyatta is for ALL RACING FANS. I will always root for Zenyatta as she continues to make history. Good luck to Mikey Smith, The Mosses, John Shirreffs and the mighty Z, "the best horse on the planet" as track announcer Trevor Denman referred to her after her 18th win.

16 Aug 2010 12:40 AM
Mike S

The East Coast bias is still alive, although not as robust as it once was.

In 1971 COUGAR II definitely was the best turf horse, but he didn't get the Eclipse Award because RUN THE GANTLET was the darling of the East, and he did beat COUGAR II in the United Nations Handicap, in an absolute bog that COUGAR II could not handle. It's too bad they couldn't meet on firm turf.

COUGAR's record in 1971 consisted of nothing but stakes events, and he had 12 starts, 6 wins, 3 seconds, 2 thirds, and only one off the board performance (in the bog in New Jersey). He actually had 7 wins, but was disqualified in the Woodward. He won the San Garbriel, San Marcos, San Juan Capistrano, Ford Pinto (Hollywood) Turf Invitational and Oak Tree Invitational, all on grass, along with the Californian Stakes on dirt.

RUN THE GANTLET had 10 starts in 1971, 6 wins, 2 seconds and 0 thirds, being unplaced twice. He won the Tidal, Kelly Olympic, along with the major events: United Nations, Man O' War and Washington DC International, the last three being conducted over turf courses that were a disaster after torrential rains. The DC International went in 2:50-3/5 for 12 furlongs!

COUGAR II was a much higher profile horse, and he carried top weight, something his East Coast counterpart did not do, but he still didn't win the Eclipse Award.

In 1972 COUGAR II did get the award for Champion Turf Horse. I guess the East Coast voters had nothing even remotely worth voting for? Anyway, he probably should have received the Champion Older Horse over AUTOBIOGRAPHY as well.

COUGAR's 1972 record was 9 starts, 4 wins, 3 seconds and 2 thirds, all in stakes events. He won the Californian Stakes on dirt in 1:39-1/5 for 8-1/2 furlongs, and the Century Handicap in 2:11 for 11 furlongs on turf (a world record at the time). He also won the Carelton F. Burke and Oak Tree Invitational.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY had 19 starts that year, and was fairly inconsistent, racking up only 6 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds, and 6 off the board finishes. He won the Jockey Club Gold Cup to clinch the title.

The voting was close, however, and AUTOBIOGRAPHY barely won. I think COUGAR II should have won Handicap Horse for 1972, to go with his Champion Turf Horse award.

COUGAR II is just one example of a California based horse who should have received more honors. EXCELLER is another one that comes to mind, because he definitely should have received the Champion Turf Horse award of 1978.

On another note, ZENYATTA is the greatest mare of all time. She has it all: the desire to win, the ability to win, the desire to "go and get" the horse in front of her, a sweet personality, good looks, some good dance moves, a perfect race record, and a dazzling running style. You cannot ask for more.

16 Aug 2010 1:12 AM

It’s rare that we in California get to see truly great horses. They don’t ship here anymore. That’s why the Breeder’s Cup means so much to us here, because we FINALLY get to see these fantastic horses. So to have a superstar like Zenyatta, to be able to see her run and visit her at the barn, is just so incredibly special. I wonder if people on the East Coast just take this for granted a bit, because they can see their Derby winners and their champions a lot more often than we can. I’d also like to point out that when Curlin lost the Classic at Santa Anita and was being led back to the barn, we all applauded the effort. We were just so grateful to see him. And I was one of the people who drove down to Del Mar to see Cigar, too.

For the record, I was a HUGE Easy Goer fan, even though I’m in California. I pretty much kept that to myself (g).

16 Aug 2010 1:19 AM

Steve:   I have read all of your writings and blogs for the past few years, but this one touched me the most. I was born, bred and raised in sunny California. Grew up on the beaches of Redondo and Hermosa. Surfed my way through high school and got to meet the likes of The Byrds and The Beach Boys. My dad was a avid racing fan, he knew many of the trainers. He took me to Santa Anita in 1955 and I watched Swaps win the Derby. I would say that I saw pretty much every big race run at Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood Park until about 1975. I was at the Great Race Place when Johnny Longden rode his final race aboard George Royal and won the San Juan Capistrano. I saw all 3 of Native Diver's Gold Cup victories. I remember Majestic Prince winning the Santa Anita Derby and I thought to myself that we finally have our great champion. The Prince is still the most beautiful horse I ever laid eyes on.  I also saw Vigors come from around 10 lengths behind at the top of the stretch to win the Santa Anita Handicap. In 1973 I watched on TV at Hollywood Park,  our champion Sham lose the Kentucky Derby to the best from the east, Secretariat.

This article was so profound and touching. Like all Californians I just love Zenyatta. But I believe she belongs to everyone who loves and respects this hallowed sport. Whether we agree or disagree with the way she been handled it's hard to argue with success. In the end her connections know whats best for her. She could retire now and I wouldn't care, she has nothing else to prove. In our hearts there can be more then 1 champion.  

As I sit down and sip my 2002 glass of Ranfanelli Zinfandal, I will raise my glass and toast you and your ability to touch all of us in some special way.

With much respect I say thank you Steve.............  

16 Aug 2010 1:20 AM

Zenyatta even has fans overseas. We sat next to a couple from Australia for Zenyatta's 18th win at Den Mar. They arranged their vacation so that they would be able to see one of her races.

Every time I see one of her races, I meet people from all over the country who fly in just to see her race. She is loved all over the world.

I am so thankful to live in this time so that I have been able to see her multiple times.

16 Aug 2010 1:33 AM
Tracy W.

I'm a fourth generation Californian who is too young to have seen the past greats. My grandmother and mother followed all the early Cali legends, however, telling me the amazing tales of Native Diver, Pink Pigeon, Swaps, Affirmed, and of course Silky Sullivan. My mom even recounts how utterly shocked she was the first time she saw Seattle Slew in person, staggering home on a Cali track, defeated for the first time.

I never liked to admit the East Coast bias, because it felt unfair and I have too much love for Cali racing and its fans to care what the other half of the country says. However, living in Kentucky for a while has shown me just how deep-rooted it is. Still, I kind of enjoy our isolation. After all, we get our private moments with legends such as Zenyatta. Who could possibly want more?

Ironically, I discovered Zenyatta after her fourth victory, outside of California in the Apple Blossom in Arkansas. I've seen her many times in person now and feel no pity for those over here in Kentucky who claim to have not yet felt her magic live. It's just a taste of how Californians feel when champions are held strictly in the East, where racing is "better", forever out of our reach unless we trek to see them.

I have to applaud, and thank you whole-heartedly, Mr. Haskin, for recognizing the California fan. We are just as zealous as the New Yorker, just as loyal. I recall the one time Curlin came to California, just for the Breeders Cup Classic, the entire audience shook the whole racetrack with cheers. Even after he returned after the race, thoroughly defeated, we stood for the entire time he trotted back to the moment he stepped foot into the barn area, cheering and screaming and crying. We did the same for Zenyatta a day earlier, when she won the Ladies Classic as still a relative unknown or fluke to the rest of the country.

Perhaps we will never again see a horse like Zenyatta--one who so easily conjures folklore and legends with just the mention of her name--and maybe this is the most excitement Cali fans will ever feel or express over a single racehorse. Still, even when I want her to expand her greatness to the East and to squash competition all around, I can't help but feel possessive.

Then again, I have nothing to worry about. Zenyatta will forever belong to California.

16 Aug 2010 1:45 AM

Thank you Steve for the perspective.  I've seen Zenyatta race 7 times.  At Del Mar, i invited my sister to join me, she lives near San Diego.  When she got there I told her of a horse named Zenyatta.  She shrugged me off saying, "Yeah right, there's no horse THAT good!"  As we were sittig in the reserved seat section, people on all sides of her started chatting about Zenyatta and all their experiences with her.  My sister became a believer.  We went down to the paddock and it was a frenzy.  We could only glimpse at the "Great One", there were too many people there.  We walked onto the track apron and Del Mar did a video tribute to Zen on the big screen. We stood near the finish line cheering as Zen whizzed by in victory.  Everybody was going crazy.  It was like that at Hollywood Park for the Vanity too.  Folks, If you got the money and the time, please come out in early October for the Zenyatta Stakes at Oak Tree. It will be your second-to-last time to see her, and it won't be as crowded or expensive as the BC at Churchill.  It is an experience you will always remember.  Thank you Steve and thank you Zenyatta!

16 Aug 2010 1:49 AM

Steve great comments about Zenyatta. I live close to Monmouth Park and I have never had and east coast bias for RA vs Zenyatta. By far Zenyatta is the best horse that I have seen since being a big racing fan for the past 20 years. I also am a big fan of yours. You tell a story and stir great emotion with every article you write. You like Zenyatta are simply the best.

16 Aug 2010 2:07 AM

Zenyatta was foaled in Kentucky, her sire in Ireland, his dam in Great Britain.  She has Forli in her pedigree on her dam's side and he was foaled in Argentina. She has a Canadian ancestor also. Race horses in general, like the rest of us, have international roots.  To peg her as California's horse overlooks this fact.  Let her be recognized as a great race mare without resorting to provincialism.  Do we care that Secretariat was foaled in Virginia (unless we're a Virginian,) and never raced West of the Mississippi?  It would have been nice if her connections had seen fit to race her more widely so that she would not seem so limited, as I believe people will find she is not, when the BCC takes place in her birthplace, Kentucky, this November. Unfortunately, if she doesn't win, the outcry will go forth from many that she is "just California's horse."

16 Aug 2010 3:22 AM

Once again, great article Steve. A joy to read.

I'd just like to say that it's not just US racing fans that enjoy Zenyatta. I'm European myself and every time the daughter of Street Cry goes to the post, I watch her online. Even if that means staying up until four in the morning or even later! I will probably never see this horse in the flesh and while that is a regret, I am happy I have been able to watch most of her races live.

I have said it before, and I will say it again here; to me it doesn't matter where and against who Zenyatta runs. As long as the road she is on leads her to the gate at Churchill Downs November 6th to take on all who are willing to face her, I’m not complaining.

It saddens me that some people just can't seem to enjoy her while she still races, that they always have to fault her and her connections in some way. Because all too soon she will retire and it will be a long time before another one like her will come along.

16 Aug 2010 4:08 AM
Boss Mare

California, historically, seems to have drawn the short straw. It does seem that there has been an east-coast bias. As you stated Steve, most never had the privilege of seeing Native Diver demolish his foes.  His statue is honored in the paddock for great reason not good reason.The "Big Cap" was conceived to bring attention to California racing.As usual, money and politics out trump good racing and sometimes great horses.  More major breeding centers are located in the east, more major tracks (many of which are struggling),and  in the day more major newspapers that covered racing, and probably more votes for awards.Californians have the right to vent their frustrations and Now they have Magna to deal with to boot.

16 Aug 2010 5:57 AM

Thanks, Steve, for your great article. I especially appreciated your repeated mention of Swaps. He really was the foundation stone of California's pride in California-bred horses. His brilliance was more than a half-century ago, but he still lights up my thoughts of why I love horse racing. I will be in Louisville to see Zenyatta's Breeders Cup Classic. I hope for a performance from Zenyatta that would have been a challenge for even for my hero, Swaps, who won his Derby right there.

16 Aug 2010 6:00 AM
Dawn in MN

Mr. Haskin,

I really enjoyed reading Let Californians Have Their Day.  The history lesson was not lost on me.  I remember some of the California greats but your article gave me some names and stories I was not aware of.  When I finished reading it I had tears in my eyes.  I have concluded that the tears were tears of relief.  I loved your warning to those who would renew the war of words that has turned me off since it began.

The people who write about the two great mares have acted like this is some kind of battle and it has been heartbreaking at times to read the comments.  Some time late last year, I stopped reading the comments, they had degenerated into a childish skirmish.  I could read the articles, but I could not stomach the comments.

I have only ever seen Zenyatta on the internet and on television.  The first time I saw Zenyatta race I commented to my husband that she looked like she loved it, and that she looked like she could run again.  That is a rare quality.  I been a fan ever since the first time I saw her.

The whole retired, not retired thing is familiar but it was wierd.  I should know, I'm from Minnesota and we don't know whether or not Favre is retired.

Kirsten and I have Canterbury Park, and I bet there are folks on both coasts who have never heard of our little track.  In recent history the only national-level, home-town Thoroughbred competitor with Minnesota connections was Win Willy.  California has had so many stars, and Zenyatta is the icing on the cake!  I would be as proud as a parent if she had any connection to the state where I live.    

16 Aug 2010 6:23 AM


16 Aug 2010 6:32 AM
Patricia Diers

I really enjoyed this article, being from the Midwest, I don't understand the east vs west logic.

I have enjoyed all of these great horses.  I must say that Zenyatta has given me the most pleasure from racing that I have had in years.  It's not just the winning ways, it's the style and the hoola that is evident everytime she races.  Racing needs horses like her- she is making fans of folks all over the US and the world with her charm.

16 Aug 2010 7:32 AM
Fran Loszynski

I was thinking Steve -Californians never have feel protective of their racing history, they now have Zenyatta and after all "where is the statue of the greatest racehorse that stole our hearts?"


Sure we have the statue of Secretariat at Belmont but they have  "SEABISCUIT"   WOW !

So it all works out in the long run.

16 Aug 2010 7:46 AM
Fran Loszynski

Just a note Steve:

I hope Gary Stevens is doing okay after the spill at Saratoga. It just goes to show you great jockeys never fade away, their hearts are always in the sport. Hope you feel better Gary, enjoy your commentaries.

16 Aug 2010 7:51 AM

Being from the UK, I am often at loss to understand this rivalry and where it stems from, but I guess the closest equivalent over here is the Irish and English rivalry. It emerges during the Cheltenham Festival, and was at a peak before the 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup where the great steeplechasers Arkle (Irish) and Mill House (English) squared off against each other. Arkle went on to be the greatest Champion of all time but he was also loved and revered by the English not just the Irish. I guess my point is, can't you guys see Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra as America's horses, rather than belonging to their respective coasts?

16 Aug 2010 8:05 AM

Oh my,once again I just love the way you write. Filly Fisticuffs & Matronly Melees indeed.



16 Aug 2010 8:39 AM

I would just like to say, that supporting this "let California have their moment/horse" only serves to validate the East vs West mentality.  If we are to ever move to a more national appreciation of racing and these great horses we need to stop with the "us vs them" and have a more national pride.

That said, I can only guess but I'm assuming that Zenyatta's people are doing what is best for her and I would never ask more than that.  If she isn't a good traveller then there is no point in dragging her around and making her miserable; she is too special for that!  (but - then I have to wonder why they wouldn't move her East asap and let her have a final prep preferably over the BC track, and give her time to settle in and acclimate?)

16 Aug 2010 8:39 AM

Thanks for placing Zenyatta's story in context. She is a SuperStar and it has been fun to watch her career over the past few years. Her owners are to be commended for their genuine care for her. She is a treasure and they care for her as one. A model others might use. Thanks, Steve.

From Wisconsin and rooting for Zenyatta in the BC Classic.

16 Aug 2010 8:40 AM
Saratoga AJ

"So, if you're a Zenyatta detractor or a Rachel Alexandra zealot or simply object to the way Zenyatta has been campaigned"....

There in lies the problem with many (not all) of the Zen supporters. They can't distinguish between the two. I am one of those who object to her campaign, yet I'm immediately branded as a detractor or failing to  acknowledge how good she is.

16 Aug 2010 8:48 AM

Steve - Wonderful article!  I have tears in my eyes.  I am a midwest racing fan who LOVES Zenyatta.  I just wish more fans could have the opportunity to witness her greatness (Thank goodness for TVG).   She is racing in Grade 1's - what more could you ask?  Also, to the credit of the Sherriff's, how many horses are able to race at the top level for 3 years straight?  That is rare these days.  I wish everyone would stop the talk about who's beating who, and let's just enjoy this wonderful mare for her final races.

16 Aug 2010 8:53 AM

Wow! Could this article be any more condescending? Friends who'd been horse racing fans longer than I told me about the "east coast bias", but I hadn't really observed it. Until now.

16 Aug 2010 9:22 AM

Why do I get the impression that Steve and others with that east coast bias assume that after Zenyatta, California will return to being the home of second rate talent? There will be a lot of great ones coming from the west from now on so you might as well get use to it.

16 Aug 2010 9:32 AM

A nice read, Steve.

But I do take exception to the idea that there is an East/West (CA versus everywhere else) rivalry.  I haven't seen it for the 20 years I've been following racing.  All I've seen is an admiration for a good horse, wherever the horse happens to be based.  I'd also remind that just because someone lives somewhere other than CA doesn't mean they live in Belmont's backyard -- they, like me, have most often lived the good horses through TV, magazines, the internet, and books.  

You ask how many know Native Diver and he's one of my favorites -- something about him caught my imagination.  Sunday Silence or Easy Goer?  Sunday Silence.  Affirmed or Seattle Slew?  Affirmed.  Zenyatta or Rachel?  Rachel.  My favorite 3yo colt for this year?  Lookin at Lucky.  My favorite 3yo filly?  Blind Luck.

I haven't seen a CA/East rivalry except in the minds of Californians, and I find it frustrating that Zenyatta loyalists point to an East Coast bias if someone prefers Rachel.  Neither is in my backyard, I have seen neither run in person, Rachel simply captured my imagination and in any scenario that finds the two to race against each other, I will be pulling for Rachel.  

The issue with California racing has always been about surface, not its horses or people.  For years, it was about the hard, highway-like tracks, and now it's about synthetics.  Keeneland (in the East) has had a similar issue with its surface, being known as speed-favoring and now synthetics.  The difference, though, is that in the East, we have other options than Keeneland, the surface issue doesn't affect all our tracks (or even a majority of them).

So for your next article, might I suggest one that helps smooth the complex that Californians seem to have, which points to racing fans liking a good horse, wherever that horse happens to be based?  If someone outside of California happens to prefer a non-California horse, it's not an East Coast bias.  It's really not.

16 Aug 2010 9:34 AM
Bill Daly

If, as Bob Baffert says, Zenyatta is better on dirt than on poly we will be in for quite a treat. CD is made for her.  Long stretch, plenty of time to run down the speed. I think she'll put on a show once again. I've knocked her connections for their conservative handling of the mare, but have never and will never knock her. She is truly one of the greatest I've ever seen. It is unfortunate there has been such acrimony surrounding the east vs. west debate, but it reflects the polarization in the country at large. That's something we really need to address.

16 Aug 2010 9:40 AM

I cannot tell you what a joy it was to see Native Diver mentioned in this publication.  He is the horse that made me a FAN of this sport.  They used to televise the Saturday feature race from Hollywood Park or Santa Anita in those days, and I watched him run many times.  He was thrilling.  The first call always was "And they're off.  Native Diver going to the front".  His nemesis was Pretense, trained by Charley Whittingham.  He was a great handicap horse who will always be my sentimental favorite of all time.  The big black gelding is buried in the infield of Hollywood Park.  I was in grade school at this time, and I would beg my father to take me to the morning workouts, where I was able to see "The Diver" in person, as well as greats like Johnny Longden.  Does anybody  remember when Quicken Tree lost his rider and "won" the San Juan Capistrano?  Johnny Longden's last ride?  Pink Pigeon burning up the track?  Hollywood Park in now HQ for Zenyatta who gives you goose bumps to see in person, just like her races.  I attended her premature "retirement" appearance at Santa Anita earlier this year.  Whatever you think of her, she has "presence" and is a stunning animal to behold.

16 Aug 2010 9:50 AM

Steve - Being a Californian transplanted to New York many years ago and now North Carolina - I thank you with all my heart for this wonderful article about California racing and its great stars!  It is too bad the mainstream media have their heads buried in the sand!  They don't know a great story when it literally  falls into their laps.  

To True lovers of the racing thoroughbred it doesn't matter which coast they live and run in.

Their lives are at risk every time they enter the track to train or race and they should be respected by those who call themselves 'horse racing fans' - anything less is unforgivable.

Dr. Drunkinbum and Zookeeper - THANK YOU for remembering the RRAVE LOST IN THE FOG.  He ran and won even with his body riddled with cancer!  The few times he lost (The Breeder's Cup Sprint at Belmont was one) was probably due to the cancer that was taking over his body.  He was great and I'll never forget him!  I'm so happy to see that the two of you have not forgotten him either.  Yes, he would have gone to further greatness. I was fortunate enough to see him in person in his races in New York and scream my head off for him.  I have the video that Golden Gate Fields created of his races as a tribute to him.  I watch it regularly and never fail to cry and urge him on to the finish line.  He was a fighter who traveled coast to coast and a true blue blood.  Amen!

16 Aug 2010 10:06 AM

California is a state?  Sheesh...when did that happen?  Next thing you know, they'll be trying to add on Alaska and Hawaii.  Oh..it's already happened?  Where have I been?  ;D

I can't say I live on the East Coast (not unless global warming continues, and the ocean moves inland about a hundred or so miles). But I see Zenyatta as pure magic that weaves the entire nation together.  I believe the rest of the world sees Zenyatta as the #1 American horse.  How could they not?  She's a marvel for the ages, and quickly becomes THE legend.  She doesn't run, she glides.  I keep searching for the wings she must sprout with each race.  I'm certain they are there, and yet no camera has seemed to capture them.  But California fans are the wind beneath her wings.  So much love pours out of the fans every time she runs, there is no way any animal could not sense such a warm embrace, let alone an animal with the intelligence and affection of Zenyatta.  Every time she steps foot on the track, she repays them with her own ballet.  How could anyone not love her?  I'm sooo jealous they get to see her so often in person.  She's the only rock star I've really wanted to see up close and personal.  What a treat for California and America.  I continue to be amazed and filled with pure joy, and folks...that's what horse racing is all about.

16 Aug 2010 10:06 AM

I had the pleasure of being at the Breeders Cup last year when she beat the boys.  That mare is so awesome, her beautiful dance when she is being led out is magnificant.  The excitement everyone in the stands felt when she pulled through traffic and went by the boys in winning that race.  She is truely a rare speciman and I am proud that she is able to be in California for most of her races.  Thank you for this blog.

16 Aug 2010 10:18 AM

Both these mares have made racing

exciting the last couple of years.

I'm rooting for both of them, they are superb physical specimens, and

I look forward to watching their offspring in years to come.  Hope they pass on their heart and drive to win.

16 Aug 2010 10:19 AM
Love 'em all!

East Coaster here ... Coastal Southeast.  Read this wonderful history lesson last night, and back this morning for more. Note: there was one comment then ... now there are 101.

Have to admit, though, had to look up Kissin' George. A "speedball" gelding  whose "mama" was named

"Nothead". Gotta love that one!


About three years ago, a very nice CA racehorse fan introduced Zenyatta to us at a horse forum, and it was love at first sight for Zenyatta for this one.  She wins your heart and soul ... from day one.  Love everything about this mare.  

The CA folks have every right to boast about this one ... and should every chance they get.  Cheers to the California folks, for they have The Great Zenyatta!

We, the people, love her no matter what!

16 Aug 2010 10:23 AM

So it takes a Marylander to remind you all of Free House?

I don't think you Westerners need to feel ashamed/belittled. Many of your best horses have struted their stuff everywhere! Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Precisionist, Snow Chief, Sunday Silence, etc.

And who could forget Lava Man?

Plus you have one of the most beautiful tracks in the country in Santa Anita. I've only seen it on TV and I bet that doesn't do it justice!

16 Aug 2010 10:25 AM

Hi Steve,

You only made one little mistake.  I am from Idaho, and Zenyatta belongs to all of the little Western states that do not get to go near the East Coast. If we go to big races, they are the California races too, so we have a little part of her too.  

Great post though.  It really brought out the spirit of Zenyatta fans.  No pissing about Rachel, she is a beautiful mare too, it's just nice to see Zenyatta get what is due her.  

16 Aug 2010 10:27 AM

East/West...Z/RA...undefeated lengthy campaign/inspiring brutal campaign...synthetic/dirt...apples/oranges. This ongoing comparison is detracting from the romance of the privilege to witness OUR two ladies of racing making history and inspiring a nation. Both have human connections who keep their safety and care the first priority. Both have a magical force with which they inspire. Both are coveted by their fans. Both should be regarded and respected separately as the amazing individuals that they are.

16 Aug 2010 10:37 AM
Sam Ludu

It's too bad Zenyatta's extraordinary record is ignored by the mainstream sports press. No SI cover. No major coverage on ESPN. The only major stories done on horse racing seem to be the ones about how much trouble the sport is in or when there's a tragedy on track, which leads to another tired story about how much trouble the sport is in.

I grew up in California, and saw Native Diver, Lamb Chop, Candy Spots, Hill Rise, Prove It, Lucky Debonair, George Royal, Ancient Title, Super Diamond, Crystal Water, Cougar II, Ack Ack, Quicken Tree, Quack, Vigors, King Pellinore (set a world record for 10 furlongs on the grass), and many other notables, and I used to get a little rankled when east coast horses took home most of the year-end honors.

I've lived in New York for more than 30 years, and l think there's been, over the years, a better east-west balance when it comes to handing out the annual racing awards, but I can see why Californians cling to their Zenyatta. There's a lot of perceived injustice to make up for.

As for Zenyatta, I'm only sorry I won't get to see her live on track and can barely see her on TV (no national coverage), and I think it's utterly ridiculous that over a two-year period, Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra will very likely never meet in a single race. Yes, I know people are waiting for the Breeders' Cup, but most anticipated BC match-ups, for a variety of reasons, never happen.

16 Aug 2010 10:37 AM

Wonderful read, as always, Steve. I am another devoted fan of "The Queen" that does not live anywhere near California. I'm in the suburbs of Chicago and visit Arlington Park often. My husband and I also get HRTV/TVG at home and we watch all of Zenyatta's races there (good thing since I am often in joyful tears as soon as she walks into the paddock!)

I've been watching racing since I was 10 and I have been waiting a very long time for a horse like her. I used to call Ruffian the greatest filly of all time but she will most likely be eclipsed by Zenyatta.

My home is hung with framed art of famous racehorses--Man o' War, Secretariat, John Henry, Citation, Equipoise, Ruffian, and yes--both Zenyatta *and* Rachel Alexandra!

16 Aug 2010 10:39 AM

So, are New York champions from New York? Everybody ships, Steve. California can't legitimately claim those who ship out there, but New York can claim Easy Goer? Again, the East Coast bias is alive a well. Truth be known, Kentucky would be the state that could brag the most.

16 Aug 2010 10:39 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


  I didn't even know there was a bias or rivalry until I started reading the blogs. I just thought that California horses were lucky because of our great weather. I thought more breeding should be done in California. I always felt bad for California horses that went to live in the humidity when their racing careers were over after having lived all of their lives in California. Horses near the coast are especially happy. I think that's why Zenyatta does that dance. It's a good luck weather, keep me in California dance. You're right about the trashtalk. There's no benefit when it gets as bad as it has been at times. I'm glad you liked Lost In The Fog. I loved him and was heartbroken. Now Gilchrist isn't training, and Aleo is gone. What a team and story that was. Only five years ago but seems forever now. The Battle of the Bulge interview with Aleo. Does anyone remember?

16 Aug 2010 10:50 AM
Ann in Lexington

Mike S, you and I need to talk. His Felinity, Cougar II, is My Own True Love. I adored the way he loomed over a field coming around the final turn. And he had a personality you could see from the grandstand. Switch hitters like him have frequently had problems gaining specialist year-end honors - just look what happened to Cal-based Exceller (6 G1s vs Slew's 2 and Mac Diarmida's 2, but no Eclipse award).

I have a Calbred certificate signed by the CTBA registrar; no one has been more aware of the disrespect Cal-raced horses have faced over the decades. But I think Zenyetta's people can be faulted for not running her against the best competition available. Having beaten top males in the Classic, she should have had no problem with the second-level sorts who ran in the Santa Anita H. Beating Rail Trip and Awesome Gem in the Hollywood Gold Cup would have done more for her reputation than a third Vanity. I have no doubt she could have won both races, but her people apparently fear she wouldn't have. And to them, this artificially constructed unbeaten record in more important than proving that she is a great horse, not just a great mare.

16 Aug 2010 10:54 AM

not just california, but anywhere west of the mississippi as well. very well written, and brought tears to my eyes at the end.

16 Aug 2010 11:22 AM
Smoking Baby

Thank you Steve.  Why is it that I always seem to get a lump in my throat when I read your stuff?  I really LOVE your writing sir.  I just wanted to give a shout out to a couple of my California favorites, Connie Ring's CRYSTAL WATER and Georgia/Frank Ritter's CASCAPEDIA.  Loved both of those horses and many more.  

I truly hope they take away these crazy synthetic tracks out here and bring back the dirt.  What were we thinking?

Thanks again Steve.  You continue to amaze.  

16 Aug 2010 11:37 AM

Doesnt matter what happens from here on in - Zenyatta is one of the greatest horses of all time - has given the sport a much needed shot in the arm with her presence - no matter where she is in the country.  Its time for people to start seeing this magnificent horse for who she really is - a gritty competitor owned and trained by a great group of people who truly love thoroughbred racing.  Zenyatta is horse of the year already.  Go Zenyatta.

16 Aug 2010 11:39 AM
Robin from Maryland

Although I'm not from the "West", I have followed many west coasters careers.  I do know who Native Diver is.  My heart went out to Ferdinand and "The Shoe" when they won the Derby - may they both RIP.  Swaps was another great.  Lost in the Fog will always be remembered.  Now the "West" has a new Queen, one I hope the world embraces.  Why in horse racing is there such disperity -  East vs. West?  A horse is a horse is a horse.... Let the best one win no matter where they call home. California should be proud, Queen Z will take her rightful place in history and it will be noted that California was her home!

16 Aug 2010 11:42 AM

Thank you for the trip down memory lane.  Our Queen came to us when we needed her most as racing here in Cali has been hampered by surface controversies, the near disappearance of quality racing up north, impending closure of Hollywood and short fields.  Just as I did for my hero Lava Man, I will always venture to the track whenever Zenyatta runs in California.  When she runs all is well in the game for a day with big crowds and loud roars.  She is a blessing and a treasure.

16 Aug 2010 11:45 AM

Steve, I enjoyed your article very much . . . as I always do.  But, just like all the other experts, you left Simply Majestic out of your list of great California horses.  I know...I know he never won a grade one; but holding the world record for 9 furlongs for over 22 years, having taken it away from Secretariat is a great achievement!  Especially when todays horses don't even come close!  Even Zenyatta and Rachel (both of whom I love) routinely cover the distance two to five seconds slower!  I would love to see you write about him someday.  

16 Aug 2010 11:48 AM

California, is the only place that gets 50,000 people in attendance for their big days.  Santa Anita Derby, opening day, and the Santa Anita Handicap always get large crowds.  At Santa Anita on a Saturday we always have over 10,000 people at the track.  We still love racing out here.  I was at Belmont on a Saturday in May and there could not have been 5,000 people there.  This East Coast stuff is something that is made up purely of the journalists because there obviously are no fans in New York other than when Saratoga is racing many miles away from Belmont and Aqueduct.  The Moss's are California people who love California racing and they feel the fans out here deserve to see Zenyatta because we have supported her race after race.  Bravo Jerry and Ann Moss.  You have done the right thing.  

They did ship east twice and the second time around nobody showed up.  What are they supposed to do?  Ship 3,000 miles a month before the Breeder's Cup and face the possibility of the same thing happening again just to shut up a bunch of pundits?

Can't wait see Zenyatta run by them all in that long stretch at Churchill!!!!  The sad part is even then the east coast people will put her down.  But, that is just the way it is for us poor old Californians with our great weather and blondes on every corner.

16 Aug 2010 11:54 AM

Another thing I might add, is I watched horse racing occasionally before Zenyatta, but when Zenyatta came along is the real reason I watch it religiously. Thank you Zenyatta

16 Aug 2010 11:57 AM

She's a native diva.

16 Aug 2010 11:58 AM

Many thanks, Steve...beautiful poetry and justice for her name! I'm a big time racing fan in Terlingua, TX...yes, that's the town and the Chili Cookoff that Storm Cat's dam, by Secretariat, was named for.

AMEN to your words!

16 Aug 2010 12:01 PM

Yet another great blog.  As a left coaster I feel really privileged to have seen Queen Z run several times.  And almost cried when I encountered her on the back side of Hollypark and was able to pet her.  I've been fortunate enough to be partners on 3 horses over the past few years, and, as lovely as they were/are, none has brought tears to my eyes yet. There really is something about her demeanor and personality (and SIZE) that is awe inspiring.

I've met Tiznow's daddy-Cee's Tizzy, the great Redattore, Moscow Ballet (RIP) and High Brite (RIP) at Harris Farms, and I think there are definitely some quality babies born here who recieve short shrift from some people. But one doesn't have to be born here to be beloved by the Cali fans.  One doesn't even have to be campaigned here to have a following.  But, by golly, if you are named Zenyatta, prepare youself for complete adoration from your devoted fans, (and perhaps some submissive peeing from your foes). Is this a great game, or what??

16 Aug 2010 12:02 PM


You said...

Even if she doesn't pull it off, Zenyatta's heroics, as provincial as they've been....

let the Californians worship their goddess as they wish.....

How condescending can you get?

I read those lines at the end of your article and I just about threw up.

Zenyatta is hardly of the provincial variety.

16 Aug 2010 12:09 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Thank you. Fretting about Smarty not winning the Triple Crown seems so silly and trivial in context. I couldn't believe it when they said they couldn't save Lost in the Fog. He was probably my favorite horse of all time. I certainly was fanatical in rooting for him and following his every move like never before or since. I'm glad others remember him. I always wanted to thank Greg Gilchrist and Harry Aleo for those very special times. I had planned to stop by Mr. Aleo's real estate office when he passed away. Mr. Gilchrist, thank you for the great care you gave Fog, and all the joy you brought us with him and all of your great years of training. My Uncle thought you were the greatest trainer alive and that was passed on to us. He said, "Remember that name and bet on his horses and you'll do alright." That was in the early 80's, and he was right.

16 Aug 2010 12:09 PM

Thanks Steve for recognizing and honoring the "West" and so many of their horse-heroes. We are indeed blessed to have these horses in the annals of horse-racing history AND to have these 2 mares currently. Why distinguish between the East and West, but then just like Seabiscuit's rivalry with War Admiral, Boston and the Lakers, The White Sox and Cubs, et al, we need to keep our "races" even more stimulating. Whatever the Queen does in the BC, she will never eclipse any horse for me because she is the WHOLE package, never disappointing us thus far. I just want her to retire safe and happy and lead a great life.

16 Aug 2010 12:19 PM
Karen in Texas

What a refreshing commentary, Steve! Really puts things into perspective--the greatness of a horse should not be limited or defined by geography alone. I agree with those who mentioned Lost in the Fog and Lava Man as additional California stand-outs.

16 Aug 2010 12:20 PM

Zenyatta, Lookin at Lucky, Rachel Alexandra, Blame, Quality Road, Mine That Bird (?), Super Saver, Rip Van Winkle...I think this years BC Classic is going to be just that; a 'classic'.

16 Aug 2010 12:22 PM
Mary in Vermont

No east coast bias here, Steve. I am simply a grandmother who has loved racing a very long time without ever much caring what the actual latitude and longitude of a great runner's home track was until the connections of Zenyatta so openly coveted national recognition for her without repeatedly dropping her into the deep end of the pool nationwide as was the hallmark of the majority of the national level horses you mentioned in your article.

Jerry Moss did not promote his musical superstars by confining their concerts to California stages, with maybe two trips to Arkansas and a final concert in Kentucky, because that would have suppressed their fame instead of promoting it. I feel that "Zenyatta's heroics never reached the mainstream media as <they> should have" because the majority of her concerts were in one state. It doesn't matter which state it was. I know. I know. Moss was trying to do something for California racing. It was big of him to try, but I believe that when the history books are written it will have cost Zenyatta a terrible price.

Frankly, the reason I am so disappointed with Zenyatta's campaign is because I do think she could have gone on to heights untouched and clean. She could have won the Dubai World Cup. She could have won the Arc. You know she would have loved the grass. She could have taken any of America's most prestigious races, and Europe by storm. She could have been the richest most accomplished race horse of all time.

This is no poison dipped arrow, Steve. Far from Zenyatta bashing, this is true disappointment. I feel like they wasted her because their vision was so much smaller than the horse. I felt better about Quality Road's close second to the outstanding Blame in the Whitney than I felt about Zenyatta's narrow victory over Rinterval in her three peat of the Clement Hirsch. I don't care if great horses lose once in a while, but I do care if they are seldom seriously tested. Zenyatta will have to do something very very special in the Classic to make up for all of her boring races against overmatched fields in California.

And Steve, maybe nobody knows better than you that it *does* matter who you beat, where you beat them, how you beat them, and how often you beat them  ... if, that is, ... you want national recognition.

Truth is, this whole east coast vs west coast hoopla seems petty and small to me. Why feed the ugly beast? I always think of both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta as bred and born in Kentucky. I could care less where their humans made them live. : D

16 Aug 2010 12:22 PM
Smoking Baby

 Dr Drunkinbum...I too loved Lost In The Fog.  I cried my eyes out while reading the news to my girlfriend that he had that inoperable tumor and again when they finally put him down.  Harry Aleo was a cool dude.  He would often bring plates of cookies for people to enjoy in the horseman's area of the Bay Meadows grandstand.  To a guy like him, my girlfriend and I could easily be considered "nobodies" but the time we saw him he was very nice to us (and everyone else as far as I could tell).  The Battle Of The Bulge interview???...PURE GOLD!!!  "How can you compare a wonderful horse like Lost In The Fog to...."  (you remember the rest)

16 Aug 2010 12:23 PM

Yeah, Steve, you tell them! Great article!

16 Aug 2010 12:23 PM

To "Ann in Lexington",

After reading just about all there is to read about Zenyatta and hearing the comments of her owner and trainer I have come to realize that Zenyatta is not just a race horse to these people, she is a beloved member of their family.  I think they have put her in races where she can show her superiority but on the other hand they don't want to run her into the ground and subject her to injury.  So, she is raced fairly lightly.  I don't object to that because I know the possibility of injury, fatal or not, lurks everywhere on the race track.  I would much rather see her continue to be dancing, bowing, strutting, and engaging the audience than flying here and there to chase down every top race horse in the country. The reason we have Zenyatta the way she is today is because of the top quality care she has received from John Shirreffs's team.

16 Aug 2010 12:25 PM

Zenyatta wins with such ease that the average person can't see that the 2nd place finisher ran all out and Zenyatta just used a 1 1/16 Grade 1 race as a workout. She's that good and she will show up on 11/6 and thats all the east coast connections will need to see of her! I thought a 'need the lead' type might give her some trouble but they won't. She'll just run a little faster.

Remember, at Churchill Downs she will get the longest stretch run of her career. Do you think she needs another advantage?

16 Aug 2010 12:27 PM
Judy Loves John Henry & Queen Zenny ~ California

Hi Steve~

I thought when I lost my Beloved John Henry, I would never love another racehorse... then Zenyatta danced her way into my heart. XO

I want to thank Ann Moss for giving me one of her red roses after Zenny's 18th win! Bless you!

Ann, you and I both come from Salt Lake City, Utah! :-)

16 Aug 2010 12:40 PM

There are a few on here who, in spite of Mr. Haskin's admonition, cannot refrain from criticizing some part of Zenyatta's career, the California tracks or bring up another mare who is not the topic of this blog. This is about CALIFORNIA and the great horses who have raced here and still do. Can you not let us have the limelight for ONCE? Can you not say kind words about OUR (yes, she's ours!)great mare without inserting one caveat or another? I guess NOT.

OK, now that I have gotten this off my chest, allow me to sing the praises of a great true and true California horse, conceived, born, trained and raced here, except when he travelled twice over the Rockies to defeat all others in two BCCs: TIZNOW!!! the California sensation (Trevor Denman's words, not mine)who refused to give in when the only real threats to his victories were two European horses. The first one was at CD and filled me with such elation that I was jumping up and down like a crazy maniac. The second one was at Belmont, right after Sept. 11th 2001... I didn't jump that day, I cried the biggest tears of joy you have ever seen, so proud was I of our hero who looked hopelessly defeated to come back and fight some more, not only for California but for the whole of America!!!

Now, this year, another horse may match his unique repeat of a victory in two BCCs. How fitting that that horse should be from the West Coast! My heart is simply bursting with pride. GO ZENYATTA! Tiznow doesn't mind sharing my heart with you! In fact, he's used to it as I have loved soooo many horses and not all of them were based on the West Coast!  

16 Aug 2010 12:46 PM

As far as Derby preps go it is hard to look past Winning Colors serving notice in the Santa Anita Derby.  Come at catch me if you can!  Easter bias?  The Kentucky Derby winner is not even listed in the Bloodhorse top 100.  

Russell Baze just hit his 11,000 career win.

16 Aug 2010 12:46 PM
Mike Relva


Well stated!

16 Aug 2010 12:47 PM
Steve Haskin

Wow, how did I forget Lava Man and Best Pal? And I just wrote the Best Pal Hall of Fame story. I added both of them, along with Kona Gold and Lost in the Fog.

I find it fascinating that a couple of people felt this was condescending. I have no idea where they're coming from, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even when an Easterner writes about California racing over the years, trying to put it in historical perspective, some still cry East Coast bias. I don't get it. And, just think, I actually brought someone to the brink of throwing up, because I said Zenyatta's career has been provincial, as if that is a dirty word. "belonging to some particular province; local: the provincial newspaper." I guess 16 of 18 races in California is not considered local.

Oh well, I'm glad most everyone understood the nature of the column, and I appreciate your comments.

16 Aug 2010 12:50 PM
Kevin L

Being from Michigan I don't think I have a bias, and as Horse Racing is being exterminated in my State my opinion probably doesn't matter. I love watching Zenyatta run, I have been cheering for her for the last three years and have been of the opinion that the only way she can lose is if Mike Smith screws up. That said, I am confused by the talk of a bias. Aren't TVG and HRTV based in So Cal? Don't they broadcast from Santa Anita? Wasn't there cheering on the set at TVG when RA lost her first race this year? I admit I am not familiar with all the media avenues in this Sport so I don't know who all selects the industry awards but the West Coast is very well represented with those two networks. When it comes down to it, would you rather have a trophy that has been voted on, or would you rather have the Millions of Fans that adore you? Win the BCC, Zenyatta and don't worry about HOY or the "Bias". That said, from a fan standpoint and from concern about the Horse Racing future I would love to see more high profile, marquee matchups.  

16 Aug 2010 12:57 PM
Steve Haskin

Good point about Tiznow, Zoo. As a Cal-bred to win back-to-back BC Classics he probably should have been mentioned, too, so I added him as well. Thankfully, all brain lapses on my part can be rectified thanks to the immediacy of the Internet. I wanted to restrict the number of horses I mentioned, but these definitely needed to be added.

16 Aug 2010 1:07 PM

I live on the East Coast and I'm a huge Zenyatta fan.  She's an amazing horse.  I've never seen her in person but I get chills watcing her on tv, and I can't even imagine how amazing it is to see her in person.

Great article Steve.  I always love reading your articles.

16 Aug 2010 1:13 PM
LouAnn Cingel

Wow!  I can't believe all the posts but have to admit, I love your article Steve!  You couldn't have said any of it better in regards to Zenyatta.

I'm not going to go on and on and repeat what most of us out here feel but I am a Missourian and it's been Zenyatta for me all along.  I can understand why her connections are for the most part keeping her in California, at least for th time being.  She'll come east when the time is ripe and necessary for the Breeder's Cup and she'll be more than ready.  I have never and probably will not ever get the privilege or honor of seeing her in person, but the TV and etc. will have to do.  I just hope that everyone wakes up to the fact that Zenyatta is a one of kind mare and that she is making history-we all better wake up and enjoy the ride with her as there will not likely be another such as her in a very long time.

Queen Zenyatta-NO.1

My Love & Blessings to her and her connections!

LouAnn of Union, Missouri

16 Aug 2010 1:15 PM

I hope racing fans all over the country realize what this awesome animal has done for our sport.  I live in Arkansas,and it was something to behold during Apple Blossom Week.  It was not only a frenzy in Hot Springs, but all over the state.  She was the main story in my home town on the Oklahoma border 150 miles away.  She may be California's horse, but she has brought attention to our great sport.  BTW, until April, this was Rachel's state. Great article, Steve.

16 Aug 2010 1:16 PM

Quote from Steve Haskin:

"New Yorkers still were convinced Easy Goer was the superior horse"

I always laughed at this.

In 1989 I learned the term "rationalize". The east coast turf writers taught me this term through the school of hard knocks. When all was said and done, my wallet was lighter after Sunday Silence dispatched Easy Goer in three out of four starts.

I'm sure the east feels that Ghostzapper is their's too.

Once a horse breaks "their maiden" in California, they are California's horse. The east never understood this and they still don't.

The east can pretend that the horse is theirs, but they are living in a fantasy world.

16 Aug 2010 1:17 PM
Eric rickard

Awesome job except not mentioning Mel Stute's Snow chief. I am a California transplant in Boston; loved all of those horses.  I called my dad when I saw Winning colors win both her preps at Santa Anita. Told him to bet the farm, 49er will never catch her. You are correct, California should enjoy her. If the rest of the country doesn't understand , so be it. As for me, I can't wait to see her run again.

16 Aug 2010 1:25 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Smoking Baby

   Thank you so much. Good job ol' boy in remebering that interview !! I almost refused to believe it when they said he couldn't be saved. There's got to be a way. No racing-OK, but please let him live. Just devastating. Nice self-censoring on your part for the interview quote. That poor interviewer thought he was doing so well too. He was blown away and couldn't recover. I loved Bay Meadows. It was actually my favorite track. Another very tough loss to swallow. No wonder we love Zenyatta so much after what we've been through. Lava Man was another great California story. A claiming horse rising to Grade One stardom. Luckily a happy ending there. I believe he is doing well. I don't like to see horses unretired. I consider it to be extra risky. One thing you can say about horses racing in California-many have done very well at the highest level at an old age. Even Zenyatta can be considered old for a mare. Must be the weather. Kona Gold won grade 3's at 8 and 9 years of age. Best pal won a handicap at age 7, and was 2nd in the SA Handicap. John Henry won MANY Grade One's at 8 and 9 years of age. The old man was kicking butt.

16 Aug 2010 1:29 PM
Steve Haskin

Eric, Snow Chief was added.

16 Aug 2010 1:30 PM

Mr. Haskin,

Not to worry, there are so many great horses who have raced in California, that one cannot mention all of them. The list would be too long and tedious. :)

As for those who comment negatively on your excellent blog, I cannot for the life of me figure them out. To me the whole article was a celebration of all that is admirable about our horses and the people associated with them.

For the first time, I felt that a writer based on the East Coast had a true understanding of our feelings, and for that, I say BRAVO! Mr. Haskin! You DO get it!

16 Aug 2010 1:39 PM

To: Anne in Lexington

Did you read Mr. Haskin's words and those of many others?  She already IS a great mare.  Winning in Hong Kong, Dubai or Paris, or the BCC for that matter, has nothing to do with it.

16 Aug 2010 1:42 PM
Smoking Baby

 Dr. Drunkinbum.  You're right.  Lava Man was another great California story.  If you'd have told me several years ago that a Breeders Cup telecast would begin with images of the Stockton Fair I'd have told you that you were nuts.  To quote Jon Lovitz (as SNL's Tommy Flanagan the liar)..."And yet it happened."

16 Aug 2010 1:46 PM

I'm an right coaster that thought Zenyatta should have won horse of the year.  I think every state guards their champions.  I wonder what my Virginians must have thought when Secretariat couldn't race in his own state in 1973 or 1972?  Few Virginia horseman ever let his name go by with a mention of Virginia-bred.

16 Aug 2010 1:49 PM


This is a lovely article, written with your usual honesty, fairness, and sincerity. You are a credit to equine writers and journalists everywhere.

You mentioned many notable horses who were part of California racing, but if you will permit me to name one more: Silver Spoon, 1959 three-year-old champion filly, who achieved great success in the Golden State, including a win in the Santa Anita Derby. I could go on about Silver Spoon, but it would be beyond the scope of this particular blog segment.

Silver Spoon, a Kentucky-bred and daughter of the immortal Citation, actually had a troublesome hip, yet still was talented enough and game enough to secure her own place in history.

16 Aug 2010 1:49 PM
Pam S.

Zookeeper, re:  The first paragraph of your 12:26 post:  It's a shame Zenyatta's career path has been so disappointing to a small minority of racing fans, who would choose to express it on this particular blog when so many other forums are available. But you and I and others can still take pleasure in the overwhelmingly positive comments about Zenyatta and her Hall of Fame career and her loving connections, which see her still at the top in August of her 6-year-old year.  

Horses are flesh and blood beings and it's hard for them to provide everything to everybody.  But Zenyatta comes so close.

16 Aug 2010 1:50 PM
Ann in Lexington

Before 1970 or so, we wouldn't have been having this discussion. After Hollywood closed in July, top class racing in California took a break until Santa Anita opened on the day after Christmas. The top Cal-based runner would go out east for a late-summer fall campaign, where championships could be settled on the track. The Del Mar meet was much smaller then, catering to later developing 2yos and the turfers. This was followed by the Fair at Pomona, and the breeders' meet at Oak Tree (new in the late 1960s) that again was turf and 2yo heavy. Then a break, unless you wanted to go up to Bay Meadows to run.

Then in the 1970s the Hollywood Fall meet came in and the tracks started to think they had to be all things to all horses, instituting stakes races for every division. The Pacific Classic gave Del Mar a signature race, but it also kept local stars at home rather than going for the Woodward/JC Gold Cup=the fall 10f race in NY (like Cougar II did, acting as deputy for his ill stablemate Ack Ack), and neither race is be as strong as they could be.

And I'd like to point out that if Zenyatta is fit and sound enough to race, she is fit and sound enough to race against better competition. Horses can break a leg playing in a pasture; running her in easier races doesn't protect her from injury.

16 Aug 2010 2:04 PM
Paula Higgins

Steve, a great article. I want to thank you for such a lovely and even-handed piece on our girl. I am an east coast person through and through and Zenyatta has enriched my life tremendously. I just love her. I also love Rachel and am one of those that are glad they have never met up. I would hate for one to lose. I apologize for that to racing purists who want them to meet up. I just don't want to see either diminished.

Steve, you are a kind man. On another site a writer I will leave nameless, actually expressed the wish that Zenny be defeated in the race named after her. He is angry that her connections have not run the campaign he wanted. So my point is this, I think you are the voice of reason and kindness, and your love for all horses is clear. You don't just love the sport, you love the horses as well. I am finding that there is a difference. Thank you for that.

16 Aug 2010 2:06 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Eric rickard

  Thanks for mentioning Snow Chief. I can't believe I forgot about the little fellow. Our big Derby hope in 86. But he did come through in The Preakness, won the Eclsipse Award as top 3yo, and had a strong 4yo campaign. I remember us discussing in 86 if he could win the Derby for California. We always felt like a big underdog in The Derby. I feel sorry for those that don't enjoy the great ones like Zenyatta for whatever bias they have. Can you imagine missing out on this Zenyatta ride? I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Her classic win was one of the most exciting, thrilling moments of my life. Beyer-"toss Zenyatta," comment made it that much sweeter.

16 Aug 2010 2:23 PM

The East Coast racing experts and turf writers were, and many still (Steve Crist, Watchmaker, Bill Finley, Paul Moran) feel Easy Goer was the superior horse because Pat Day's appalingly bad riding got his beat an inch and desperate neck in two races. Heck, some west coast turf writers(Bill Christine of the L.A.Times) stated and wrote how bad Day's riding was. At any rate, I am not trying to start some more Easy Goer/Sunday Silence war of the words. They were both great horses, I repeat, they were both great horses.

16 Aug 2010 2:26 PM
Steve Haskin

John, thank you. I didn't mention Silver Spoon because with the fillies I only mentioned champions.

16 Aug 2010 2:30 PM

Thanks for adding Snow Chief, Steve. He was one of my favorites!

16 Aug 2010 2:33 PM

The reasonable explanation for the lack of an eastern campaign for Zenyatta is "Home is where the Heart is." To have her stabled in the east would mean she would be in someones elses care at times and that would be too much to bear, even on the designated caretaker. Zenyatta is more than a racehorse to her handlers, she is an affirmation. I would not want my love, my pet, or my heart away from me in anothers care. So be it with Zenyatta.

16 Aug 2010 2:48 PM

I think 2010 is the year of Zenyatta.   Zenyatta has clearly gathered more and more fans.  Her fanfare has more than tripled in 2010.

Zenyatta is going to shine for the rest of the year....

2010,  will always be remembered as her record breaking year....

16 Aug 2010 2:51 PM
Bill Daly

You know I was thinking about some parallels between Zenyatta's racin g career and Man 'o War's stud career. Sam Riddle had a real problem with Kentucky. First, he refused to race the horse in the Kentucky Derby and then when the horse went to stud he refused to allow Kentucky mares access to him. This provincial outlook didn't hurt his racing career so much, but it did result in his legacy being diminished. Now, as then, Kentucky mares were the bluebloods of the sport. The mares that Man 'o War was bred to were for the most part of lesser quality than the mares he could have and should have dated in Kentucky.  Zenyatta's people have for the most part kept her away from the competition outside of California and as a result have caused her legacy harm. She is unquestionably great, but her legacy would have been so much greater had her people been more sporting in their selection of races for her. There's no good reason why she isn't going to race in the Pacific Classic. She has demonstrated her superiority over California fillies and mares over and over again.  It's like a horse staying in the same allowance conditions and beating the opposition to a pulp.  She's better than the males that will enter the Pacific Classic regardless of which horses are entered.  She won't have to travel and she will add to her glory. Please Mr. and Mrs. Moss, put her in the Classic.

16 Aug 2010 2:51 PM

Sixtyplus and Mary In Vermont, I couldn't have said it any better than you did about the disappointment in Zenyatta's campaign.  I really hope becoming accustomed to easy competition doesn't hurt her come BC time.  I agree that she only runs as fast as she needs to and that there's a lot more in the tank.  As a Californian, the one good thing about it is that I've gotten to see her half a dozen times in person, including last year's Classic win.

Sidekickflats, Steve's right in the sense that this field is deeper and more talented in that she'll have to take on several great horses whose best surface is dirt.  Last year, the best competitors in the BC Classic were primarily turf horses, while the synthetic specialists were also-rans.  Having said that, it should be noted that Zenyatta's best surface is dirt too and she reportedly trained like a tiger last year at Churchill before the rains hit.

I still think Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra are a notch above the current crop of boys.  RA still needs to prove that's true this year, and hopefully she starts proving it in two weeks.  There is nothing I would like better than to see Rachel open up at the top of the stretch in the Classic with Zenyatta bearing down on her and we get to see an epic stretch duel like Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in the Preakness.  And may the best horse win.

16 Aug 2010 2:51 PM
Larry S.

Hi Steve, I loved your comments and your Zenyatta opinions, they were "spot on", with one HUGE exception.  On November 6, 2010, Zenyatta will be facing a far less competitive field of opponents than the 12 colts she defeated in the Santa Anita 2009 Breeder's Cup Classic.

Keep up your excellent writing an opinions!

16 Aug 2010 2:52 PM

Kevin L's remarks about HRTV and TVG were right on. Whether it's Zenyatta's connections or the industry in general, the game would have much better served to see Zenyatta in various venues around the country. Here you have a horse doing unprecedented things, and people in the Midwest or East have to wait until 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening to see her, IF they get a racing channel on premium cable or satellite. I still can't believe something could not have been set up for her to run on the Arlington Poly Track. It's no wonder racing is dying in so many places. Yeah, California has it's Zenyatta. But they're also the only people who have been able to see her!

16 Aug 2010 3:02 PM

Nice article Steve.

Buster Millerick was long over due to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and I do remember the Diver.

I have been waiting since 1973 to see another horse captivate it's following like the Queen has done. The Legions of ZEN are passionate and strong minded, and I am happy to admit that I am a member.  From her maiden stretch run, a glimpse of what was possible was on display because of her size, power and ease of stride, but NO ONE knew what was to come. This has been quite a ride already and my family all feel like we are in the saddle with Mike every step of the way as she circles the track and her competition.

The Great Secretariat captivated a nation with the help of the print media as well as the over-the-air video media in a time when black and white TV's still made up a good percentage of the households. He got mentioned on network news each of the three TC Saturday Nights.  I knew because I watched them.  He was considered news even before he won the Preakness.

What a great shame it is that the sport of kings has become so far out of the mainstream. In a world where internet and cable deliver sports coverage beyond anything one could have imagined in 1973, Queen Z is a mere footnote on many sports homepages and you must scroll to the bottom to even find HORSE RACING listed as a page to be selected.  I realize that Big Red won the Triple Crown and Queen Z never even started serious racing until into her 3YO season. That being said, she deserves far more coverage on a national stage than she is getting.  Fortunately, we have Bloodhorse, DRF, TTimes and NTRA to keep us current. However, a little more luv from the 4-letter network that claims to be the leader in sports would be nice. There really is no mention most times. Coverage there would help bring more people to the sport and THIS STORY IS REALLY WORTH COVERING as opposed to their choice to being the 24 hr All Favre Network.

We bloggers share a passion for our sport not felt by the masses, but come on.  

ZENYATTA is Cali's Horse but she deserves to be more than Cali's horse, and for me, even though I live in FL, She is MY QUEEN.  Long Live The Queen!

16 Aug 2010 3:03 PM

I don't live east of the Mississippi, but I find the implication that non-Californians won't know who Native Diver or Kissin George are insulting. I live in Oklahoma and know perfectly well who these horses are and of their greatness. I think that the East Coast bias does not exist, but I am in a minority here, as many Zen supporters will use this as their reasoning behind any criticism given her. I don't dispute their right to love as much as they please, and I myself am a fan of hers, but I cannot tolerate the dismissal of any criticisms of her campaigning as clear East Coast bias. Sure, many of the accusations levied at Zen are unfounded, but that doesn't mean that her fans should just cry ECB and leave it at that. Defend her with truth and facts, not ad hominem attacks.

16 Aug 2010 3:08 PM

After I saw Rachel Alexandra win the Kentucky Oaks by a huge margin, I couldn't stop talking about her.  However, ever since she was sold, I've thought she's been horribly mismanaged.  But when I saw Zenyatta win the Breeder's Cup Classic on television, my heart was truly stolen.  I knew she was the real deal.  Not since Secretariat have I been so in love with a race horse!  Zenyatta is truly my queen - and I am a east coaster.

16 Aug 2010 3:32 PM

Mr. Haskin, ~ You are a wonderful wordsmith!  I read all of your Bloodhorse essays and very occasionally post a comment.  Thank you sincerely for your opening post warning against bashing either of our female racing stars.  

 I live in NYS and am head over heels in love with Zenyatta.  Years ago I favored Easy Goer over his CA rival Sunday Silence.  For me, it's about the individual horse, not the coast.  It's like love, hard to explain what captures the heart, though maybe it is clear with Zenyatta.  I've always had a soft spot for the come from behind horse and I've never seen a mare who finishes like Zen.

I'll be at the BC in Nov. hoping to see her in person. ANTICIPATION is high.  If I see her win the Classic, it will be one of the biggest thrills of my lifetime, but just getting to see such a great mare will be good enough.  I wish her (and all race horses) continued good health and success.  Thank you to her connections for loving her and protecting her so well.  She is a treasure of a lifetime.

16 Aug 2010 3:36 PM

Bill Dally, love your comments about Man O'War. I was thinking myself how he skipped the Derby - seemed too far too run that early as a 3 yr old but Riddle had a distaste for Kentucky (luckily he changed his tune by the time War Admiral came along).

I think the East vs West thing is hilarious (as in good). I grew up a girl in the 70s in love with the Black Stallion movie where Cyclone and Sun Raider had their big match race as the set up for the climax of the movie. I can't remember which fictional horse was from the east or west..but I'm hoping Rachel smokes her competition in the Personal Ensign and we have our "match" race between East and Wset...Rachel and Z finally! I think it will take the Black Stallion (or Blame although bay, running like him to beat the ladies) Oh, it's in the BCC so there will be some top notch also-rans!!!

16 Aug 2010 3:39 PM

I'm from NY and I love Zenyatta. She's my favorite horse ever. I wish she'd come here to race, but if she doesn't that's ok, as long as she wins the Classic.

16 Aug 2010 3:39 PM

native diver the californian black legend. oh what an equine beast.

16 Aug 2010 3:47 PM

Great story! I adore Zenyatta, and I live in the Pacific Northwest, not CA. I have not seen a phenomenon like this is since Secretariat's Triple Crown heroics 37 years ago, and I never thought I would see anything like it in my lifetime again - a racehorse as rock star. I will treasure every race Zenyatta runs, and I have seen every one of them (on TV)  - and I also managed to catch her first two allowance starts on video!

Let's all just enjoy her and not quibble over the "soft" competition - after all, she runs in Grade 1 races, it's not her fault nobody wants to race against her! She proved her true talent in the BC Classic. She has a huge personality to match her size, and that's why everyone loves her so much. Keep dancin', Zen!

16 Aug 2010 4:03 PM

I am from Wyoming and I cry everytime I watch Zenyatta run.  I think she is the greatest filly of all time and will go down as one of the greatest race horses of all time.  I don't care where she runs, I will watch her...can cry.

16 Aug 2010 4:15 PM
Billy's Empire

Steve, nice article on the Cali horses and the impact that they have and had in racing. One that I always think of that had a shortened career was Melair. She whooped Snow Chief and was simply amazing.

16 Aug 2010 4:39 PM

I never knew I was supposed to be biased...I have failed.

I am on the East Coast (on the coast of New hampshire, doesn't get much "east-er" than that) but it has NEVER mattered to me East or West...it was always just the horse. In fact it was Sunday Silence over Easy Goer, Ferdinand over Alysheba, Winning Colors over PE, plus Swaps is one of my all time faves, and yes, I knew who Native Diver was, et al...never dawned on me to root for a horse because of where it came from....I mean we ALL adored Lava Man, Lost in the Fog and so many others.

16 Aug 2010 5:06 PM

I forgot to mention to all of you Mom's Command (and Dancer's Image) fans...I had promised when I went by Runnymede Stable to put flowers from all of you...I did yesterday, by the stonewall in front the big sign with their photos ♥

16 Aug 2010 5:13 PM
Steve Haskin

For those who took exception to the word provincial, which has several interpretations, I changed it to localized to avoid any misconceptions regarding the intent of its use.

16 Aug 2010 5:18 PM

Mary in Vermont, I completely agree with your post. As a racing fan from Britain, I find it hard to understand why anyone would keep a top class mare to female company, when so many mares in Europe (not just the best) take on the males, even as two year olds.

By the way, Ouija Board's Kingmambo colt is called Voodoo Prince. He's two years old and is in training with her old trainer Ed Dunlop. I've heard he was quite 'backwards' as a foal, so he may not appear until later in the season. Here's a link you might be interested in. If you click on the hyperlink 'Ouija Board', you should be able to access more stories about her.


16 Aug 2010 5:25 PM

Paula Higgins,

You said to Mr. Haskin: "You don't just love the sport, you love the horses as well. I am finding that there is a difference." The wisdom of your words had me reeling in my chair. If I had been standing, my knees would have buckled, so stricken was I by the insight of your comment.

For over a year now (since I've joined the BH blog world) I have been pondering how and why people, who are fans of the sport, have such disdain for some of the participants. No matter how hard I tried to reconcile the two, the only place I reached was a wall (and my head banging against it).

Then I read your deceptively simple comment and the light went on: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. Not for Mr. Haskin, you, me and many, many others; but it certainly explains where the others are coming from. They love the sport but couldn't care less for the horses and their connections.

Thank you for solving the riddle for me. It was driving me crazy! Not only are you one of the kindest commentors on here but you are also one of the brainiest!

16 Aug 2010 5:29 PM
Barbara W

Thank you so much, Steve, for giving us a chance to rave about our dear Zenyatta. I would be willing to bet that most of those who disrespect her (for whatever reason) have never seen her in person. I lost my heart completely when I saw last year's BC on tv.

I live in central Texas and managed to make it to Arkansas to see her at this year's Oaklawn. What they say is true--she is an experience, and the national media better wake up to this fact and give racing more publicity, not to mention airtime.

My dearest wish is that all horses could be so loved and treasured by their connections.

As a side note, it is interesting that this article on California racing appeared the week of the death of Mr. Vessels. His farm was the home of our horse's grandfather, Beduino.

Keep up the good work.

16 Aug 2010 5:30 PM
Paula Higgins

Look at the love this horse inspires. I have never seen anything like it. What a gift she has been to all who recognize her greatness. I am going to go through withdrawal when she stops racing, big time. Maybe Rachel will continue next year and our other "gift will keep on giving."

16 Aug 2010 5:47 PM
Sharon M

Great article as always, Steve!  California fans do deserve to have their equine hero's just like everyone else.  I admit I have been one to make comments about not running her against males on the West Coast if not the East Coast.  However, her charisma and ability cannot be denied.  Her antics are just priceless!  How can anyone not love her?  I sincerely hope the connections don't change their minds about running her in the Classic against males because I truly believe she can win it a second time.  Even if she doesn't she'll always be the Queen of Hearts in my mind.

16 Aug 2010 5:54 PM

Afleetalexforever said...

"And unfortunately the Breeders Cup Classic will not change her legacy one single bit.  But again lovely article Steve, nice to see someone in the media give Zenyatta and her California fans their just due, deserved or not."

It certainly won't. Because if Zenyatta wins the Classic and ends her career on a 20-0 record, or even a 19-1 record, she will undoubtedly go down as one of the great horses of history.

And when Zenyatta is inducted into the Hall of Fame, no one will remember one person complimenting a writer for "giving Zenyatta and her fans their just due, whether she deserved it or not."

16 Aug 2010 6:33 PM
Pam S.

Larry S.,

I am intrigued by your comment that Zenyatta will face a softer field Nov. 6 than she faced in last year's Classic.  Most people seem to feel it will be a much tougher field.  Can you elaborate on why you believe otherwise?

16 Aug 2010 6:36 PM

I keep thinking maybe Zenyatta and Rachel should charge the stallions intead of the other way around.

16 Aug 2010 6:37 PM

I wish I could see her run live just once. It probably won't happen, but that's okay. At least I have the knowledge that perfection exists in such an imperfect world.

16 Aug 2010 6:45 PM

I saw Ack Ack win the Derby Trial in '69 setting a track record that stood for years. Truly one of the great handicap horses and another Whittingham gem.

16 Aug 2010 6:48 PM

Ann in Lexington and Mary in Vermont -

Oh, don't tempt me!  I'm trying to let go of my disappointment!  I really think that Zenyatta is that good too!  I think that she could win the Dubai World Cup, that she could win the Arc!  Imagine!  Sometimes my heart just aches.

I also think that she is already great.

I have to think that she just might not be cut out for that kind of travel.  I don't know!  I'm waiting for the tell all after she retires.  It sure seems that the Mosses wanted to travel more - they said so many different times - even last year - but I think that either John advised against it or there were problems with her.  Who knows?

I certainly don't want to see her hurt or handled improperly, and it's hard to argue with the plan that has kept such a big gal racing.

And I don't have a regional bias, well an east OR west coast bias.  I'm in New Mexico - talk about an inferiority complex!  Peppers Pride doesn't even get her due!  I know, I know.  She only raced state breds, but who can sneeze at 19 and 0?  Well, it turns out, just about everyone.  We are very proud of Chip and Mine That Bird, and, of course, Zenyatta's jockey, who learned to ride here.  Although if he makes a mistake with Zen, we might disown him!

I just love HORSES.  And at this point, as I've said, I'm trying to let go of my will.  Well... sort of...  I have a new dream for Zenyatta.  Since all my other dreams were not options, now I imagine, deep breath...

Now I imagine that we're on the dirt at Churchill Downs and all the best have shown up AT their best.  They all love dirt.  Quality Road and Rachel Alexandra are turning on the afterburners, Rail Trip, Blame, and Lookin' At Lucky are starting to roll.  They're flying, because they've learned that they can't beat Zenyatta by slowing things down, they're just going all out trying to leave her behind...

OK, now... I still don't know how it ends, but sometimes I see Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra in a dead heat BREAKING SECRETARIAT'S TRACK RECORD!  And sometimes, I just see Zenyatta blowing by them all BREAKING SECRETARIAT'S TRACK RECORD!  Woo hoo!!

Oh, and in my dream, I can see Andy Beyer's STUNNED FACE!

And then EVERYONE comes out of the race healthy and happy, horses and fans.  I know, I know.  Say what you want, but please be as gentle as you can.

16 Aug 2010 6:58 PM

Just love to watch her.  Yes, she has touched my heart.  Would love to see her in person no matter what track she is running on.

16 Aug 2010 6:58 PM
Tiz A Cal Bred

great post.

where does Cigar come into the picture?

16 Aug 2010 7:23 PM

Mr Haskin- I find it amazing that many people on here even know the difference.  You did not need to change it at all.  It is used in Europe all the time without derogatory inference.

16 Aug 2010 7:32 PM

They only become eastern horses if they set a stakes record like Lite Light did in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.  Hmmm. I think the trainer has another big 3 year old filly coming to town the 21st.

16 Aug 2010 7:44 PM

Rachel O,

You said it !  Zenyatta's all that.  I just feel blessed that she exists in my lifetime and that I have been able to see her in person and watch her run.  Nothing like it.

16 Aug 2010 7:48 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

I always thought that the job of the trainer was to get a horse fit, keep it sound and happy and to enter it in the races best suited for that horse to win as many races as possible. Zenyatta's connections have done that to perfection. Those that complain of Zenyatta only running in easy races need to rethink their statement.

Grade 1 races are there to attract the best horses that fit those conditions and the purse is part of the enticement. Every horse that enters the race has a chance to win. Some just have a better chance than others. Some have a MUCH better chance than others. Zenyatta has beat every horse that she has run against her for the past three years and 18 races. She can't race against horses that don't enter.

Nobody could ever say that Personal Ensign had an easy campaign because, except for the 1988 Whitney S., she only beat fillies and mares. Personal Ensign was a phenomenal racehorse who won 13 consecutive starts because she was talented, loved to win, her trainer and groom kept her happy and healthy and she was entered in races that fit her conditions. Most of them just happened to be Grade 1 races. Just like Zenyatta's races.

I'm not sure some people realize how difficult it is to keep even a saddle horse sound. Horses seem to have a knack of finding any way they can to hurt themselves. Not to mention that colic (a tummy ache) for a horse can be life threatening. For a top race mare like Zenyatta to stay sound both mentally and physically after three years of racing in Grade 1 events, her groom and trainer must be doing something right. I applaud and appreciate them for letting us enjoy Zenyatta at her finest.

16 Aug 2010 7:54 PM

Snow Chief still holds the track record at Oaklawn for 9 furlongs (1:46 3/5).  He also won both the Florida Derby and Santa Anita Derby--how many trainers or owners are brave enough to try for a cross-country double like that in the heat of 3-year-old campaign?  He was tough and really fast.  I suppose it's too bad that he didn't have more of a genetic impact, as he had a real "outcross" pedigree to the dominant sire lines of today.

16 Aug 2010 7:54 PM

The Devil May Care vs. Blind Luck matchup perhaps is the closet we can come to an east vs. west coast matchup.  Blind Luck is taking it right to their playground.

16 Aug 2010 7:55 PM
Ida Lee

I'm from NC and I adore Zenyatta. It's not just her talent. But her cute Diva ways just make me smile.  This Mare has found a place in my heart like few animals have. And I say this even as I admit that Rachel is my girl and will always be special. There are only two horses who I do not compare to anyone because they are unique and so special that to compare them is sacriligious, that is Secretariat and Ruffian. I think before long, Zenyatta will be joining that very short list..

16 Aug 2010 8:22 PM

I'm on the East Coast in GA and Love, Love, LOVE, Zenyatta. She has fans all over. I had never watched a horse race before I heard of Zenyatta. Here's a song that sums up Queen Z perfectly and has a catchy tune. :o) www.youtube.com/watch

16 Aug 2010 8:27 PM

Steve -I really appreciate this article, having been a racing fan on the West coast for the past 42 years. Thankyou.

Two things I am wondering, maybe someone here can help answer. First, if someone had bet two dollars on Zenyatta to win in her first race, and then parlayed those winnings on the next 17 races with win bets, how much would they have? (I think this is the kind of information that could draw people to horse racing)

Secondly, I too loved Lost in the Fog, and I was wondering, wasn't it just after he returned from the East coast, Belmont Breeder's Cup Sprint, which he was favored to win, that he was diagnosed with cancer? And isn't cancer a very rare occuring disease in horses? Also wasn't a filly from Canada favored in the Juv. Fillies, and she also did not win( or race, I forget now) , but soon after was diagnosed with cancer?

What I'm really saying here, is that maybe it's a good thing that Zenyatta has stayed on the West coast, seeing the types of things that have occured at Belmont, most recently we have Uptowncharlybrown with a questionable problem in the Belmont.

16 Aug 2010 8:32 PM

I completly agree with you, Steve. However, myself, a die hard Zenyatta fan is having some doubts. We already have an idea of whos going to be in the Classic, Zenny, possibly Rachel if her connections don't chicken out of running, Blame, Quality Road, Awesome Gem, hopefully the improving I want revenge, Lookin At lucky, First Dude, and Super Saver, and probably Concord Point and some European invaders. Hopefully she'll pull it off. All she needs is a clean trip. The horses I'm most afraid of in that lot are Lucky, Blame, and QR. But Zenyatta win find a way. Make way for our favorite Calafornia Girl!

16 Aug 2010 8:45 PM

Thank you so mucn!  In such tough times that we Californians have faced with the loss of two of our finest in Quarter horse racing, touh economical times, and little political support for California racing, we have grasped on to somthing bigger than ourselves---just watching her run gives us hope that we too can march on---one race at a time! Thank you for sticking up for those of us who are passionate about the sport and our horse stars in our state.

16 Aug 2010 9:05 PM

Hey Ed,  Snow Chief was a good one, but 1:46 and 3 is pedestrian to Simply Majestic.

16 Aug 2010 9:14 PM

Speaking of Kissin George, in the 1968 Californian at Hollywood Park he set the fractions until the immortal Dr. Fager blew by him going into the far turn, the rest is history. I might add that Gamely, who has been spoken very highly of in these blogs and rightfully so finished second to the Doc.

All in all Kissin George was an excellent sprinter.

16 Aug 2010 9:37 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   The answer to your first question is that you'd make very little starting with only two dollars. Well, you wouldn't have gotten rich, that's for sure. You're adding less than a dollar for each two dollars to the total in most races. It's not like you're doubling up everytime, far from it. Lost in the Fog ran in the Breeder's Cup Oct 29, 2005 but he was at Belmont June 2005 also. I believe they said that it would have taken awhile for the tumors to grow but they don't know when they started. Cancer is rare in horses but I still think the Belmont thing is coincidence. However, they have no idea why he got it. I do not recall when it was diagnosed. He was euthanized 9-17-06 when he was a four year old. He won a race or two when they feel certain that he already had cancer in an advanced stage. He had to be in a lot of pain when he ran his last few races but still gutted out wins.

16 Aug 2010 10:07 PM

Having grown up in SoCal, then moving to WA, I became again interested in horse racing, which some members of family are in following the Triple Crown after many years.  When Zenyatta appeared on the scene, I watched 1 race, then a couple of others. After the   Breeder's Cup, she was my gal. I was totally sucked in.  Zenyatta is the best thing to happen not just to CA racing, but because she has a huge personal presence to US racing.  I just wish as a representative of the TB industry, she had been part of an ad campaign to promote interest in horse racing to a greater degree.  Some of my friends still ask me who is Zenyatta - these are people in other horse related venues.  It will be a long time before we'll see a horse, actually a real character, who can get so many people to the track which could also educate more of the general public about what it's like to enjoy a day at the races, instead of inside a smoke filled casino!  Someday, hopefully there will be tracks who can also get kids involved with learning about the racing industry while their parents are enjoying adult gaming actvities.  Zenyatta is an example of the perfect Ambassador of Racing.

16 Aug 2010 10:22 PM
Between Friends

Another terrific column and wonderful responses.

I am an East Coast resident who combs the Internet for everything about Zenyatta. I haven't been this attached to a horse in years  (except for my own horses) even though I have never been closer to her than a TV or computer screen. It's also thrilling to watch the crowd's reaction to a Zenyatta victory.  Wish I could be there

Ruffianruns, in your dream what would the Beyer speed figure be?

16 Aug 2010 10:51 PM

And they still refuse to believe that Sunday Silence got the better of Easy Goer - despite the facts!

Ms Z. will speak for herself and her many fans very soon.

And then there will be NO DENIAL anymore!

16 Aug 2010 11:01 PM


Thank you for a great article.

My first exposure to east coast bias came in 1969 when "the Prince" (Majestic Prince) won the Kentucky Derby while being undefeated and followed-up that score with a win in the Preakness. Johnny Longden, the trainer then said that "the Prince" had injured himself and could not race in the Belmont Stakes. The east coast media went nuts and said "the Prince" was ducking the best in the east. Longden again said no. But the pressure got to him and let "the Prince" run in the Belmont Stakes.

Despite the injury, "the Prince" finished  a gallant second, was led off to the barn never to race again.

But I think Zenyatta has a special universal appeal. I was on the NTRA website just before Hirsch and people were blogging in from around the world...Ireland...the Middle East...Africa...Australia waiting patiently for the American wondermare to race.

It was amazing.

Further, I read from someone that was at a harness track somewhere near Saratoga and as the horses approached to starting gate for the Hirsch racegoers/casino goers crowded every tv monitor and were cheering as Zenyatta won and were clapping wildly as she came back to the winner's circle.

If Zenyatta wins her final two races, the Classic included, she will and should break the 'glass ceiling' for American female racehorses and enter into the top ten of all time American greats.

16 Aug 2010 11:08 PM
Paula Higgins

Zookeeper, thank you SO MUCH for your kind words about my post. But believe me, I saw the difference when that "other writer I will leave nameless" wrote those words that he wished Zenny would lose. Jason literally deleted my post because I went after that writer with both feet flying. He told me I couldn't use the word "pathetic" in reference to one of his fellow writers. I was really mad when I wrote the post LOL.

Some of us love all horses more than we love the sport and it shows. You are one of them and so is Steve Haskins. Steve has a dimesnion to his writing that shows his heart and not just his mind. A very hard thing to do in any sport. Keep posting. I love your posts as well. We are kindred spirits.

16 Aug 2010 11:18 PM

Thank you, Steve!!!  Great history & even more maturity!  What this world needs...  Just for the record, I'm an East Coast gal, but I love both of these mares for the joy they have brought us the last year--perhaps this is the year for the "California Girl" aka Lady Zen.  Who knows?

17 Aug 2010 12:48 AM

Excellent piece of writing Mr. Haskin! I have been going to the races the last 27 years. A couple observations: 1) I always believed that inherently the east coast bias existed due to block of votes coming from that area, and 2) I have been present at the races watching the following champions: Zenyatta, Princess Rooney, John Henry, Bates Motel, Flawlessly, Lady Secret, Bayakoa, Paseana, Sunday Silence, Cigar, Snow Chief, and countless others. Zenyatta would and could beat all of them at a mile and a quarter. Can you imagine John Henry, Zenyatta, and Cigar fighting it out the last eighth of a mile?

17 Aug 2010 1:04 AM

I've been following racing since I was able to save up enough money to subscribe to The Blood Horse.  Since I didn't live any where near a race track and the local paper did not cover racing at all, it was about the only way I could follow racing outside of the Triple Crown.  That was in the 70s, so I had the thrill of experiencing Secretariat's assault on the Triple Crown as it unfolded.  And this is the first time since then that there's been another horse to generate that kind of buzz.  

So now I've got my sister watching TVG on her dish now, my 79 year old aunt going to the track (and getting lost in the parking lot looking for her car because valet parking was full) and even my chiropractor dialing up Zenyatta's races on Youtube.  That's the kind of impact this mare has.  Even people who have never bothered to watch a horse race are now demanding that I tell them the next time she races so they can all watch her.  So I have to get on a computer in Texas, call my friend in Colorado to watch on her dish so we can yell and scream and jump up and down with each other during the race.  This is after my aunt gets to the track, dragging her neighbor who had never been to Hollywood Park before in her life and she was born in LA.  And my sister makes sure she has the TV on during a Saturday when she's usually doing something else.  THAT is the impact of Zenyatta.....a horse that even people who have never watched a race before in their lives become life long fans of racing after seeing her run.  

As Ann Moss keeps telling us, "she's a gift".  Many thanks to her and to John Shirreffs for convincing Mr. Moss that Zenyatta really wasn't ready to quit running just yet.  This year has been icing on the cake.  I don't care if she has a walkover, because even at that, she'll make a show of it and bring people out to the track.  And thanks to Youtube, even though I can't make it to a racetrack to see her run, I can always watch her races and listen to the call "and here comes Zenyatta!"  

I still think Vic Stauffer said it best in the stretch call of the 2008 Milady--"How do you describe perfection?  Why try?  Let's just watch her run.  This is ZENYATTA!"

17 Aug 2010 1:04 AM

I think what some people aren't seening about Zenyatta - at least the ones who say she should ship here, ship there, coulda won this race, coulda won that race is that her connections took their time with her because of her size, little things that existed when she was younger, etc. I saw exercise rider Steve Willard say in a recent video that she had a few problems when she was younger, her size was an issue and they would have never dared race her as a two year old. She didn't even race until the very end of her 3 year old year. They took their time with her and we've all been rewarded for it.  It's been stated they didn't like the way Zenyatta shipped back from Oaklawn, for whatever reason(s). Hey, she's 6 years old now. Why people think she has to ship overseas or back east to be something special I don't understand. Every horse is different. I trust what John Shirreffs does with Zenyatta because she hasn't done anything but win - all eighteen of her races. I say good for him and all who are involved with her. I'm waiting for the next race so I can root her on!

17 Aug 2010 1:05 AM

Deacon and Sam Ludu, we need to sit down over a glass of wine, or a beer, and talk...  Gamely, Kissin George, Hill Rise, George Royal, Lucky Debonair - gosh, some good racing remembered.  And I agree with Mike S, Cougar II did not receive the recognition he deserved.  Thanks Steve for introducing the opportunity for remembrances of some very talented and fondly remembered champions.  I grew up reading about racing in the L.A. Times with great columnists like Jim Murray,  and Sports Illustrated, and watching Saturday feature races on network TV - pretty mainstream media.  Now I am hard pressed to find racing coverage in SI, and the L.A. Times has deserted horse racing for high school football...  The accomplishments of Zenyatta, Rachel A., Quality Road, Blame, the Triple Crown, etc. and the Hall of Fame inductees deserves wider coverage than they receive.  Steve, does your travel budget allow you to come out west?  We'll put you up if need be...!!  

17 Aug 2010 1:07 AM

Loved your words as always, Steve.  So many great horses from CA.

The Lost in the Fog documentary is a wonderful tribute to the horse and his connections.  I am moved to tears thinking of Lost in the Fog's loss to cancer.

I live in Nevada and Zenyatta is my Queen too.  I want to see her so badly if she runs once more in CA.

17 Aug 2010 2:09 AM

I have read and reread your article and must say I too find this very condescending. I don't question your motives, but to me it is galling. I thought you would understand. Yes, we love Zenyatta and yes, we think she's the greatest but maybe it's because we Californians have seen many a great horse and have the sense to recognize just exactly what she has accomplished. I think the reason so many of our famed trainers speak so highly of her is due to her truly amazing record. To a one, they all express amazment that she has won every race, knowing how difficult it is to consistently maintain any race horse in top form. Whom among us has not heard an analyst, commentator or trainer say a horse probably needs a race to sharpen up? Not Zenyatta

Give me one example of a true closer that has won every race regardless of pace. No horse has ever done so, except Zenyatta.

Fast, slow or non existing, it has never mattered. How many times have we heard it said the horse lost, a victim of the pace? Not Zenyatta.

Maybe people aren't aware that even though California has artificial surfaces, no track is the same. Many horses win at Santa Anita or Hollywood Park but can't handle the surface at Del Mar and vice versa. Zenyatta does.

Zenyatta has been on the dirt twice and won both times after shipping in from Hollywood. Not only does her connections think she's better on dirt but so do a lot of people. Ron Ellis said on TVG last week that he sees her almost everyday and she glides over the dirt track whenever she's on it. Bob Baffert says she is even faster on dirt. I think these trainers know what they are talking about. And that is the point! She does everything well, she has done everything asked of her and she is UNBEATEN!

Zenyatta also has personality. Make that personality with a capitol P. She dances, stomps, goose steps and salutes the crowd. Zenyatta loves the attention and rewards the crowds adoration everytime. Name another horse out there with her charisma.

I was lucky enough to have lived down the road from the great Swaps and lived the saga of Mr Ellsworth not running him back East after the Derby because of the "Eastern sports writers" and their disdain for California horses. The bias is real, always has been and judging by the way Zenyatta is dissed, always will be. But, don't paint us as being so crazy about her because of that old ploy or that we are somehow lacking good judgement or are irrational about her. No, we love her. We appreciate her and are damn mad that people can't give her the recognition she has so incredibly earned. I don't care about Rachel. I don't wish her harm, I don't think about it. She ran some really good races last year. Great, but she doen't do it for me. Rachel is not awe inspiring on the track, neither is Quality Road. I can't think of another horse at this time with Zenyattas' presence.  I spent many an afternoon playing hooky just to see the likes of Native Diver and John Henry and they had it! That star quality that just hushed the crowd with magnetism. They were truly giants and my memories of those great stars of yesterday are as vivid today as back then.

I was thrilled when Secretariat won the tripple crown but did I think he was the greatest? I saw Silky Sullivan, so that Belmont race was not the most incredible race I had ever seen. Of the top ten racehorses of the 20th century, only Man o' War and Native Dancer lost just one race and Man O' War never ran in the Derby. If Native Dancer had won the Derby, he would have won the tripple crown, won 21 of 21 races and retired unbeaten and yet he's just number 7. Maybe it's because he broke his maiden at Santa Anita.                          

17 Aug 2010 2:53 AM

Steve thank you again for your thoughtful words.  Great article.

Jeff: Wow, talk about a name I haven't heard for awhile "Simply Majestic!!!"  He stood at the ranch that I rode for in the 90's. I'm not sure whatever happened with him. He was such a sweet stallion.  Just a lil guy.  When the local news got wiff of his arrival, they were all there doing reports.  He was even on the local News! He was probally the only stallion that would come running up to you if you were on the fence and put his head on your shoulders wanting love and kisses.  Sweetie!

17 Aug 2010 3:41 AM
Fran Loszynski

It's great to read all these posts and how much people love Rachel and Zenyatta. I have to share this with all of you:

On the day Rachel was running I was watching her and at the casino others were watching Zenyatta at her race, I watched a little Spanish man barely able to speak English about 70 or 80 years old place a bet on his favorite. He was overwhelmened in the crowd of old-time bettors and was rushed through the crowd. He managed to find a little simulcast T.V. and sat watching, I assumed Rachel, do her thing. At the end of the race as we cheered for Rachel; I looked over at this little man and a loud roar came from him "ZENYATTA!"

I smiled and was thrilled for both horses.

17 Aug 2010 8:16 AM

Predict: First...At 1/9, you'd make ten cents betting Zen.  Secondly...the East coast causes cancer?????? in horses????  Really???  You should first have consulted a site on equine health.

"The deceased champion sprinter Lost in the Fog's cancer was much more extensive than originally believed and most likely had been growing for many months. Results of the necropsy, released Oct. 18, showed a gigantic tumor that compromised several of his internal organs. Located directly below his spine, one inoperable lymphoma ran almost the length of the colt's back."

So much for unfounded observations.

I really thought Steve's blog was written to pay tribute to the many loyal California fans who have avidly followed Zenyatta's campaign with exuberant joy.  I thought the purpose was not only delightful, but also grateful....and to allow them their day in the sun.  While folks all over the country do love Zen, it's the fans who attend her every race that bring her the love we all feel.

17 Aug 2010 9:52 AM

The Battle Of The Bulge interview???...PURE GOLD!!!  "How can you compare a wonderful horse like Lost In The Fog to...."  (you remember the rest)

QUOTE from Smokin Baby


I remember that! That poor announcer was just floored!  I was one part stunned and one part right on mister!

I mean you have this incredible race horse that gives it all he's got every time, and someone is comparing it to a battle that you'd rather forget (but will never be able to)?! One is a good thing, one is a bad thing.

I was really crossing my fingers that Foggy would beat that #$^**#$*# cancer, but it was not to be.

17 Aug 2010 10:13 AM
Smoking Baby

Paula Higgins,

You said to Mr. Haskin: "You don't just love the sport, you love the horses as well.

Thank you Paula Higgins and thank you Zookeeper for commenting on this.  Since I've joined the Bloodhorse blog world I've wondered countless times "Do these people even LIKE horses?"  When these thoughts have come to me I've never commented because I didn't want to make anyone mad and start a big back and forth thing (life's WAY too short for that nonsense) but I still can't help but wonder.  Thanks for saying something that's been bugging for some time now.  

17 Aug 2010 10:15 AM
Steve Haskin

Dona, you say it is condescending and then do not give a single example to back that up. You go on about how great Zenyatta is and how many great horses have run in California. So, what point are you trying to make that the vast majority of posters have not already made, including myself? Did you somehow manage to interpret this column as saying Zenyatta is not great and there havent been great horses to race in California? If you did I have no idea where you got that from.

17 Aug 2010 10:28 AM
Don in Massachusetts

Great article, Steve, with wonderful references to some great California horses.

I, for one, am happy to have the opportunity to watch and appreciate Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, and I thank God for giving us two extraordinary specimens of equine perfection. Let everyone enjoy this ride we're on because future generations will indeed envy us.

I am so looking forward to the Breeders' Cup at Churchill so I can see Zenyatta with my own eyes.  She is the reason I am going, but will always love and support Rachel.

Thanks again!

17 Aug 2010 10:35 AM
Meydan Rocks

To KautoStar,

Thanks for your keen sense of observation.

But truly me wee friend, for us to do the simple thing you just proposed wouldn’t be civilized,... now would it?  

Weathers? Tea please, thank yoh!


To Mary In Vermont,

After keen observation over the years, I have realized that there is a MASSIVE transcontinental divide between ownership and and being a consumer of the product that ownership sweats to provide.

I am quite sure that the Mosses (who just might be grandparents like you are,.. at least chronologically qualified to be) considered general sentiments at large such as yours in their overall calculation when/as they tweaked Zenyatta’s “original” racing schedule (post Zardana Surprise).

When you and I are long gone from this earth (and I am not yet a grandparent), the debate will probably get more interesting. And IF Zenyatta destroys this years classic field at the end of the long Churchill downs strip, the debate will get even more “curiouser and curiouser”.

Not factored in to all this human inanity is the fact that some of the racing equine greats that/which lost races during their march to “greatness” (as defined by humans) were probably not supposed to have been run at those particular points in time.

There is no science, road map or owners manual when it comes to handling these fragile equine stars. We pine for their handlers to “show their greatness” and yet when these animals break down (and yes, they occasionally do), we collectively give voice to the equivalent of “oops” or “so sorry for your loss” and/or rant and kvetch about the poor judgement of their human handlers.


To Afleetalexforever ,

With regards to your reasoning about why “the media” never grabbed a hold of Zenyatta’s story is pure speculation and thereby has to be relegated to the “what if” column. The documentation of the cross currents of culture (pop and otherwise) is fluid. There is no guarantee that flying Zenyatta all over the country to satisfy the whims and fleeting foibles of racing fans at large would have earned her the right to precious “front page/screen time” real estate in the money starved media as it currently stands.

I personally believe that it takes cojones, balls and chutspah to take the contrarian path that the Mosses have currently embarked upon knowing full well that stones with bad intentions and arrows too deadly for Cupid to handle would be hurled their way.  

As an aside, maybe this display of this contrarianism (as expressed by people who indulge in the  “bias”)  has to do with their decades long experience of creating a once formidable company from scratch, running it successfully and creating “products” that even the Martians will find when they come to visit in the future.

And so in closing, allow me to say “Schmeest coast/Schmest coast” rivalry. Period. Let’s forget about what “history” is going to look like when we’re no longer here to preside over, nudge and/or mold it into what we would like it to LOOK LIKE for the sakes of our egos.

Enjoy the equine star/s, be it from TV screens in the comfort of your home or at the track.

9 times out of 10, She/they won’t let you down.

Thank you!

17 Aug 2010 10:38 AM

Between Friends - I don't know much about BSFs, but I think I've heard that Beyer gave Secretariat a 129 for his Derby performance - and wikipedia says he gave him 139 for the Belmont.  I don't really know, but it seems that if any horse breaks the Derby record it would have to be a number around 130.  Again, I know very little about assigning these numbers.

Fan1469 - I totally get it!  I have people watching that had never watched a race, not even the Triple Crown races!  I can't even wrap my brain around that.  Yikes, I've even pulled up all of Zenyatta's races on YouTube and made people watch them in order.  Then I started talking to more people and they talked to other people.  More people wanted information, so now I send out an email newsletter to keep everyone up to date about the races and the latest drama.  Since last year, a group of us get together and watch.  Now several people have October 2nd and November 6th blocked off on their calendars cause they don't want to miss the end of this amazing ride.  People in Arizona, Colorado, Washington State email me frantically after reading my latest newsletter and watching the lastest race.  They love Zenyatta!

17 Aug 2010 10:39 AM
Bill Daly

Smoking Baby, I think what we've got here is anthropomorphism at work. This from Wikipedia: Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human animal or non-living things, phenomena, material states and objects or abstract concepts. Examples include animals and plants and forces of nature such as winds, rain or the sun depicted as creatures with human motivations, and/or the abilities to reason and converse. The term derives from the combination of the Greek ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpos), "human" and μορφή (morphē), "shape" or "form".

Lots of us tend to live vicariously through our equine heroes. Sometimes we can get carried away.

17 Aug 2010 10:53 AM

Mr. Haskins another well written and thought provoking article. Zookeeper, I have also felt that same way, and posted comments trying to understand how some of these people think. I guess I was also under the misguided impression that all race fans were horse lovers.I have also realized the same thing with this article. I am from TN and I think all the horses that race are awesome creatures. From the claimers to the Zenyattas. I am a Zen fan to the core because for me she is the "whole" package. I think RA is amazing also. I wish that both sides of the country could appreciate all of what we have, but I also understand why CAL is so in love with her.I share those feelings in TN. I went to Oaklawn to see her run this year thinking it might be the only time to see her in the flesh. What an experience. Steve thanks for mentioning all the other greats that had CAL connections.A wonderful history lesson also, and to remember that Zen is not the only CAL horse. You are a very insightful person and a true horse person. Thanks so much for all the articles you have written. I always finish them with the knowledge that loving horses is a very positive thing.

17 Aug 2010 11:38 AM

GJU:  You make a lot of sense!  Thank you!

Dinkydiva:  Thanks for remembering Simply Majestic.  You're right he was a little guy - 15-2 or 15-3 I would guess when I saw him.  Would you believe I have one of his sons (unraced unfortunately) and he is 17 hands!

By the way friends, Simply Majestic is a grand son of Majestic Prince.

Mr. Haskin: I still think he belongs on your list of great California horses (see post of 8/16, 11:48) but I can't get you to bite!  Not all great horses were champions.  I'm not comparing him to Simply Majestic, but did Alydar ever win a Grade one?

17 Aug 2010 11:46 AM

Bill, when you have an uppity, witchy cat who bows to no one, and you're babysitting your grandchildren, when one is ultra-colicky and you're at wit's end...and then suddenly that uppity cat climbs up beside you and reaches out a paw to soothe the leg of that child...how can you not anthropomorphisize its actions.  Animals have simply never lost that survivalist 6th sense that humans have seemed to ignore.

17 Aug 2010 12:15 PM


Sorry Steve, of course Alydar won a Grade one:  1978 Florida Derby . . . don't know what I was thinking.  He also won the 1978 Travers by virtue of Affirmed's DQ.

Never mind!!

17 Aug 2010 12:23 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  I think I spoke too soon. I got lost trying to calculate it but I think you'd do quite well. You're starting off with $13 for a $2 bet that Zenyatta paid for her debut race on the 44th anniversary of JFK's death, November 22nd, 2007. She paid 7.60 for her Classic win, so you triple up in 14th career race after you're pretty high up there with a sizeable bet. Maybe someone better at math than I am could figure it out. I do know that your Classic bet is over a thousand for sure, maybe a few thousand. Overall I suspect that you could get over 10k but I'm not sure. Intriguing question and I hope someone comes up with the answer to the question-"How much would you win if you parlayed an initial $2 bet on all of Zenyatta's races?"

17 Aug 2010 12:58 PM
Judy Loves John Henry & Zenyatta ~ California

To Heidi who wrote:

"My husband and I also get HRTV/TVG at home and we watch all of Zenyatta's races there (good thing since I am often in joyful tears as soon as she walks into the paddock!)"

I've experienced Zenny in person ~ trust me ~ just writing about her gives me goosebumps, so you can imagine what she does to me the minute she struts into the saddling barn and into the paddock.

I'm not embarrassed to admit I break down into tears of joy when she crosses the wire! :-)

I love all of her connections. The heaven's had a plan... her name is ZENYATTA.

17 Aug 2010 1:06 PM

Hi Steve,

As stated before, your column is great, it is filled with undisputed facts and clearly written!  How anyone could misinterpret your intention or choice of words is beyond comprehension.  Pay no mind to them, the majority of us understood the intent that was delivered with so much respect.

Dr. Drunkinbum and Predict, Thanks for your reply regarding Lost In The Fog.  His debut race was Nov. 14, 2004 at Golden Gate Fields, which he won by quite a large margin.  The track announcer said '...Remember that name - it's a very impressive debut.'  And it was! April 9, 2005 he won a race at Aqueduct. Raced again in the Riva Ridge at Belmont on 6/11/05 and won. He also won the Kings Bishop at Saratoga on 8/27/05.  As you wrote, he lost the BC Sprint 10/29/05 and left his fans stunned.

I believe he lost one more race after that, but he won his last race the Aristides on 6/3/2006 by 1-1/4 lengths.  I'm not sure, but I think he had a winning streak of 8 or 9 consecutive races prior to the BC.  Cancer was discovered in August and he was euthanized Sept. 17, 2006.  The autopsy at Davis showed his cancer was extensive: a gigantic tumor that compromised several internal organs, an inoperable lymphoma that ran almost the length of his back just below the spine.  To quote the report "It went all the way from his pelvis to invade and erode his diaphragm and chest cavity." "It also involved his arteries, kidneys and intestinal organs.  It actually invaded one kidney and compressed both."  "It came right up against his aorta."  He also had a '...tumor the size of a football in his spleen.'

Harry Aleo and Greg Gilchrist along with Russell Baze his jockey made a supreme team with him.  Wonderful people with a real champion!  It was a devastating loss for them, racing and we his fans.  Racing lost a top notch caring trainer when they lost Gilchrist.

Lost In The Fog is the epitome of heroic bravery.  He is always in my heart and his picture racing at Saratoga in the Kings Bishop sits here by my computer.

17 Aug 2010 1:14 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Lost in the Fog- He was diagnosed in August 2006 and euthanized in Sep 2006. He had at least three tumors, one the size of a canteloupe and one running the length of his spine. The doctors think he could have had tumors growing in him for a year. Within that year he had won 3 races, one of them was 6-3-06, just a few months before he died. His trainer, Greg Gilchrist said, "It turns out he's been running with this thing inside him this year. It shows you what kind of warrior this horse is." He was cremated and buried next to Silky Sullivan at GG Fields. His cancer was massive and widespread involving many organs and it was impossible to save him. Initially they thought he could have surgery when they thought he only had one tumor. All of us fans were so hopeful then, and then came the terrible news.

17 Aug 2010 1:22 PM

I am on the East Coat(Ohio actually) I still remember the first horse race that I ever saw it was the 2003 Kentucky Derby and I was 12 years old and after that I feel in love into the sport.

For me actually some of the most inspiring horses have come from Cali. For me when I first saw Zenyatta racing on TV it was not the same as when I saw Rachel the first time on TV. Rachel was the horse that caught my imagination not Zenyatta and I knew Zenyatta before Rachel. However, over time I have started to like Zenyatta. However, what I can't stand is the way some people are in treating Rachel or Zenyatta for me you should like them both end of story. Now I can understand home some Zenyatta die hard fans feel like she should have gotten Horse Of the Year last year but I'm sure if you really thought about it you would actually think Rachel had the most impressive year.

This year I am hoping that Zenyatta does win Horse Of the Year to me you have to earn it and hope this year she shows that she does deserve it. Good Luck Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra for 2010

17 Aug 2010 1:23 PM

To Meydan Rocks... what? Your post literally doesn't make sense. And is pretty patronising to boot. Are you assuming I'm Irish?

17 Aug 2010 1:49 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

One of the analysts on TVG talked about that parlay bet on Zenyatta. I don't remember the answer but it was well over $100,000. By the time of last year's BCC, the potential winnings were very substancial. The question is "would we have the moxy to risk it all on her to win that race?"

17 Aug 2010 1:56 PM

I agree with you Mr. Haskins.  Zenyatta belongs to California.  Or at least her owners are Californians and chose to keep her in Southern California for over 90% of her races.  Like Pepper's Pride who belongs to New Mexico, she will always have an asterisk by her name.  That is, unless she wins the BCC in her birthplace, the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  I hope she does because I conjecture she is outstanding enough to go beyond the limitations that were imposed upon her. Even if she loses the BCC, I don't believe she deserves that asterisk, nor does Peppers Pride.

17 Aug 2010 2:49 PM

I grew up in Southern Cal, I was a die hard West Coast biased fan through and through.  What it cost me, during those informative years of my life, was the ability to have truly enjoyed a horse so gifted I wonder if we'll see another like him: Spectacular Bid.

I was a Flying Paster fan, and downright bitter when Bid smashed him and everyone else in his path into the ground!

But I grew from an overly emotional, narrow minded teen into an adult (thank heavens) who appreciates talent from wherever it eminates. I have since given the Bid his rightful place on my list of top racehorses.  

I have loved watching so many of the greats race over the years and I can't imagine what in the world geography has to do with it anyways.  Great is great, doesn't matter which coast they are running on.

But since we're talking California, another horse I was so in love with that ran at Santa Anita all those years ago in my youth was the "white tornado": 1978 Santa Anita Handicap winner Vigors.  He is largely why I so love the grays even today.

17 Aug 2010 3:14 PM
Bill Daly

Slew, I know about uppity cats. I've been a staff member of a few of 'em. Rascals!

17 Aug 2010 3:39 PM
Smoking Baby

 Runfast159.  OMG!!!  You just brought back a memory of mine.  I remember not being convinced about Spectacular Bid back in '79.  I too liked Flying Paster and LOVED General Assembly.  I told a buddy of mine "Let's see him come out here and beat Flying Paster."  Fast forward to beginning of the Santa Anita meet and 'Bid wins the Malibu in 1:20 and change.  My buddy says "What do you think about Spectacular Bid now."  My three word reply was "A Great Horse."  Turns out the Bid was just getting started.  Thanks for remembering W.R. Hawn's White Tornado Vigors.  What a closing kick that sucker had.  As I remember that was a good year with Vigors, J.O.Tobin & Exceller.  

17 Aug 2010 3:43 PM

Shamless plug, but this photo is for everyone, East coast, West coast of Zenyatta with her pattented dancing in the paddock.


Having photographed her a substantial amount recently, she is a magnificent animal, something that every race fan should get to see in person. Shes also gentle as can be, and a total sweetheart. The connections are wonderful. John and his staff make it so easy to photograph her and be around their barn. The "forum jockeys" that bad mouth her and her connections are truely ignorant, and need to embrace a horse like that is truely consistant at the top levels of competion. She brings fans to the track, and they donate bridles, shoes, even art work. Its hard not to get chills when you see her run in person when she makes that move at the 3/8ths pole and the whole crowd goes wild.

17 Aug 2010 3:49 PM
Smoking Baby

 Does anyone remember North Sider, Brown Bess, Moment To Buy, Doonesbury or Silveyville?  Those were some good Northern California horses if I'm remembering correctly.

17 Aug 2010 4:32 PM
kathleen o

Rachel O, your post just made me cry.  I think this is the thing that some people just don't understand.  In times like these when life can be so difficult, and the losses we've suffered bear down on us, there is this bright and shining light named Zenyatta.  She brings such joy.  She's a brilliant racehorse, but she is also an unblemished star.

17 Aug 2010 4:47 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

In her debut race Zenyatta charged from dead last to break her maiden by three lengths on November 22, 2007, then she won her next race, again after being in last early, then she jumped up to win a Grade Two Stakes race in only her third career race winning again from last, then she shipped a long, long way to Arkansas to romp on the dirt in the Grade One Apple Blossom, again blazing from last to first, then she went all the way back home to win The Milady Handicap after being in last place early, then she was in last place before recovering to win The Vanity by a half length, then she shipped over to Del Mar to win the Clement Hirsch after settling into last place early, then she again flew from last to first for victory in another Grade One, The Lady's Secret, then after trailing the field in The Breeder's Cup Ladies Classic, October 28, 2008, she won yet again, then she won her next race on May 23, 2009 again after being in last place, then she won the Grade One Vanity after being in last place yet again, then in her next race she was in last place much of the race before charging home for the win in the Grade One Hirsch again, then she was camped in last before storming through for another victory in the Lady's Secret, October 10, 2009, then she decided it was time to teach the boys a lesson or two about running a race and maneuvered, bobbed, and weaved, and flew past eleven of the best males in the world to the deafening roar of the amazed crowd to win the Breeder's Cup Classic on November 7, 2009, then after a long layoff she stormed again from last to first to win the Grade One Santa Margarita on March 13, 2010, then she went all the way back to Arkansas again so that she could run on her preferred surface, the dirt, and again romped in The Apple Blossom, then she went all the way home to win the Grade One Vanity at Hollywood park charging from last to first, then she won the Hirsch again from last place to get there in time to win again, and that ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, easterners and westerners is the story of the Great Zenyatta and why they simply call her The Queen.

17 Aug 2010 4:56 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

I'm printing and framing your last comment... and they say her schedule has been easy??? It made me tired just reading about it. Great post!

17 Aug 2010 5:17 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


Did they start with a $2 bet? Yes, that is an issue at some point, when do you stop risking it all? Normally you will take a profit. And would I be insane enough to risk $10,000 on a 1-5 shot. No way. I guess you could say that you're only losing the $2 you started with if you have a certain philosophy.

Smoking Baby

  Was your heyday the late 70's and early 80's?


  Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed? Although I love much of your post I don't get the first few sentences, and I reread.


   Who are you calling an amorphawhutchyoucallit? Did one of those little rascals spit up on you?

17 Aug 2010 5:37 PM

Wonderful article Steve.  I know you're from the East Coast, but I've always found you fair; you transcend regions.

I moved to California as a teen in the mid-80s, and started going to the wonderful California tracks in 1989, and saw some wonderful races and horses before then moving to the Detroit area for 10 years in 1999.  While I still made it to some of California's biggest races when visiting, living in the upper Midwest allowed me to see the top horses on the Kentucky, Illinois, Ontario, and New York circuits and over time I went from being rabidly pro-California(there's an East Coast bias in everything) to something approaching balanced.  However, it has taken less than 10 months living back in SoCal for those defensive feelings to emerge again.

The good thing is that most professional racing journalists and handicappers can recognize a good horse, whether it's running in New York, Kentucky, or California. The introduction of synthetics has muddled things a bit(I'm curious why some are so vocal in their anger of California's synthetics but seem less bothered by the fact that important tracks like Keeneland, Arlington, and Woodbine also have synthetics). However, it wasn't like Zenyatta has left empty-handed from the last 2 Eclipse dinners.

But yes, most outside of California do not "get" Zenyatta like her "home" fans do.  Out here as you describe, Zenyatta's the closest thing to a thoroughbred rockstar I've seen in my 21 years at the track.  Like many, I wish she were more of a national star, but the fact Zenyatta has raced almost exclusively in California shouldn't diminish her place in history any more than the fact that Personal Ensign made 10 of her 13 starts at Belmont and all but one start in the New York City metropolitan area.

As you mentioned Steve, California has a long history in supporting a "home-team" horse.  And, as you wrote, with the possible exception of John Henry, none of these California equine heros ever reached the level of national prominence where it would be proclaimed the "best ever".  However, even in my time, California has had some wonderful local stars.  2 come strongly to mind.

I have come to terms with the fact that people outside of California are never going to fully get just how popular Best Pal and Lava Man were.  First, both were Cal-breds, second both came from humble origins, with Lava Man actually running in claimers.  But both horses dominated Cali racing like few have, Best Pal winning just about every major race in the state for 2 year olds, 3 year olds, and older horses.  As for Lava Man, he dominated the 3 big handicap races in the state like none before, winning the Gold Cup a record 3 times, the Big Cap a record two times, sweeping those two races for 2 consecutive years, while in 2006 winning the Big Cap, Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic(as well as the Sunshine Millions Classic, the Goodwood, and gr.1 Whittingham on turf).  The Big Cap and Gold Cup have been around for over 70 years, and in their glorious histories Lava Man stands two clear with 5 combined wins, with Native Diver next at 3(all in the Gold Cup).  Two of my favorite racing moments, and 2 of the biggest crowd celebrations I've been a part of were Best Pal's 93' Gold Cup and Lava Man 07' Gold Cup.

Thus, it was with much pride that I get to see Best Pal inducted into the Hall of Fame.  For me, his induction(after not having won an Eclipse) has confirmed my belief that any sort of regional bias is not strong enough to keep a genuinely outstanding horse from receiving its due.  It's hard to claim East Coast bias when a horse that won all but one of his races in California is just elected to the Hall of Fame.  There is a bias, but it is sometimes overblown.

17 Aug 2010 5:47 PM
Meydan Rocks


On the contrary I was in complete agreement with your first post.

The tea reference was a tongue in cheek reference to my comment about being civilized.

17 Aug 2010 6:16 PM


Thanks for the compact history of great Cali horses. I have to say though, and as an East Coaster,in the 60's and 70's , besides a story or two in the Racing Form, Turf and Sport Digest, BH or TT, how did we even HEAR about CA horses? Simulcasting has helped

that,and so too, Racing Networks. Also, there seems to be more and more owners who have settled on the West Coast, and want to watch their horses run. I think there are FAR more Zenyatta fans, nationwide, than you think. If you have been in this game long enough,  then you know a good (great) horse can come from anywhere, and I for one, have NO problem acknowledging that, EVEN if that Kentucky - bred resides in California. Let's not forget that Zenyatta is a Kentucky bred. Plus I truly think that if Z's connections had a choice,(and they don't if they want to own and train horses in that state) her whole campaign would have been run on dirt. But unfortunatly, they don't have that option.  

17 Aug 2010 6:16 PM
Between Friends


What a breathtaking photo of Queen Zenyatta! Everything that she means to all of us is captured in this photo — the woman on the left clasping her hands with delight as she looks at Zenyatta and all of the people on the right with cameras making memories of their own.

Thank you for sharing this and for the comments about Team Zenyatta, who we owe our gratitude for  allowing us to have an extra year to cheer for her.

17 Aug 2010 6:19 PM

Zenyatta doesn't possess human qualities...she is a horse.  But she does possess -- in abundance -- the ability to interact in a sophisticated way with people.  All animals well-socialized, and keyed-in on people have this.  She can telegraph how she's feeling and what she wants with great clarity.  It's not anthropomorphism to interpret her pre-race actions as expressions of dominance, excitement, and attention-seeking, because that is what they are.  Like my dog, who can tell me she wants a walk or her dinner or to play in a way that is unmistakable, Zenyatta is telling us something, only to hundreds and thousands of people at once.  This is what incites such strong emotion.  And if you've seen her in person, you know that there are no people referring to her as "#5" or whatever number she is.  People call her by name, and speak to her as if speaking to a much-loved pet, because it's on that level that what she's telling you affects you.  This creates an actual give and take with her that is really moving to see in person.  That, to me, is why she's transcended being merely a great racehorse, and has generated such intense emotion in her fans.  Sorry to ramble.  It just irritates a bit when people assume that the perceptions about her charisma and personality are based on fantasy.  

17 Aug 2010 6:37 PM


That picture of Zenyatta-with Mike Smith aboard-in the paddock area at Del Mar, is an absolute work of art. It captures perfectly the Zen experience, beautifully framed by the greenery of the saddling area with the sun-drenched splendor of Del Mar as the backdrop.

I've seen lots of pictures of the great mare, all of them gorgeous, but this one is UNIQUE and took my breath away. Thank you for posting it. I'm off to the website to purchase a copy...

17 Aug 2010 7:18 PM

Runfast159 - I love your story about how your love for Flying Paster kept you from enjoying how great Spectacular Bid was.  And then you grew up.  I wish that for everyone, even myself.

Evers - That's a beautiful photograph.  Thanks.  Can I carry your equipment next time?

Dr Drunkinbum - Thanks for the re-cap.  Reading it I thought, "How can I say she hasn't traveled?"  From last or second last to first every time?  That's some traveling!

17 Aug 2010 7:18 PM


Great post! My thoughts exactly. Animals DO communicate, it's up to us to listen. In Zenyatta's case, the message is clear: "I am Zenyatta and I am magnificent!"

17 Aug 2010 7:40 PM

Smoking Baby.  Brown Bess still holds the Yellow Ribbon (Gr 1) stakes record at 157.60 under "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel.  I would say that's major damage done at Santa Anita by a Nor Cal horse.  Her owner-breeder from Fresno was so poor he would ride the Amtrack back and forth from Golden Gate when she ran.  He often had to run from the winner's circle to catch the late San Juaquin.  "Keep the trophy I'll get it next time."

Gunbow.  I think in between Best Pal cleaning up at the So Cal tracks he ran a pretty decent 2nd in the Kentucky Derby and perhaps won the Oaklawn Handicap.  

Dr. Drunkinbum.  Nice narrative regarding Zenyatta.  Oct 28, 2008-May 23, 2009 appears to be just shy of a seven month layoff.  During this time Life is Sweet was dominating the Santa Anita fall/winter meet with wins in the El Encino, La Canada, and Santa Margarita.  Hope everyone caught her Lady's Classic day as she LOVED Santa Anita.  Guess who big Zen sees in the starting gate in the Milady after a seven month vacation?  That's right, the future bride of Smartstrike in top form.  

17 Aug 2010 7:42 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Yes, they started with an original $2 win bet. Gee I wish I could remember what the end result was! It was mind-boggling!

17 Aug 2010 7:45 PM

Laurie K. you really expressed the reasons for Zenyatta's charisma and crowd pleasing appeal.  I was fortunate enough to see, on TV, Secretariat's excitement and energy in the winner's circle just after running the fastest Derby ever (and to date.)  I watched Seattle Slew do his "war dance" as Charlsie Cantey called it when he went to post.  But even they could not inspire more admiration and awe than the way Zenyatta does as she paws and pauses and extends her forelegs in the walking ring and the winner's circle. We can only imagine how she feels but we certainly know how she makes us feel:

exhilaration, inspiration and even gratitude that she shares her talent and apparent enthusiasm with us. I read that the emotions she evokes are even greater in person, but I will only ever see her on TV and the Internet. Hopefully, in her last two races, she will be able to reach an even vaster audience, to totally transform her from  California's Horse, to All America's Horse, to a Horse for the Ages.

17 Aug 2010 8:19 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Very good point. She beats dominating horses. What was Gio Ponti doing before The Classic? What was Summer Bird doing? Besides beating Life is Sweet twice, she also beat Tough Tiz's Sis thrice, Romance is Diane twice,  Ginger Punch twice who I believe Frankel thought was very talented, Santa Teresita, Hystericalady twice, Cocoa Beach, Music Note, Lethal Heat, Einstein, Awesome Gm, Richard's Kid, Colonel John, St Trinians, Zardana who beat Rachel, and Rinterval who you will be hearing from. She doesn't beat slouches although at times she makes very good Grade One horses look like slouches. Zenyatta is good, really good.


   I also thought very highly of your post. Keep up the good work.


  Keep trying to remember the total, and I hope their calculations were correct. I would want a second opinion. You did say TVG, right? Now I have to go see a man about a horse.

17 Aug 2010 8:43 PM

I think that they were talking about it during the Classic.  They said that if you were to have bet $100.00 on her first race, and turn that over with every single one of her races, and you would be near I think almost $900,000.00...  I believe that's what they were saying.  I believe that if you go back to the original coverage of the Classic, you'll hear them talking about it.

17 Aug 2010 9:00 PM


    Majestic Prince is one of my all time favorites, he could argueably be one of top 2 or 3 horses ever to race in California.

You are right, the media pressure was intense to run him in the Belmont Stakes. Johnny Longden did not want to run him. He simply was not sound. In fact, he was not set to run until his owner Frank McMahon changed his mind days before the race. Longden was very upset over this decision and they got into a shouting match. The "Prince's" jockey legendary Bill Hartack said the horse was hurt and never should have run. It took a great horse like Arts and Letters to beat him. Majestic Prince had a who's who bloodline. He was by Raise a Native and Gay Hostess. His grandsire was Native Dancer and his damsire was Royal Charger. I think the "Prince" died in 1981 at the age of 15 or 16.

Oh what could have been..........

17 Aug 2010 9:13 PM


You have a great knack for writing stories. I really appreciated the nostalgia trip back in time.

Yes, the horses are the main ingredient to the story, but what often gets forgotten is the personalities that added to this chapter in American racing.

And by personalities I mean MOVIE STARS!

At Del Mar I once had the autograph of Desi Arnaz, whom I think owned a horse called Amerigo's Fancy.

He always seem to wear a white suite and white cambana hat.

I also saw his sidekick, William Frawley, whom my father bump into once and almost knocked him over.

Leo Gorcey of the "Dead End" Kids used to show up alot.

And I think Richard Widmark and Robert Mitchum showed up there a couple of times.

In the 70's Angie Dickinson and Burt Bacharach made their presence their a few times.

At Hollywood Park I remember shaking hands with Richard Pryor, whom later I learned had just won a pick six wager.

Then you always had Jack Klugman, whom seemed to have season tickets there.

Again, Steve, thanks for the memories.

17 Aug 2010 9:26 PM

Just a few corrections. King Pellinore did not set the world record for 10 furlongs on the turf. It was Double Discount in the 1977 Carlton F. Burke,  and I believe Cougar II set the american record {not the world record} in the 72 Century Han. at hp. I was lucky enough to witness both those awesome wins{Californian and Century Handicaps}. I believe Double Discounts wr. was broken by  Red Giant in 08. Great artcle and great comments thanx alot Steve

17 Aug 2010 9:52 PM

Great article Steve! This reminds me of when the GREAT Cigar was running. While he had legions of fans, it became almost sport for some - especially in the media - to complain about the horse and his accomplishments. And now it is happening again with the great Zenyatta. Like Cigar, Zenyetta is a very special racehorse and regardless of what coast she races on, her accomplishments speak for themselves. I'm so excited to hopefully see her at Churchill Downs in November. I hope she and Rachel put on a display unlike any we've seen. All racing fans - not just California - are very lucky to have her!

17 Aug 2010 10:03 PM
Paula Higgins

Dona, I am not picking a fight with you but you really are wrong about this article. Steve Haskins is anything but condescending. He loves Zenyatta too, trust me. Much more than many of the sportswriters out there.

As for Rachel, Quality Road and Blame, they run their hearts out for us and deserve our respect and affection. That also includes the "claimers." (I really hate that word) I bet if we could meet anyone of these horses, we would be impressed with their unique personalities. Each horse has their own gifts.

17 Aug 2010 10:11 PM

Householder and Dr Drunkinbum - I think the Milady last year was one of my favorite Zenyatta races.  If I remember correctly, LIS broke just ahead of Zenyatta and kept Zen wide when she was trying to get to the rail.  Finally Zen gets to the rail, and settles right behind LIS.  When Zen starts her move, she heads inside LIS.  Garrett Gomez pinches Zenyatta off, so she drops back, comes around, goes four wide, while LIS takes off on the inside.  Zen is streaking up the outside, and LIS is streaking up the inside, then Zen just pulls away in a handride.  Gomez did everything he could to mess with Zen - all above board - and turn the race his way and Zen just blew by.

Besides the Classic last year, I think the '09 Milady and the Margarita this year are some of my favorite races.  When she ducked and weaved in the Margarita, looked to the outside, dove inside, then back outside, I thought my heart had stopped.  And then she comes out barely breathing in front.  Un--real!

17 Aug 2010 10:32 PM
Linda in Texas

I have one thing to do over, go back and re-read every one of the posts. Drink all of it in and learn a lot.

But Steve, each time you write, you surpass your previous best.

I have felt Zenyatta was something pretty darn special from the start.

I am so glad i am not alone. The number of comments can attest to that.

And i do love Rachel do not get me wrong. I am delighted she is doing so well in her training and i wish her only the best in her career.

No capable horse should be left in the shadows and i am glad she is finding herself once again.

I learned one important thing, and now i know from where i come.

I love the horses first and then the sport.

And i also learned from all of the posts that that is perfectly all right. I learned that it is okay to get teary eyed over a horse that dances and struts her way into your heart. It is okay to be from California when you live in Texas. It is okay to keep a horse safe at home. It is okay to love Lava Man as i have and reading about Lost in the Fog and the extent of his cancer made me respect them all a little more, if possible.

And the awesome wisdom of so many, Deacon, Drunkinbum, Zoo and Slew, Paula Higgins,Gunbow and Nancy and

the list goes on. Thanks.

And Rachel O, i am just 8 years behind you. Have recently lost 3 precious ones myself. My younger  brother,(68) a beloved horse 24 and his special little buddy a yorkie-poo 14 that never left his side, all to cancer. This has been a long summer.

Your words Rachel O were inspiring and so are you.

And such wonderful words from so many i have not ever seen post. It means Zenyatta truly has touched  something in a whole lot of folks that connects us no matter where we live. Period.

I wish Zenyatta the best of health and a long and happy life with the thoughtful Mosses always beside her. And thanks to her trainer John Shireffs, her walkers, her groom and all who spend their days making her comfortable.

And thanks again Steve. This article was a nice summer surprise.

17 Aug 2010 10:38 PM

Dr. Drunkinbum,

Don't forget Carriage Trail (Grade 1 Spinster winner) Sealy Hill (Canada's 2007 HOY) Double Trouble, and even Regal Ranson whom beat Blame in the Super Derby.

17 Aug 2010 11:06 PM

Evers, shameless plug or not that is a beautiful piece of art, that photo of Zenyatta.

But I also enjoyed the photo of Sidney's Candy winning the La Jolla, neck extended, nostrils flared, whip up over his head.  And the wonderful Tuscan Evening's stretch run with another favorite of mine, Forever Together.  

It must be a wonderful job to photograph horses!

18 Aug 2010 12:06 AM

Evers,  I have been searching for just the right photo of the Queen and then whoosh, there's your post!

Thank you so much.

I am in line behind Zookeeper to buy asap.

18 Aug 2010 2:56 AM

Meydan Rocks, aha, I get you. but on let me tell you, a LOT of our tea drinkers are distinctly uncivilized :)

Anyway, I just want to see her in some proper races before she retires without all of this cafuffle. If she's sound enough to race until she's 6 years old, she's sound enough to face (smaller) males more than twice in her career. Look at Goldikova, tiny mare but for the most part she thrashes the boys (she'll get her revenge on Makfi, mark my words).

18 Aug 2010 6:04 AM

BCC 2009 form is still holding! Just read that Rip Van Winkle won the Group 1 Juddmonte International with none other than Twice Over finishing 2nd!

18 Aug 2010 6:44 AM

Great article Steve! Always love your writing and love all racing history. As a racing fan for 35 years (since I was 8 and found my first book about famous race horses)I not only follow current runners but read everything I can about the greats of the past.

As I have said, Native Dancer is my all time favorite and I have read tons of information about him.  What is happening with Zenyatta reminds me of what I read about him.  They are the peoples horses, having tons of fans that follow their every move and storm the racetrack to see them run. They have an intelligence that can appear to give them a human like understanding of what is going on around them. On the racetrack they know they are superior and only do what is necessary to win, while giving an unbelievable thrill to all who are watching. It was said then that the Dancer knew when to start his run (so much so that he sometimes did it without a cue from the jockey)and regularly pulled himself up once reaching the lead. Like they know the only way to have any competition is to give them a big head start, makes it fun for them and a thrill for all of us, right?  He was almost perfect but for a terrible ride by his jockey in the Derby. Now we have his great-great-great granddaughter Zenyatta, perfect so far with a very real possibility of remaining so. To me there are great horses and "all time" great horses. We have seen many great horses over the years but in my opinion the last "all time" great I saw was Spectacular Bid. I have been waiting for another to come along and I believe we are witnessing it with her! What a great time to be a racing fan!  

18 Aug 2010 9:48 AM
old timer

One need only count the number of comments in any response to an article re Zen or RA to know what these two wonderful mares have given to racing. I love them both and almost hate to think of one losing to the other. My fantasy "match race" is Zen, RA and Ruffian to determine the best ever: but the way all three hate(d) to lose, and two of them never have, I would fear a tragic end, having seen the first one. I couldn't take another. And, by the way, I believe it would be a race to challenge for the best HORSE ever!! But then, there is Kelso... and greatness over time, taking on and beating the best in the land for 5 years,over many tracks and distances up to two miles, means something more than greatness for a year or two, to me.

18 Aug 2010 9:49 AM
Smoking Baby

 Dr. Drunkinbum.  While I'd like to think I'm still in my heydey...Alas, you sir are correct.  Late 70's & early '80's were my heyday.  On the bright side, you've got to admit that was a pretty awesome couple of decades.  I hope everyone who reads this has a GREAT day.

18 Aug 2010 9:54 AM
Smoking Baby

 Evers.  Thanks so much for posting the "riders up" photo of Zenyatta at Del Mar the other day.  I don't know that I've seen a better one.  I'm purchasing that one as I MUST have it.  

Between Friends.  EXACTLY!!!  I told my girlfriend to notice the woman in yellow on the left of the shot.  The word ADORATION comes to mind.

18 Aug 2010 10:04 AM
Smoking Baby

 Householder.  I did not know that Brown Bess was owned and bred by a dude from Fresno.  Thanks for that post.  VERY cool.  If there's another sport where it's possible for us poor folks to compete as owners at the highest level I don't know what it is.  LOVE horse racing and always will.  Thank you again for that information.

18 Aug 2010 10:15 AM

Evers - Thank you for the link to the beautiful picture of Zenyatta performing her dance step - outstanding photo!

Thank you to Steve Haskin for the outstanding column and thank you to each of you for contributing to my knowledge of our brave fillies and colts!

18 Aug 2010 10:33 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

The most beautiful sound I ever heard: Zenyatta, Zenyatta, Zenyatta, Zenyatta. All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word, Zenyatta, Zenyatta, Zenyatta, Zenyatta. Zenyatta!! I've just seen Zenyatta dance and run, and suddenly that name will never be the same to me. Zenyatta !!! I've just watched a girl named Zenyatta and suddenly I've found how how wonderful a sound can be !!! Zenyatta!! Say it loud and there's music playing, say it soft and it's almost like praying. Zenyatta, I'll never stop saying Zenyatta!! The most beautiful sound I ever heard. ZENYATTA.

18 Aug 2010 11:18 AM

Love these posts and stories like this.  They bring back the memories of a time that was too long ago.

18 Aug 2010 11:52 AM
Bob Z


Can you come up with a couple of horses that ran the majority (or all) of their races in the same come from behind style as Zenyatta...

I remember Forego in the mid seventies coming from behind but not sure if he came from dead last usually....

I'd like to compare videos of Zenyatta with other great closers...


18 Aug 2010 11:54 AM
Rachel O

The question has been settled, if ever it were a question. People all over the country, and in foreign lands, love Zenyatta. There are a few sour apples out there that pick on her and her connections and will never be happy to do otherwise. One such sourpuss has been amazingly quiet recently since Zenny won her 18th race.

I remember, however, that most of the sportswriters and handicappers predicted that Z would not win the BCC last year. They had not been paying attention. Unfortunately, I paid attention to them and that kept me from betting on her in the BCC, one of the few races she won that would have paid a goodly sum.

I worry about all the horses and pray that they remain sound and happy. Recent tragedies on the track have been horrendous. It is my dream that all of the horses that run in the BC races come out of it as well as the ones racing at Santa Anita did last year, and--of course--that the Big Z wins in her usual spectacular, spinetingling fashion.

Yes, most of us out here--from wherever--love Zenyatta. How could anyone in their right mind not love such a treasure?

18 Aug 2010 12:10 PM

I don't want to belittle California racing. There have been some great horses based there over the years.

But it just doesn't come close to the racing history of NY tracks. I believe 95 of BloodHorses Top 100 thoroughbreds of all time raced in NY at one time or another. That number dwarfs the number of top 100 horses that ever stepped on a California track. Check it out.  

18 Aug 2010 12:13 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Smoking Baby

  Yeah, you're still in your heyday, but the decades aren't.

John, gailg, ruffianruns, Householder- That's turning out to be quite a group she beat in The Classic, eh.

Linda in Texas- I'm so sorry for your losses, and thanks for the compliment. I do know what you're going through with losing loved ones. It has to be about the horses first. They are really what it's all about. Then the jockeys. The horses and the jockeys are the ones putting it all on the line, and doing the hardest work.

Rachel O- I hope you are doing well. Beautiful post, as are many on here.

Nancy- Great posts. That was quite a team, and ride with Aleo, Gilchrist, Baze, and Fog.

18 Aug 2010 12:28 PM
Zen fan in TX

Very well written, Steve!  Thanks for another brilliant piece!

18 Aug 2010 12:34 PM

Oh how glad I am not to be political! I don't give a #@%^ where a good horse comes from. I just like to enjoy watching him/her run. East, west or anywhere in between, a great one is a great one - and appreciation for that should be universal. So whose camp am I in? Both - because quality speaks for itself. Cup day? Bring it on!

18 Aug 2010 12:52 PM
Mike Relva


I'm as big of Zenyatta fan as anyone,unlike some I've been on her from day one,but you are TOTALLY wrong to attack Steve. Your comment is unwarranted!

18 Aug 2010 12:54 PM

I came originally from the backside of Laurel Rack Course. Since giving up the horses I moved to Tennessee but am still deeply embedded in the beauty & excitement of the heroes of horse racing! I was an AVID fan of Sunday Silence though my respect for Easy Goer was deep. & Ferdinand was a favorite of mine when he graced Pimlico Race Course with his presence. What a race THAT was with Snow Chief & Broad Brush, two more hard knockers!

I guess that I have just never understood the East coast/West coast rivalry thing. I have never sen racing as a "sides" type of sport, though I admittedly have had my favorites. But I have loved & respected them ALL throughout the years. Just loving a good horse race & the beauty of their movement & the passion that the stretch runs can conjure in my soul!!  When a horse runs his/her eyeballs out to get to that line FIRST, it doesn't matter to them who's side their on. They are giving their all - heart, soul & body - to do what they were blessed to do. I can't trash talk any horse in the world for beating my heroes when they are just bringing their all!

Zenyatta is a wondrous creature. One that I feel blessed to have witnessed, even if I never do get to see her "in person". Right now I am praying that I get the weekend off from my blue collar job to go & see Her Majesty in the flesh, but it doesn't look good. That's the joys of retail management for ya'! But I do want to thank all Californians for presenting this gift to the world. She is a treasure, Californian or national, to be revered!

God Bless Zen & safe travels.

18 Aug 2010 12:55 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Was that part of the "WestcoastSide Story"? Loved it!

18 Aug 2010 1:09 PM

Smoking Baby - Do you remember a very good gelding that ran a season at Santa Anita by the name of TILLER? He was another one that I just "attached" to for some reason. Made such an impression I've never forgotten him. He was probably a hard closing come from behinder, all those horses I seemed to really love back then were.

He won the San Juan Capistrano, San Marcos and San Antonio in 1979, and placed in several others including a runner up to no less than Affirmed in the Big Cap.  He ran 40 times in all, winning the Sword Dancer in his 6th year.

Vigors, Affirmed, John Henry, Spectacular Bid...many others. Those were good years at Santa Anita when great horses did come West to show their stuff.

18 Aug 2010 1:28 PM

I grew up in the midwest, and have always been a pedigree junkie.  I will pick a horse based on bloodline alone.  So, I had picked Easy Goer over Sunday Silence in the Derby.  Then, seeing that grit and determination, I switched to Sunday Silence and never looked back.  California racing has produced so many great runners, that I don't understand why so many fans still knock it as the "minor leagues".  Your article illustrates that glorious history that started with Seabiscuit and and has carried thru to Zenyatta.  

But since you alluded to so much history, here is a question for you:  Do you think that the thrills we get from watching Zenyatta are anywhere near what the European crowds got from their great champion mare, Kinscem (who in reality, is probably the greatest RACE mare that ever lived)?  As much as I love her, Zenyatta will never go 54 for 54... :)

18 Aug 2010 1:29 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Normally it would be quite scary to be framed, but in this case I'm honored. Thank you.

18 Aug 2010 2:44 PM
Will W

Yes, Steve, I for one well remember the West Coast phenom, Native Diver, and I'm from Louisville - not LA though I lived there for 3 years long after Native Diver left the track. Do love to watch Zenyatta and Rachel go to the post. However, its truly a downer not to see Zenyatta at Saratoga or Belmont in the prestigious Grade 1 races against either the best male or female competition in the country. Truly, also a bummer that Rachel was kept out of training for 6 months, not even turned out to be freshened, but kept out of training and in the barn. Now, its been a slow tedious process to try to bring her back to form and get her ready for Grade 1 competition. Almost wish there was no Breeder's Cup so the owners of these mares wouldn't be pointing exclusively for this end of the year race, but running in this summer's Grade 1s and ducking no one in order to win Horse of the Year. 2010 will always be remembered for what could have been a stirring summer of truly classic races if both these mares had shown up.

18 Aug 2010 2:56 PM

Steve,you have warmed my heart yet again..how can anyone not love Zenyatta? I hope to make it to the B.C. this year just in hope to see the girls run..i don't care which race they run in..i just want to be there when they grace the track with their presence!Thank you for putting this into perspective as you always do!

18 Aug 2010 3:25 PM


You can add William Holden, Abbott and Costello, WC Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Myrna Loy, John Forthsythe, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Alan Ladd and of course Bob and Bing...

18 Aug 2010 3:42 PM
Smoking Baby

 Runfast159.  Yes, I actually do remember Tiller.  I'm 99.9% sure he was owned by William Haggin Perry (Yellow colors with blue on the shoulders).  I think he was by Herbager but don't quote me on that one.  Yes...good call...You had to love a horse like that.  He fired his best shot every time dirt, turf, it mattered not.  Most times his best shot would land him in the winners circle.  When it didn't he was never disgraced.  

18 Aug 2010 4:14 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Yes !! Westcoast Side Story !!!! You know the tune so sing it proud and sing it loud, and when you go to SA to see her, grab the mike from Trevor Denman and sing it to the nation.

18 Aug 2010 4:43 PM

Swale1984 - I've thought about Kincsem many times over this past year as I fell head over heels for Rachel and Zenyatta.  I think she's the greatest race horse ever, male or female.  Racing for four years all over Europe winning all 54 of her races.  Her bio at the Thoroughbred Heritage site just inspires awe.  With 27 races undefeated, she then started racing as a four year old and won 9 races in 5 weeks!  She ended her career winning while carrying 28 pounds MORE than the rest of the field!  She was an incredible character, too.  I could go on and on.  There's a reason that all of Europe was delirious about her.  When I see and hear the crowds at Zenyatta's races, I get some idea of what Kincsem's fans must have felt.

18 Aug 2010 4:45 PM

Bob, I think Damascus ran from far out of it. And more recently, I believe it was Strike The Gold's style as well.

18 Aug 2010 4:58 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

John and Eddie

  How about Jack Benny, Rochester, Mary Livingston, Phil Harris, Wilbur and Mr. Ed, Don Drysdale, Columbo, Perry Mason, Chevy Chase, Will Rogers, Al Jolsen, Clark Gable, Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Charlie Chan, The Marx Bros. Dick Powell and Fred MacMurray? Of course Bing Crosby.

18 Aug 2010 5:03 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Are you trying to get me thrown out of my favorite track?

Swale 1984 & rufianruns,

I can't even imagine a horse like Kincsem. Legendary and mythical are two adjectives that come to mind when people speak of her. What she accomplished will never be duplicated. She the embodiment of "they don't make them like that anymore".

18 Aug 2010 6:30 PM


Cary Grant, Don Ameche, Jackie Cooper and Lucille Ball.

18 Aug 2010 6:51 PM
Bob Z


Here is a couple of vids of Damascus with Dr. Fager... Damascus was pretty much on or near the pace... at least in these races...

18 Aug 2010 8:38 PM

Bob Z

Some info from Damascus' past performances......

In the '67 Woodward Damascus was 5th by 12L at the half and then won the race by 10L over Buckpasser and Dr. Fager......In the '68 Brooklyn also against Dr. Fager he was 5th by 11L at the half then won by 2 1/2L

However, in the '67 Gotham he was never worse than 2nd, edged into a short lead, then lost by a head to Dr. Fager......In the '68 Woodward, his second last race, he was leading by a head throughout and lost by a nose in the last jump to Mr. Right.

Throughout his career Damascus never really displayed a distinct style.  He was versatile enough that he could come from a way out of it, stalk mid pack, press the leader and occasionally set the pace himself.

18 Aug 2010 10:43 PM

KautoStar:  Many thanks for the information on Ouija Board's colt. I fell in love with that jet set mare at the Lone Star BC in '04. I put money on her when no one else around me did.  I stood up and went proudly to the cashier's window to collect.

BigRedForever:  You are so right about the 4-letter network that doesn't giving racing news a second thought...or third, or fourth.

I say again, Zenatta is already a memorable horse that will take her rightful place in history, no matter the outcomes the rest of the year.

New Mexico:  I am one Texan in Terlingua that followed Pepper's Pride every step of the way.  She is tops in my book--tough competition is every where.  It's all relative.

18 Aug 2010 11:14 PM

Zenyatta, Zenyatta, TO LIFE!

18 Aug 2010 11:31 PM

Mr. Haskin, are you still there?  My internet was down and unable to respond sooner.  I hope you are because I want to thank you.  I really don't know how else to say it but thank you.  No just for this article but continually stirring my emotions.  You are pragmatic when needed, but when you get to what I consider is the heart of the matter, no one says it better.  My love affair with horses started at age 14 when the dynamic duo Affirmed and Alydar galloped into my heart, yet I did not see a live race until the 2003 Breeders Cup.  Talk about stirring my emotions.  When I walked onto the apron at Santa Anita for the very first time my breath was taken away.  It truly is a thing of beauty.  At the end of a Pleasantly Perfect day, my only thought was why hadn't I gone to the races sooner, which quickly turned to thinking of all the horses I had missed, especially John Henry (wasn't old enough to drive when Affirmed was around).  Well, I started planning my next trip back long before I made it home to Vegas.  I thought even though I did not get to see some of the greats from the past, who knows what the future holds.  And you know what, the future filled my cup and then some, and this coming from a pessimist!  I am not just talking abouth the obvious horses, but all that I have seen regardless of class.  Every horse out there deserves our respect.  They perform to their ability and we should cheer them for it.  It pains me terribly to hear all the negative comments about them and it is unfair to the people behind them.  Without them there would be no racing.  Sorry about the rambling, now back to the obvious.  I have had the pleasure of seeing Zenyatta multple times, but I have to say it truly was a privilege to be there for the Classic last year.  I well up just thinking about it.  But, she holds a special place in my heart for other reasons.  The first time I saw Zenyatta was also the first live race my mother saw, it was her 82nd birthday and there have only been a few times since that my mom has not been there with me.  She even started reading my Bloodhorse magazine!  We were there last for #17 and I selfishly hope that Zenyatta does race one more time in California.  Then my mom can spend her 84th with her.  It is truly difficult to express what it is like see her in person.  When she struts through the paddock, you can feel her go by without even touching her.  I don't know if that makes any sense but I can't explain it any other way.  I am truly devastated that we will no be there in Kentucky.  Even if she wins this year there will still be neighsayers out there but I say let them neigh.  No one will ever agree on the greatest whether it is horses, football, baseball, tennis, artists, authors (you have my vote), etc.  You can analyze and argue it until your blue in the face but there is no absolute.  And I am sorry, but the talk of asterisks next to Zenyatta's and Peppers Pride's name is poor sportsmanship, period.  There has always been and there will always be an east/west bias in every aspect of life in the U.S.  And even though I try to stay as purple as possible, I do believe the bias is alive and well with her.  I doubt the great Personal Ensign was ever questioned about her lack of travel.  I never paid attention to where she was running, it didn't matter, she was just amazing to watch.  In closing, I would like to tell Zenyatta to be thankful you are not from Vegas, we are subjected to a special kind of bias.  When I was growing up, if I were anywhere but here I was looked upon with disdain.  Now since approx 1.5 million people have moved here in the last 20 years, I don't even have to leave town to hear it!  Again Mr. Haskin, thank you, thank you, thank you!

P.S. I know this is a very long response and have written it really for you, not the other bloggers.  And it is not completely focused on what you wrote about, so you don't need to send it along if you don't want to.  Thanks again!

19 Aug 2010 12:23 AM

THANK YOU STEVE, at least we still have writers, more like artiste in this world that understands how california horse racing fans feel.  If I wasn't married, I'd say I love you...but what the heck, I'll say it anyway.  I love you Steve (in a manly brotherly gung ho kind of way)!!

You rock!

19 Aug 2010 1:58 AM

Smoking Baby:

            Tiller was indeed owned by William Haggin Perry. He was trained by David Whiteley. In earlier years Mr. Perry had the great trainer James Maloney handle his stable. Mr. Perry also owned and bred Boldnesian. He had other greats as well, Gamely (mentioned several times in these blogs), her stablemate Princessnesian, the ill fated Lamb Chop, Batteur, and Coastal winner of the Belmont Stakes and Haskell. Coastal was sired by Majestic Prince.............  

19 Aug 2010 2:17 AM

Jon White of HRTV had a great piece on Zenyatta recently.

He talked about how there are 1,000 ways to lose a horserace.

He mentions a bad start is just one reason and that is how Man O'War lost his only race to Upset in the 1919 Sanford at Saratoga. Likewise, Secretariat reared up in the starting gate cost him a victory in his first race.

Zenyatta, on the other hand, is always slow getting leaving the starting gate. Doesn't matter.

A bad ride is another reason. Just ask Gary Stevens on Point Given in the Derby. Or recall Bill Shoemaker misjudging the finish line on Gallant Man in the Derby.

Zenyatta in the '09 Hirsch didn't matter. She still found a way to win.

It could be that a horse runs into traffic that denies victory like Native Dancer in the Derby.

Not so for Zenyatta. Just look at her Santa Margarita win earlier this year. Didn't matter. She still found a way to win even though she trailed the field throughout the race and had to find room for her massive body to run through. And who can forget the wide 'turns for home' she had in her last two races.

Or a horse could lose a race because it is too long or too short, as in the case of Quality Road this past weekend.

Not so with Zenyatta. She has won every race from 61/2 furlongs to a mile and a quarter.

Or a horse could lose a race because of the surface like Seattle Slew at Hollywood Park. Zenyatta has won on three different varieties of synthetic surfaces as well as dirt.

Or still, or horse could lose a race because of weights as in the case of Dr. Fager and Forego.

Not so with Zenyatta. Whether carrying 129 lbs. twice or 127 lbs. twice she still won those races.

Or how about being a good shipper. Lava Man found that out the hard way. Zenyatta just loved the track at Oaklawn Park.

Another reason is the management style. Then another reason is the physical part such as Majectic Prince in the Belmont Stakes or Secretariat in a couple of his loses.

No so with Zenyatta. Didn't matter.

Or the pace of the race like Dr. Fager with Damascus.

Zenyatta, always at the mercy of the pace of the race from others, always finds a way to win.

19 Aug 2010 3:04 AM

In two of those races, Damascus had a rabbit run with Dr Fager and came from way back to win. The other two races, they tried to change his running style, with no success, by running with the good Dr early. So in two of the races you mentioned, Damascus did use that far back running style. That seemed to be most successful for him. I think most people agree, in a head to head match-up, there was no way that Damascus could beat Dr Fager.

19 Aug 2010 3:17 AM

Loved Foggie. Got a huge kick out of his owner. Was heartbroken at his loss in the BC. Knew there was something terribly wrong.

Admire the Queen like all get out but my heart still belongs to Rachel.

19 Aug 2010 6:52 AM

Aside from topic....I Want Revenge runs Saturday at Monmouth.  DRF has a great photo of him working out.  He's all muscles....hope he does better this time.  Isn't he another great Cal horse? (yes I know..born in Ky)  Checked his pedigree...one of the few horses with no inbreeding, which will make him a great stallion prospect one day.  Love at first sight here.

19 Aug 2010 10:06 AM

PS: Joe Bravo will be aboard IWR, substituting for injured Joe Talamo.

19 Aug 2010 10:10 AM


If your post defending Dr. Fager vs Damascus ws meant for me.....first of all I am a huge Dr. Fager fan and agree with you.  I was just trying to show that Damascus wasn't a one dimensional runner.  He had quite a few races where he was up close to the pace and quite a few where he came from far back.

19 Aug 2010 10:51 AM

Hey you guys! How about that, Santa Anita is returning to a dirt track. What are your thoughts on that? I'm too confused by all the contradicting reports to have an opinion... but I would love to read your take on it.

19 Aug 2010 10:56 AM

Amanda - I wanted to thank you for posting the video for the Zenyatta song.  The link flew around the blog world a couple of weeks ago, but hopefully some people who missed it the first time might catch it.  I think it's a great song and it captures Zenyatta perfectly!

Zookeeper - You used the exact right word to describe Kincsem - mythical.  And you speeled it rite - spelled it right!  Hee, hee. Just kidding you about what was going on on that other bolg - blog!  ;-)

19 Aug 2010 10:58 AM
Rachel O

Thank you so much, Steve, for letting so many of us get an awful lot off our chests, and for writing a great piece.

I have a friend in Indianapolis, whom I just introduced to Z via links to YouTube, and she wrote back that she is "in love" and wants to drive the two of us from Indiana to Kentucky to see the BCC. I'd have to fly from CA to Indiana to meet up with her. I may just do it. Why not? She's the best medicine on the planet.

19 Aug 2010 11:01 AM
Between Friends


 It's nice to know that others remember trainer James Maloney and owner William Haggin Perry.

   When I saw the story in the newspaper about Lamb Chop that carried the head of "Champ filly put to death" (there probably is no graceful way to convey this awful news), it made me sad. I had become a fan of hers so I sent them a letter of sympathy.

  About a week later I received a nice note from Mr. Maloney and a color photo of Lamb Chop. Several days later there was a 5 X 7 manila envelope in the mail and inside was a letter from William Haggin Perry and a photo of Lamb Chop that he had signed.

  What a lovely gesture from two very special men.

 I will never forget it. (Yes, I still have the letters and the photos.)

19 Aug 2010 11:06 AM
A. Evers

Thanks for the kind words, unfortunately with the photographer agreements we sign to shoot we cannot sell pictures as they are strictly for editorial purposes. Im working on getting approvals to donate a few prints to some charity auctions, just have to find the right one.

Personally for me I love it cause my Dad, who really got me into the great game of horse racing at a really young age is on the top balcony by himself looking over the whole sceen... i guess a little sentimental value, as my earliest memories are being at the track or on the beach in Del Mar when they used to bring the horses over to play in the water.

Either way, I attached a gallery of Images of Zenyatta that I have shot, enjoy, strictly for your viewing pleasure

19 Aug 2010 11:58 AM
Karen in Texas

Bob Z.---One horse that came from last (or close to last) was Lit de Justice, if I remember correctly. Of course he was a sprinter, not a distance horse.

19 Aug 2010 12:13 PM
Hardboot Fan

Here I am writin' when I should be workin', but had to add to these amazing number of comments on a great story, even though they will probably get lost in the crowd.

My wife and I were at Churchill on Stephen Foster Day. Rachel was the cherry on top of that ice cream sundae that day. She wins the Fluer de Lis by 10. Very workman like in her effort and crushed the field. We were in awe. Blame comes around next and has a ding-dong battle down the stretch to edge Battle Plan in the SF. We would have been happy just to witness those two races. Then the next day we are in front of the TV to watch Zenyatta. Her charisma just radiated out of the screen, much more so than Rachel in person. The race unfolds and my wife says, "She's going to lose." Into the stretch they come. She says again, "She's going to lose." They pass under the wire and she says, "Ohmygod, she won! How does she do that?" Then we were both laughing and crying.

The interesting thing about all three races that weekend is that they were all run at a mile and an eighth; all were run very differently, and, in Zenyatta's case, on a different surface. All were within fractions of each other when the timers were stopped. Of the three, we thought Zenyatta's was the most impressive, making up ground and going wide, as is her want. We had chills and goose-bumps and all the other hackneyed responses. Call it what you will, but all are analagous in the presense of greatness. Now if the "main stream" media would just pick up on her, maybe the rest of the world would understand what the rest of us already know: She is an incredible horse, nay, an incredible presense in a world sadly lacking in such as she.

19 Aug 2010 1:41 PM
Linda in Texas

Manny, i really enjoyed what you said in your post and hope you don't mind that i read all of it since you really directed it to Steve.

You said some brutally true things

and it read so easy. Thanks so much.

You just cannot dispute what you see with your own eyes if you have them open!!!

Yesterday we read on Bloodhorse.com that Citidancer had lost his life due to Laminitis.  

On the right side margin, they listed Joe Pons and i clicked on that to read about the gentleman who owned Country Life Farm in Maryland where Citidancer lived. It was a story written about all the people who came to Mr. Pons' wonderful farm to share memories of him.

But also listed lastly in the article by Ray Paulick on Tuesday, October 18, 2005, was a list of sayings that Mr. Pons was observed saying over the years and i want to list them here if Steve will allow me to. They are words and sayings all of us should try and follow as we dwell in the wonderful world of horses. These were framed and on the tent wall during a memorial gathering at the farm now run by his sons.

----"Never miss a day of racing if

    you can help it."

----"Don't pass up free food."

----"Always have a joke or quip on

    hand - a pun will do."

----"Try to get into as many

    winner's circle pictures as

    possible-each one makes you

    a tiny bit immortal."

----"Go to Saratoga every


----"When you win, buy every-

    one a fried chicken din-


----"Treat everyone as an old


These sayings to me are from a true country gentleman and i will do my best to follow his words." Mr. Pons was 83 when he died in 2005. His family was a lucky one to have him as their husband and father.      

19 Aug 2010 3:07 PM
Judy Loves John Henry & Zenyatta

Wow! I haven't been here for a couple of days. These comments are enough for me to go through a whole box of kleenex. Some comments, in particular, are incredible!! Thank you for sharing.

Hi to my friend, Paula Higgins. I always agree with her comments. She and I are on the same page...

To all: Thank you for acknowledging one of the best places in the country for racing, and the horses who (race) raced here. We love our horses ~ we love ALL horses. We are passionate about the sport.

p.s. I'm grateful that the one "bad apple" is missing from posting any comments here ;-)

19 Aug 2010 3:14 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I love that they are returning to dirt. My GUESS is that they are working on getting the safest track possible for the weather. That is why they are looking at Argentina tracks. I have faith that they are being allowed to make the change because they have expressed that safety will be a top priority. A speed favoring track will not be the priority. Safety will, or they will be in trouble again. This is the right move for the good of the sport and they will do it right. A dirt track can be safe if that is the priority and they research what will work for the climate and they maintain it properly even if that means delaying the next race.

19 Aug 2010 3:16 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Hardboot Fan

   Loved your post. I've said that many times about Zenyatta during her races "She's going to lose, no way she can get there in time. OMG, go, get there. She did it. How did she do it?" I suspect that we are a few of millions that have said the same thing. Blame is special too, so is Rachel, so is Quality Road, so is Mine That Bird, so are all thoroughbreds, so are all horses of any breed.

19 Aug 2010 3:21 PM

Hardboot Fan,

I think I love you... and your wife! That's what I was thinking also, except mine was more like a prayer: Please Zenyatta! Please... please... Zenyatta go, go! Zenyattaaaaa!

ruffianruns--- LOL! Thaat was awfful! Couldn't type anything right!

A. Evers--- That was cruel!!! I spent a bunch of time looking through the pictures, drooling the whole time... and couldn't buy the absolute best photo of Zenyatta I have ever seen! Whaaa! Whaaa! Whaaa! At least, we got to see it, and I'm grateful for that!

19 Aug 2010 4:11 PM
A. Evers



19 Aug 2010 4:43 PM

Laz, sorry no. I was speaking to Bob. I should have said that regarding the YouTube video he mentioned. But I remember Damascus was very good with that late closing rush and was able to run away from the field when it set up for him right.

Karen, good one! I completely forgot about little Lit! I remember seeing that overhead they showed on TV of the '96 BC Sprint, I believe. They showed how he just weaved through the field to win that race.

19 Aug 2010 4:51 PM
Surf Cat


I think California racing took "Cigar" out behind the woodshed, if you know what I mean.

Just sayin...

19 Aug 2010 4:54 PM

I say LET CALIFORNIANS HAVE THEIR DIRT TRACK AGAIN!!  I could not be happier for the decision to return Santa Anita to a DIRT track. Thank you Frank Stronach!  Once again, Santa Anita will deservedly be called The Great Race Place.  

Hopefully Del Mar and others will follow suit.  The synthetic tracks have not proven to be a safer alternative to dirt tracks as most anyone who has followed California racing can tell you.

19 Aug 2010 5:18 PM
Bob Z


Looks like Forego usually came from way off the pace... 7-10 lengths back.. once he is nearer the pace...

I didn't realize he won the Woodward 4 years in a row..

19 Aug 2010 5:33 PM

These blogs are funny, we go from "Let Californians Have Their Day" to just about everything under the sun including a discussion on Dr. Fager and Damascus. To pick between these two is a no win. Both are on the high list of all time greats. Damascus 1967 Travers win was one of the most brilliant races of all time. He is about 12 lengths back on the back stretch and goes on to win by 22. Dr. Fager's 1968 record is legendary. There isn't enough room here to explain it or describe it. I loved both of them but the Doc is my all time favorite. This particular blog has been my favorite, folks are informative, respectful and fun.

Thanks to all..............  

19 Aug 2010 6:57 PM
Paula Higgins

You too Judy!!! Lot's of wonderful posts on this blog. A great one. Manny you said it so well about Zenyatta: she just finds a way to win, nothing stops her. But if she ever does lose, I will love her just as much. That will never change.

About Kincsem, she was extraordinary. I am one of those that think she was the greatest horse in recorded history. That is a record that will never be broken.

19 Aug 2010 8:21 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I was scard to death of Zenyatta running at SA with rocks coming to the surface, now luckily it has been deemed unsafe and Oak Tree won't be held there. I hope they take this opportunity to take Zenyatta east young lady, east, for her last two races. Bypass The Zenyatta Stakes and all of the thunder and lightning that could bring from the racing Gods. Haul in the dirt !!! No more running on the living room carpet, you can now go outside and run on the dirt and grass now.

19 Aug 2010 8:27 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Now, the plot thickens... Oak Tree meet to HP??? Have you read the article on this website about it? Much more detailed that the DRF report. Good job by Jack Shinar on this. I don't know what they're all thinking and doing but if we can get through this, and have a good SAFE dirt track at SA for the winter meet, it will be fantastic.

19 Aug 2010 8:46 PM

A.Evers,    Your pictures of the queen are simply gorgeous.  Oh my gosh,  They are beautiful just like her...........I would love to have these in picture frames on my wall.   My , Zenyatta is truly breathtaking........She is the "IT" girl.  She has "IT",  She knows how to use "IT",  and most of all she shows "IT"....

I don't think we can let her retire this year......I'm sorry, Mr. Moss, but we can't let her go.........its way to soon...Maybe next year..........

19 Aug 2010 8:50 PM

Deacon - I would love to read your rundown about Dr. Fager.  Maybe a guest blog sometime?

Evers - Thanks for the Zenyatta slideshow!  There's a pic toward the end, must have been after the race.  Mike's aboard, and he's patting her.  Her head is up, she's alert and just stunning!

About this track stuff!  What is going on?  I read that article and it doesn't seem set in stone that Oak Tree is going to Hollywood Park.  Is it a done deal?  So where IS Zenyatta running?  Will they have the Zenyatta Stakes at HP?  Seems like several trainers didn't want to leave SA.

Also, really hard not to root for Eclair de Lune in the Beverly D.  I can't believe this race.  It's rubbing salt in the wound left by Tuscan Evening.  Now the next favorite, Rainbow View, was hurt and scratched.  It seems wide open and I hope Eclair de Lune gets the race for Duchossois and McAnally.

19 Aug 2010 10:28 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Ghostzapper, for all your comments.

Thanks, JayJay, I think :)

19 Aug 2010 10:51 PM
John T

When Rip Van Winkle won the group

one Juddmonte International this week and became yet another grade

one or group one winner that was defeated in last years Breeders Cup

Classic I think what it really means is that Zenyatta is a mare for the ages.

19 Aug 2010 10:53 PM
Sam Ludu

Note to arazi:

Yes, Double Discount did set a world record for 10 furlongs on the turf in 1977 (1:57.40), in the Carleton Burke. But he broke King Pellinore's world record, which was set the year before in the Burke (1:57.60).

20 Aug 2010 9:24 AM
Bob Z

One of the reasons that maybe Zenyatta is under appreciated is because her running style is so unique...

When compared to horses of note worthy careers with big efforts in big races .... the number that consistently trailed the field and ended up winning seems to be very low....

Zenyattas running style is infrequently seen ... so maybe people have trouble identifying with it...  

Its harder to identify with something if you don't know what you are looking at... people tend to look at the front of the pack where the leaders are and "watch" that part of the race... while a horse like Zenyatta loping along at the back goes missed until the middle of the turn....and she gets into contention...

I would think she would have to own the stat for "average of most horses passed after the 1/2 mile pole per race"

20 Aug 2010 9:27 AM


           Would love to say a few words sometime about the Doc. Mr. Haskell wrote a book about him which was excellent reading. Readers Digest published a story on him as well right after he retired. The Doc was something of a freak, he could carry weight, astounding to me the way this horse carried weight. He had blazing speed, he was nicknamed "speed demon", and he could route. His endurance was amazing as well. He was pretty sound as well, at age 3 he had some knee issues which is why Nerud skipped the Triple Crown trail. Changing tracks was no issue for him either. I am not saying that he is the greatest of all time but I can assure you that he is in the top 5. Like any sport, naming the best their ever was is subjective. Only in basketball where Michael Jordan appears to be the clear cut winner of the "best their ever was" can we claim our all time champion.

Horse racing is so passionate, it gets inside you and never leaves. I could go on all day about the Doc, which I am sure is true about everyone's favorite horse. Here is my ranking of all time greats in no particular order.

1. Dr. Fager

2. Spectacular Bid

3. Man O War

4. Secretariat

5. (tie) Swaps, Damascus, Citation,

  Ruffian, Native Dancer, and

  Kelso. Too hard to stop at 5.

20 Aug 2010 11:01 AM

Well Rip Van Winkle's win also boosts the form of Sea The Stars who defeated him in the 2009 Eclipse... and smashed Twice Over as well

20 Aug 2010 1:06 PM

Good luck to Blind Luck and Nor Cal's all time leading trainer in the Alabama tomorrow.  Could be another Lite Light vs. Meadow Star in the making, minus the MC Hammer and posse glitz, with the two most accomplished 3 year old fillies facing each other.  I may be to excited to sleep tonight.

20 Aug 2010 1:45 PM

Thanks Deacon!

20 Aug 2010 4:36 PM


Interesting you left out Buckpasser whom I would have picked over Affirmed and Seattle Slew.

20 Aug 2010 9:01 PM

I think Buckpasser deserves to be in the mix somewhere, he was a monster. I didn't put Seattle Slew or Affirmed in my top 10 but I would take Seattle Slew over Buckpasser, but only by a whisker.

Like I said horse racing is about passion, your top 10 could be so different then mine. No one is right, and no one is wrong, it's just an opinion. I saw Buckpasser run at Santa Anita, amazing animal. I loved Affirmed because he ran everywhere and dodged no one. Hard hitting son of a gun to say the least. Ruffian probably doesn't make most folks top 10 list because she is a filly but to me, in my heart, she was the standard for fillies and mares. Next to the Doc I loved her most. I said this before but when she broke down that chilling summers day at Belmont, it was the only time I ever cried after a race.

Secretariat was the best horse ever to run at a mile and a half, Spectacular Bid was the best ever at a mile and a quarter, and in my mind the Doc was the best ever up to a mile and an eighth.........but this just the opinion of an old racing fan.......

21 Aug 2010 12:27 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

I love lists of top ten favorites. We used to spend days arguing about our all time baseball lineups as kids. It's always difficult and a matter of personal preferences. I find it interesting that Affirmed is often left out after what he achieved and the head to head class he showed. What a tenacious warrior. Horse of the Year 78 and 79. ITM 28 of 29 with 22 wins. Triple Crown winner. A monster at 2,3 and 4. I've always suspected that he didn't get enough credit as a racehorse because he didn't seem to be as great a sire as was hoped and was overshadowed by Alydar as a sire. I always thought Secretariat was the greatest and I believe that was because of his Belmont that brings tears to the eyes, even in replays. So what Deacon says makes sense, he was the best at a mile and a half. Quite a number of people think that Spectacular Bid was the greatest, and probably would be in more eyes if it weren't for a safety pin. 29 of 30 ITM with 26 wins. I also read Dr. Fager by Steve Haskin, and was impressed. My actual memory from the time period was about Damascus for some reason with no actual memory of Dr. Fager. I was a casual fan then. I'm finding it difficult to do a top ten but Affirmed would be in there, and Secretariat is still my number one. Zenyatta will be in my top five if she wins The Classic this year but is certainly in my top five favorites of all time.

21 Aug 2010 12:10 PM


Great points.  In my opinion, there really isn't a true top ten list.  There are some that would make everyone's list like Secretariat, MOW and Citation, probably next would be Dr. Fager and the Bid and Kelso, then it starts to get real cloudy.  There are just too many great horses and some of them are always going to be left out. Love your posts and your knowledge of Cali racing in general.  Have a good one.

21 Aug 2010 12:43 PM


I have to thank you again.  Of course Ruffian is my all time favorite and your last post mentioning her brings tears to my eyes.  Were you at Belmont that day?

21 Aug 2010 1:53 PM
Jim C.


Excellent article as usual.  My wife and I also love all your books, too.

After watching Blind Luck in the Alabama, however, I do feel the need to politely take exception to some of your recent comments leading into the Alabama.   You were so way over the top on Steve Byk's radio show, proclaiming how great Devil May Care is.  Devil May Care is a nice filly, to be sure.  But Blind Luck fires every time out, even when she loses (e.g., in the Hollywood Oaks).  Devil May Care does not fire every time out.  Also, you were suggesting that Blind Luck, a late closer, was going to be compromised at 10 furlongs.  That makes no sense to me at all; obviously she was going to benefit from the added distance in the Alabama, not to mention the extra-long stretch run at Saratoga (compared to the Southern California race tracks).

In the Alabama, we saw what a superior filly Blind Luck is.  She closed into excruciatingly slow fractions, and was about 7 wide spinning out of the final turn.   Devil May Care, with all her so-called "tactical speed" has no excuses.  All Joel Rosario has to do was hit his whip once at the top of the final stretch, and Blind Luck began to zoom.  At first, I thought she was too far back, but wow, did she make up ground in a hurry.

Anyway, I am glad that you at least mentioned, on Byk's radio show, Blind Luck's rocket-like explosion in the Starlet at Hollywood Park on December 20, 2009.  That performance in the Starlet disproved your general point you made in the wake of the Haskell that the kind of late explosion Lookin at Lucky made in the Haskell never seen on synthetic surfaces.  Blind Luck's late move today in the Alabama was reminiscent of her late move in the Starlet.

22 Aug 2010 2:10 AM


Your post of 21 AUG 2010 12:27 AM, was a beautiful thing. Expressing your opinion, praising your favorites without a hint of disrespect for any horse... your comment left no doubt that you are a true lover of horseracing and its participants. I really LOVED reading it!

22 Aug 2010 1:32 PM
Zen's Auntie

I love this Blog I went back to read it all again it took a while. What a wonderful tribute. Somehow, my prior gushing position on the very best race mare I have ever seen was never registered earlier,apparently, my can and string internet connection is not good.  

I just dont want to go un-registered as an unabashed, unappologetic, unwaivering Fan- whereever she goes whatever she does Zenyatta has moved me like no other Racehorse EVER and Im talking real time horse love of all of the very best. Im not that old but I remember even before Big Red and Sham (I loved that little horse too) following Riva Ridge when I started to read and have been following TB's ever since.  

People all over love her from my back east friends in PA ME KY and FL to 4-H Horse kids and parents in Idaho. I tell everyone who remotely likes horses about her. We have people who never followed TB racing watching Zenyatta - they think her whole dressage show is amazing.

All of us LOVE the California Girl, God Bless Zenyatta and keep her safe!!!!

22 Aug 2010 1:42 PM

Before this blog goes away, I'd just like to say that it's been one of my favorites, too.  

I live in NC - no equine race tracks, pari-mutuel wagering illegal - but when it comes to Zenyatta, my heart is all California.  I'm not envious or jealous that you left-coasters have her -- I rejoice that you appreciate her awesomeness and am dumbfounded that anyone - anywhere - does not celebrate that she simply EXISTS among us for this memorable space of time.

She is all my horse-hero/ines wrapped into one and she is sublimely Herself.  Zenyatta.

23 Aug 2010 10:11 PM
Lori Morton


I know this blog is about the great Zenyatta - and I couldn't say any better than all these commenters did - what a magnificent phenom she is - I ADORE HER!! - but I'd like to thank you for remembering Wanderin Boy in your comment.   I read someone say, after Curlin won the JCGC, that "Who'd he beat???  Wanderin Boy???" - like WB was some sort of slouch.  He died very shortly after that, and I hope that person choked on their words, I really do.  I loved him too - thank you!!!   GO ZENYATTA!  Bring the sky down on us at the BC this year!!!

24 Aug 2010 3:03 PM

I am from PA and I worship Zenyatta.  Whenever things are poor in the betting aspect of the game "I will  always have Zenyatta".  Then I love racing again.

26 Aug 2010 7:25 PM


I'm drivng from Northern Illinois to Louisville for the BC JUST to witness a legend and finally... a living legend in her majesty... Zenyatta.  Great article, thanks!    

27 Aug 2010 1:29 PM
Laura P

What a pleasure to read this!  Thanks, Steve, as always.  And I like Trapper's (one of your readers) play on "We'll always have Paris" with "[We'll] always have Zenyatta."

11 Sep 2010 4:19 AM

Great article Steve. I agree with "Smitty" who applauds the connections of horses who allow them to run on and endear themselves to the public. Retiring a mare or colt at 3 or 4 may be great for making money but it doesn't help the sport as regards to the punters. Zenyatta puts bums on seats at the track. It wouldn't matter where she was running the stands would be full. Californians love their racing and here's to Queen Zenyatta giving them all something to cheer about on November 6.

13 Oct 2010 10:34 PM

I to am a Zenyatta fan, and for good reasons. I will defend her against anyone, any time, til the end. Every horse has it's flaws, it's easy wins, and home track advantage, and losses,every single horse, except Zen. On any given day, any horse can lose a race, and usually will, that's a given, for most, but not the queen. This horse who comes from behind 12-15 lengths, has never lost, never! Do you how difficult that is, how many things can go wrong ? How many champion horses can say undefeated,"scoreboards" don't lie' people do. Not even the great Secretriat, nor Goldkova who has lost over 20% of her races have stats like that. Look at the facts, before bashing the best mare of all time. Seems everyone has quickly forgotten the 2009 Breeders Classic, where Zen came from 12 lengths or more back, weaving in and out of traffic, on the final turn, to outkick the males,I dare anyone to question that feat. ! Santa Anita was not her home track either. Gee, if there were any doubters, that accomplishment should have sent most of you packing. This horse has done more for racing in this horrific economy than anything since 1973. Whatever happens Nov. 6th, she is a true champion, like it, or not ! Go Zenyatta, make it 20-0, we know you can do it ...

23 Oct 2010 2:29 PM
Binary Option

This is a very helpful post, i hope this really helps me to complete my project.

13 Nov 2010 5:02 AM
Lagos Flights

Interesting blog. Actually google made searching of information easy on any topic. Well keep it up and post more interesting blogs.

20 Jan 2011 5:01 AM
recovery from heroin addiction

Hi, I found your post really helpful. It helped me all the way in completing my assignment, I am also giving a reference link of your blog in my case study. Thanks for posting such informative content. Keep posting.

29 Mar 2011 5:27 AM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs