Another Opportunity For Wise Dan

Here we go again. I had absolutely zero plans on writing or even thinking about Wise Dan in the heat of the Derby trail. Who needs all the retorts that accompany it? I don’t consider myself a glutton for punishment. But then I was watching American Idol and another hair-brained analogy for a column popped into my head. It’s basically the same old same old, but with a slightly different face put on it.

The number one sign that you’re getting old is watching American Idol and not knowing a single song or a single artist, and not hearing a single tune in any of the songs.

I know, what could that mundane thought possibly have to do with Wise Dan?

I only watch American Idol (on DVR, of course, so I can fast forward through all the garbage time) in the hope of hearing a song I’m familiar with and witnessing that one knockout performance that gives me goosebumps and separates great singers from superstars. Aha, now it’s starting to come into focus, right?

I hear great voices and see great stage presence in all these singers, who have gone through a lot to get here. But now I want those goosebumps; I want to move and be moved. Yes, I’m getting old. I miss Phil Spector’s wall of noise that rocks me out of my seat. I miss the melodic, hypnotic voice of Sam Cooke, or Darlene Love wailing out a tune, or the finger-snapping sound and profound real-life lyrics of the Statler Brothers, or Delbert McClinton crying out the blues. 

For some strange reason, when I was finished watching American Idol this week and saw the potential of these great singers, wanting so badly to hear a superstar in the making, I couldn’t help think of, yes, Wise Dan, as he prepares for Act III, scene I. Acts I and II are over and done, and they have won Wise Dan a mind-boggling six Eclipse Awards and the admiration of everyone who loves watching perfection. But now, it’s a new year and we start all over again.

Look, we are all well aware by now, and I’ve written this several times, that Wise Dan is unbeatable going a mile on the grass, and thanks to a Wise Dan/all/all trifecta in last year’s BC Mile, I was able to actually win money on the Breeders’ Cup.

And as we head into the new year, I once again have visions of this all-time great turf miler evolving into one of the all-time greats, period.

Yes, I’m well aware all the Wise Dan idolaters are going to strike back and say leave well enough alone, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it; stop picking on the horse and his connections. But, the truth is, I am one of Wise Dan’s biggest fans and knew he was the lock of the year in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, despite his loss on that wet Polytrack surface at Keeneland. At a mile on the grass, he is the greatest I’ve ever seen, and that includes Lure. Although perhaps not as brilliant as the Claiborne rocket, he is more machine like. I have maintained on numerous occasions that he is a winning machine and is truly a great horse.

But like I feel about the great singers on American Idol, I can’t help but want to see him take it one more step. Because, you see, that one step is the one leading through the gates of the pantheon, where the immortals of the Turf dwell. I’m not saying Wise Dan would win the Met Mile or the Whitney or the Breeders’ Cup Classic. All I’m saying is that he deserves the chance to join those great geldings, such as Kelso, Forego, and John Henry, in that hallowed chamber reserved only for the true legends of the sport; the ones who will be talked about generations from now.

No one remembers Forego’s defeats, or Kelso’s, or John Henry’s. And the ones that are memorable are not held against them. Do you think anyone held it against Forego when, at age 7, he was beaten a neck in the 1 1/4-mile Suburban Handicap carrying 138 pounds or that he finished second in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn Handicap under 137 pounds, giving the winners of those races a staggering 24 and 25 pounds? It’s all about the victories and reaching beyond their limits to strive for true greatness. And if Wise Dan should lose on the dirt, no one will hold it against him. People will admire the sportsmanship (see Ed Stanco) of running a horse where he is not a certainty to win. Even perfection can get boring if it becomes repetitive and unadventurous.

I truly believe Zenyatta became more beloved, and her fan base grew even larger, after her lone, courageous defeat.

I don’t say all this because what trainer Charlie LoPresti and owner Morton Fink are doing is wrong. There is no wrong when all you do is win. But there is more to racing a great horse than just doing what’s not wrong, especially when you don’t know for sure that the alternative is wrong in the first place.

If Wise Dan runs in the Met Mile or the Breeders’ Cup Classic or even the Whitney (three different distances, take your pick) and gets beat, so what? If he shows limitations you can always go back to mile grass races and try to make it three BC Mile wins and nine Eclipse awards. It’s not as if we are talking about a horse who is unproven on the dirt. Heck, he’s a grade I winner on dirt and was beaten in a photo by a very good horse in the grade I Stephen Foster Handicap. When he won the grade I Clark Handicap, his time for the 1 1/8 miles was the fastest in the last six runnings of the race.

And it’s not as if Wise Dan’s trainer Charlie LoPresti has not publicly expressed his desire to run on the dirt again. He was seriously considering the Whitney last year. LoPresti claims it was owner Morton Fink who decided to stay on the grass, and Fink has stated it was LoPresti’s decision. All that is immaterial now. We’re starting fresh with an entire year ahead of us. But at age 7, time is running out to start pushing the envelope, as they say.

Yes, I’m well aware that I am regurgitating the same old stuff, and I have no business suggesting that Wise Dan’s connections give the horse a chance to enter the pantheon of immortals. But I have witnessed the true greats, and the inhabitants of that sacred place have become few and far between compared to the past. Wise Dan at least deserves the chance to join them. Some people may feel he has entered already, but, trust me, the passing of the years will show that is not the case. This is not Europe or Australia, where the Frankels and Black Caviars are revered; where greatness comes in all forms. This is America, where the classics, the classic distances, and the dirt reign supreme; where grass milers and sprinters will always be segregated and discriminated against in the history books (How many of those specialists were among the Blood-Horse’s Top 100 horses of all time)?

Is the grass safer than the dirt? Most will say yes. And if that is the reason to remain on the grass, for fear of injury, then one cannot argue with that decision. But if the horse is completely sound, that shouldn’t influence their decision, just as it doesn’t all the other trainers who race on dirt.

I keep thinking of the closing line of the play “Sunday in the Park with George,” about the artist George Seurat, who says, “White: a blank page or canvas. His favorite – so many possibilities."

Those possibilities are still there. We have a blank canvas once again.

All it takes to complete a masterpiece are bold strokes by the artist, a God-given talent, and some imagination.

All it takes from an American Idol contestant to achieve true greatness is to explore new depths within his or her soul.

All it takes from Wise Dan is to expand the horizons of what is already a great painting or a great song and turn them into a master work of art.

38 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Linda in Texas

Steve oh Steve. Watching American Idol? :) You have way too much time on your hands. Could your melancholy being showing as your birthday is but a month away? Kidding aside. You thought out loud on this one and let your fingers do the typing. Absolutely Superb. No other words describe. And since the Finks have won almost everything let's hope they finally heed your suggestions and let Wise Dan out of the box to show us more. P.S.  I loved Sam Cook's voice also and have his albums.  Thanks for this one.  

06 Mar 2014 12:15 PM
Pedigree Ann

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the connections to change their minds. You can't argue with an 80yo, 90yo. man and expect to change his mind. I know - I have had many years of experience with my dad.

06 Mar 2014 12:18 PM
ManakinSabotEqCtr

Steve, I love reading your stuff. You're like the Jerry Izenberg of horse racing.

06 Mar 2014 12:56 PM
Daniel Jividen

I don't know, Steve.  This year Wise Dan has a chance to enter a Pantheon inhabited solely by the great Goldikova (i.e., three consecutive Breeders' Cup mile victories).  That seems ambition enough to me.

06 Mar 2014 12:57 PM
Kelso1966

I would love to see him in any of the races listed.  He is two time HOY, he has proved he's great.  Sure would be fun to see him try something else and run up against another group of horses, Will Take Charge, Mucho Macho Man anyone?

06 Mar 2014 2:57 PM
Diane in Los Angeles

Nothing in this post would preclude another BC Mile attempt--winning a Met Mile plus a 3rd BC Mile, that would be fantastic.

06 Mar 2014 3:25 PM
Rachel best 3 yr old filly ever

Steve, you are truly one of the "Great Writers" of our generation. To be able to think out loud and type out to explain in detail how you feel is just magical. I am a huge fan of Wise Dan. My opinion of him won't change whether he races on dirt or not,to others yes it will. How thrilling will it be to see him in the starting gate in a GR1 on dirt with MMM,WTC, Palice Malice, and Game on Dude. Great article Steve. You are an all time great yourself.  

06 Mar 2014 3:28 PM
CHAR1973

Cannot blame you for wishing for that one tiny step to take him into immortality.  Here's a question - what if they did something totally different but equally out of the box - took him to England or France to race in the Group I races?  Would he qualify then with John, Kelso and Forego if he won against the best milers in Europe?  Just wondering......is it "out of the box" you want or just plain old dirt?  Would either earn him that pantheon ticket?

06 Mar 2014 4:09 PM
Mike Relva

Steve,

Thanks for another writing on Wise Dan. I'm also a fan as well as a defender when some knock him without having a single clue what a truly great racehorse is.

06 Mar 2014 5:06 PM
prudofrompuertorico

Another superb article.

Please watch american idol more often. I would love to see Wise Dan, on dirt, against MMM,WTC and any other that fits the bill. Wise Dan deserves it.

06 Mar 2014 6:10 PM
Steve Haskin

Char, going to Europe would no doubt boost his reputation and confirm him as the best turf miler in the world as opposed to America. But he'd still be a turf miler. That would be great for racing and for this country, but it wouldnt put him in the class of the all-time greats in America. Once again, running on the dirt is not something he'd be doing for the first time. He is a GRADE I winner on dirt already and a head away from being a two-time Grade I winner. Is it really that far out of the box?

06 Mar 2014 6:29 PM
md reynolds

Excellent article, Steve, as always. I'm grateful to Fink for taking such good care of WISE DAN. I have a feeling we will see him on dirt this year! Wonderfully talented horse...he can really turn it on!

06 Mar 2014 7:38 PM
Bigtex

All I can say, being in the walking ring at BC 2012, Santa Anita, getting a good look at Wise Dan was "Wow!!!"  Animal Kingdom blew me away as well!  That turf mile race just gave me goose bumps!!!

06 Mar 2014 8:15 PM
Windolin

Read your post earlier today and so wanted to respond, but typing on a phone takes FOREVER.

You make a very convincing argument and I love the analogy to American Idol. Another great post and I too am amazed at how words fly off your fingertips that cast a spell on those of us who cannot wait for your posts.

I am one those idolaters of this horse. I feel in love with him the first time I saw him race. To partially quote a Beatles song..."there is something in the way HE moves, like no other". He seems to run his own race and plan his moves, I actually think he would race ad win without a jockey. I saw a close up photo of his head sometime back and he has very deep intelligent eyes that just fascinate me (I am a big eye person in a horse).

The other reason I love this horse, is the humble joy that Mr Fink has for him. When he accepted the HOY award this year, I just had to cry. Here is the elderly gentleman who is living a dream of breeding a champion horse.

I read that when he dispersed his racing stable, he kept Lisa Danielle because she was named after his grand daughter. Read also that the stud fee for Wisemans's Ferry was $8k. Just goes to show that champions sometimes come from very unlikely places.

I have read also that the reason he was gelded was because he did not have impressive bloodlines. I hope that is not true, because I have looked at his pedigree and think he has an awesome pedigree. His success gives some credit to the "big heart" theory.

I know I am starting to ramble here, but real quick, I like the way he is trained, that he is allowed to vacation during the off season on a farm and get to act like a horse.

Being gelded is probably one reason he has staying power. No secret that stallions build muscle and geldings build bone as they mature.

Anyway, I think Mr Fink left the door open for dirt races and maybe longer distances in his comments in an interview after HOY award.

I too would like for him to have the chance to show how great he can be beyond his accomplishments so far.

I so wish Secretariat had been allowed to race beyond his 3 year old career. I think sometimes about what an awesome career that would have been. Maybe Wise Dan is running the races Secretariat would have loved to run. That's all..I will stop now...got 9 hungry brombies waiting on me.

06 Mar 2014 8:42 PM
iron maiden

I think you are right about Wise Dan Steve.Another year of beating weak American milers will do nothing to enhance his reputation. I would like to see him win in Europe, and then try the dirt again. Tough to do at 7 but if he is succesful he would be remembered as one of the greatest ever.

06 Mar 2014 8:58 PM
Gollykeeper

Didn't Morton Fink say something at the Eclipse Awards about trying Wise Dan on dirt this year? Maybe it is already in their plans for him?

06 Mar 2014 10:43 PM
Steve Haskin

Rachel, thank you so much for those kind words. That is so nice of you to say. And, windolin, thank you for agreeing. LOL

06 Mar 2014 10:56 PM
zenyatta fan

A little off-topic but maybe you know the answer in the late eighties  I was watching the parade to the post of the Kentucky Derby and there was a young woman riding a pony horse with no bridle and she was leading one of the contestants.

do you or does anyone know more about this?

Thank you Steve.

07 Mar 2014 12:18 AM
footy231

I cant see him running on dirt again id love to though,but what id really love to see if he would come and run at royal ascot, that would be amazing.

07 Mar 2014 3:51 AM
Beau Gar

The connections of Wise Dan have done a great job with their champion.It is very evident to me that Dan moves much better on the turf then the dirt.His best distance is a flat mile.He is one of the greatest turf milers ever.I would put him in the same class as Miesque,Goldikova,Lure,and the great Frankel.He is already a master work of art.Keep him doing what he enjoys best and performs to his utmost ability.

07 Mar 2014 9:43 AM
Beau Gar

Edwin Moses won 107 400 meter hurdle races in a row which is considered maybe the greatest feat in any sport.He was a specialist in that event. Wise Dan is a mile turf specialist.He has proven to be arguably the best turf miler ever.Why is he not considered a master of art and why should he expand his horizons? He already has proved how great he is at his preferred surface and distance.If Dan could speak,he would say I move best on the turf going a flat mile.If you want to see my best turn of foot,please keep me on the turf at a flat mile!

07 Mar 2014 10:18 AM
Age of Reason

I'm afraid that if Wise Dan was ever going to once again try his hand on the main track, he waited a year too late. In 2013 the older male division was pitifully wide-open, and every time a Grade 1 at a mile or over came up the clamor for Wise Dan would begin again; the ultra-consistent reigning HOY versus a bunch of colts who didn't know how to find the winner's circle twice in a row? "This ain't gonna be pretty." Unless Fink, Lopresti and Co. decide to go for the last major synthetic-surface Grade 1, the Pacific Classic, you can forget seeing Wise Dan off the turf again. That train of last year's easy pickins has left the station, and there's a new freight car pulling in that's loaded with Will Take Charge, Lea, a suddenly all-grown-up Mucho Macho Man, Palace Malice, and a host of others. Who would knock themselves out against that group when you could just go out and beat up on Za Approval again for the umpteenth time? Not I. Steve, I'm afraid that Wise Dan actually will end up earning the all-time respect you desire for him, just not in the way you suggested. The Zenyatta route is what I'm predicting. He will walk his beat and run the table and make a clean sweep of the regular season for a third time which will be somewhat uninteresting to his non-fans, then sadly meet defeat at the Breeders Cup but in such a valiant way as to become memorable. With Peace and Justice, No Nay Never and who knows how many other young running fools possible for the Mile, it's only inevitable before age begins to show a little bit when competing at the top level. Best of luck to him.

07 Mar 2014 10:27 AM
Steve Haskin

Age of Reason, you do have a point about waiting a year too late. This is going to be pretty tough year to take on top dirt horses. But, can you imagine if he should beat them. His place in history would be secure. Even if he runs second it would be terrific. Then they can go back to grass if they want and no harm done. If he ran in the Whitney, all that would happen is that he'd miss running in the Fourstardave again.

07 Mar 2014 10:40 AM
txhorsefan

As always, what a wonderful blog post, Steve!!  You are definitely in the pantheon of great writers and as many have already said your ability to clarify and share your thoughts and feelings as well as your knowledge and love of the horse, is what draws all of us to your blogs.  For that I will always be grateful, however, I really have lots of mixed feelings about Wise Dan's status as a great horse.  To me he has proven he belongs with the best because of the races he has already won and yes, those losses along the way, too.  I agree it would be fun to see him tackle other surfaces and distances, but I won't hold it against him if he does not, if he simply continues his winning ways at a mile on the turf.  Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.  I've never watched American Idol and I'm pretty sure I'd be disappointed with not recognizing any of the music either.  

07 Mar 2014 11:12 AM
MikeG7251

If he just stays on the turf this year would love to see him stretch out to a mile & a quarter and go for the Arlington Million!

07 Mar 2014 11:59 AM
Daina Ryan

Steve - like all the others I just LOVE LOVE LOVE reading your posts.   I tell my horse buddies that you have to read some of Steve's stuff. He's a terrific writer.  So - - the Claiborne rocket - that's a good one! Never heard that before. And like the Claiborne rocket - Wise Dan has a very unique running style - - you can pick him right out of the crowd. Like you said  he's a machine... he runs like a machine just like you know who.  Secretariat ran like a bullet - straight ahead, flat out,  all business - never wavering - like the constant movement of a piston and a cylinder - like a a machine!! Well what do you know!!  That was one thing they could NOT cast in the movie SECRETARIAT - they could not cast HIM.   May have looked a bit like him but not his running style.  They lost me on that part.  Anyhow, sorry I got off on that tangent.  Back to Wise Dan, how great would that be for racing to run him in some of the Classics. It would bring back some of the excitement that I think has been missing since Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra.  I would be glued once again to the racing channel.  I am, however, looking forward to the BIG CAP this weekend!! That's a pretty exciting field (my heart goes out to Game on Dude - would LOVE to see him win).  Oh a good story that I have to mention - I have a horse for pleasure riding on Long Island and my farrier has been telling me for a while now about this horse that he's worked on since 3 months old.  Said the horse is showing some nice potential.  Said his owner thinks he could be a Derby horse (and I'm thinking - yeah right - everyone likes to think). So I started to follow this horse after our conversation and he has since won the Withers and just won the Gotham and as you know his name is Samraat AND he's now moved into your top 12!! OK - so I guess I am getting a little excited.  How great is that....Go Samraat....go NY!!  Oh and while I'm on stories - one last story as I know it (and sorry I'm wandering again) - - Artie Schiller was named after a good friend of my step dads (and mine).  Artie Schiller worked at OTB and owned a local pub called Southside Hotel in BayShore, N.Y. Everyone called it Schillers and they still refer to it as Schillers regardless of its new owner.  And then there is Bill Entenmann who also grew up in BayShore with Artie.  So he calls Artie one day and say's "Artie, I'd like to name one of my horses after you" and Artie said "What??  Are you crazy!! Artie Schiller!! But OK go ahead" and the rest is history.  Prior to the naming Artie had become ill and I think Bill, Tini and his daughter Denise thought it would be a nice way to honor him so he spent his last years traveling around with his namesake from race to race and got the honor of attending the Eclipse Award Ceremony (I believe it was 2006).  Artie missed best Turf Horse by 3 points against Leroidesanimaux.  Both Bill and Artie (the man) have both passed on but left a good story behind.  Just thought you'd enjoy...

07 Mar 2014 12:42 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you very much, Daina. I really appreciate the kind words.

07 Mar 2014 3:37 PM
Beau Gar

Cmon Steve. Dan has already secured his place in history as one of the greatest turf milers we have ever seen.In my opinion,Dan has far exceeded a great painting.He certainly should be considered a master work of art!

07 Mar 2014 6:08 PM
Mary McLeod

Dear Steve,

You have written another thought-provoking essay. I totally agree with all your points.

I love Wise Dan: his style, his looks, his attitude. I fail to understand why he has so many critics. You are right: if he could win on dirt perhaps they would hush up and find another horse to criticize.

I do want him to stay safe and sound. However, he appears to be in great health, and he LOVES to race.

His connections have done an outstanding job with Wise Dan. Let us just hope they will choose a path that will ensure his place in the Pantheon.

Thank you, Steve, for your excellent command of the English language!! Perhaps you could dedicate an essay to your English teacher and your path to the world of equines.

Take care,

Mary in Boone

07 Mar 2014 8:58 PM
Deltalady

A point that for me plays a large part in whether they should seriously consider your wise words, Steve.  As a gelding, once Dan hangs it up, there's nothing more he will be able to say. That is the sad fact. So, why not let him have his day in the sun and put on a show "for the ages". I sure hope they listen to you, for Dan's sake.  He deserves to have them believe enough in him to "turn him loose" and let him fly. John Henry's final year of competing he spoke loud and clear:  he lost 3 Grade 1s (including finishing out of the money in the SA Handicap, a race he had won twice before), but won 4 Grade 1s and 2 more stakes for good measure, and had his best year in purses, $2.3Million. When the final tally is made for Wise Dan, let it be said he swung for the fences.  Great points, Steve. Thank you for giving voice to the frustration of many of us who feel Dan deserves more.

07 Mar 2014 9:06 PM
Old Timer

Steve, I am with you all the way. Why not give it a shot after two years of doing everything else? You mention Kelso, who won 5 straight Horse of the Year titles. (now that was mind boggling!) (I have read your Thoroughbred Legends book on him at least twice.) It would be so cool to see Wise Dan stretch that envelope.

09 Mar 2014 10:23 AM
Paula Higgins

I totally agree Steve with all you said about Wise Dan. He is one of the great ones but they need to put him in at least one of the "out of his comfort zone races" to prove it for posterity. I believe he is up to the challenge and can go further and win. I think his owner would like to do it and it is his trainer who is afraid to risk it.

09 Mar 2014 11:15 PM
Adam Brehm

Steve,

Your argument against Wise Dan not yet being an "all-time" great is the same one I made during Zenyatta's career and why I can never consider her as such. While her streak was certainly captivating, she was only asked twice to truly conquer a mountain (both of her BC Classics) and she came away with a win and a nose 2nd. The way the Mosses continued to gently campaign her during her final 2 seasons was not only a disservice to the great game of racing but, even more heartbreaking, a huge disservice to the great mare herself.

After beating up on female tomato cans for the majority of her career, we are only left with "what might have been?" if only Ann and Jerry would have asked her. She certainly had all the potential to be considered as an all-time great, but sadly, at least in my eyes, she is not. She just didn't conquer enough of those mountains.

The Mosses wasted their once in a lifetime chance with a once in a lifetime mare and, perhaps, the Wise Dan camp is wasting their opportunity as well.

10 Mar 2014 5:40 AM
Paula Higgins

Adam, you are comparing apples and oranges when you compare Zenyatta to Wise Dan. Since Zenyatta raced against the boys twice in the BCC, your point is moot. She raced outside her comfort zone in the biggest race, two consecutive years. It was a huge risk for a female horse to race against the boys in the BCC. What don't you get about that?  Also, calling Zenyatta's competition "tomato cans" was crass, INACCURATE and disrespectful to the horses who risk it all when they set foot on those tracks. Zenyatta's brilliance speaks for itself and did so in two separate Breeders Cup Classics. Since you are a member of the "glass half full" club, you will never be able to appreciate her greatness and accomplishments. Jerry and Ann Moss and John Sherriffs never had any intention of racing her ad infinitum on the east coast to satisfy the naysayers. If she had raced on the east coast, she certainly would have had a shorter career-and then you would have been complaining about that. People with your point of view set arbitrary, rigid criteria for "greatness" and when the horse meets a standard of greatness that does not conform to your rules, you don't recognize it. As it stands, she literally carried the sport for 3 years and set records that will never be broken by another North American female horse in our lifetime.

11 Mar 2014 1:49 AM
ksweatman9

I would LOVE to see Wise Dan step "out of the box". I'm convinced that the result would be pleasantly gratifying for his fans. As for his critics, they will remain critical of the gelding until he draws his final breath. Just the way it is, sad to say. Looking ahead, way ahead, to the 2014 Breeder's Cup, I must say. I want Game on Dude to win it just once so he can retire in peace someday. I really hate it when Zenyatta's name is mentioned to explain why a horse can't be considered great. She is always the prime example. Such rubbish, still we have those who just can't help but take a jab at the great mare. As I said, critics only look for reasons to criticize. It will be that way for Wise Dan as well as big Z. Wise Dan should step up to the plate for Wise Dan, for his legacy, to prove true to himself, not just to prove his doubters wrong. We know they are wrong.

11 Mar 2014 4:31 AM
Adam Brehm

Paula,

I respectfully disagree w/virtually every single point you made in defending the Mosses and Zenyatta. First, you correctly point out that she only raced "out of her comfort zone" twice from 20 lifetime starts. That's 10%! leaving the majority of her other 18 starts against inferior competition on the West coast. You then masterfully prove my point by highlighting just how well she competed in both of her BC Classics with a win and nose 2nd. Just imagine what she could have accomplished if the Mosses hadn't sheltered her for a huge majority of her career.

You then make the incredible assumption that taking her on the road, perhaps to the Midwest or East coast, would have somehow shortened her career. WHY? She made 2 successful trips to Arkansas and another to CD for the BC in which she finished a spectacular 2nd in her finale. She never had any physical issues after any of those trips so why would she have been in such danger by traveling?? Horses and horseman do it daily.

Traveling and taking on all potential challengers is a linchpin of the "all-time" greats. She did not, therefore she is not.

And finally, to answer your accusation that I am a member of the "glass half empty" club, that is not the case. I was and still am a Zenyatta fan but if you try and define her as an all-time great, she falls woefully short.

Perhaps this is merely a matter of semantics and our definitions of greatness just don't match up. Bottom line, I truly believe we were all short changed by the babying of the great mare who could have accomplished so much more had she only been given the chance. For as great as she was, she should have been so much more.  

11 Mar 2014 9:39 PM
Old Old Cat

Second try on flakey samsung tablet.   Steve thanks again for another well written thought provoking article.   I agree about wise dan going outside the box.  I think overseas would enhance his legacy.   Also different distances would work.  I see no reason for dirt.

many people I know think that one mile is the most difficult distance to master.   Sort of a combination sprint and classic.  He has mastered it.

12 Mar 2014 4:36 PM
Paula Higgins

Wait a minute Adam, you ARE a member of the "glass half full" club and your entire post makes my point for me. You admire her but you don't value what she accomplished. It is all about what she didn't do from your perspective. Explain to me point by point how her actual record is so average that she shouldn't be listed as one of the greats and the greatest female North American horse of all time. How many horses male of female do you know of won 19 straight races, the majority Grade I's? Why are her 20 races, including the two against the boys in the BCC not enough for you? How easy do you think it is to win 19 straight against any competition never mind Grade I competition? Do you understand how hard it is to do that with her come from behind style for starters? Go to Wikipedia if you don't know the stats on the other horses (female) she raced against. They weren't "cans of tomato soup" (that description really makes me see red).

Adam, you have to know that racing a filly, even one as physically imposing as Zenyatta, is not the same as racing a male horse. Rachel Alexandra was the number one example of that point. If you race a great female horse against the boys consistently, you will get a burst of brilliance like Rachel Alexandra, but they are going to burn that candle out after a year of racing at that level, against all male competition. Can you tell me of any female horse in the 20th-21st century who raced at the longer distances, against the boys, consistently winning and from 3-6 years of age? I can't think of a one. For the record, she might have been able to do it, but why risk it? Your frame of reference is centered around horses like Secretariat, John Henry, Citation, Seattle Slew and not other female horses, which is what you should be comparing her to.

She raced against whoever showed up. The horses in the east knew where she lived and they wanted 0 to do with her for very good reason. You know it and I know it.

Jerry and Ann Moss and John Sherriffs planned her campaigns specifically keeping in mind her health, fitness and mental sharpness. She was a huge horse with all the potential problems that come with that and they kept her healthy. That was amazing in and of itself. They had a reason for everything they did and they did it right. Jess Jackson had a different plan for Rachel Alexandra and her 3 year old year was the greatest by a female horse. That is her legacy. I would suggest that we respect Zenyatta's legacy, which is unique and will NEVER be repeated by another female horse. You can take it to the bank.

12 Mar 2014 9:37 PM

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