I will be the first to admit that I am not a regular reader of O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine. However, more than 2.5 million people, mostly women, do read O each month. I also don’t often visit Oprah.com, Winfrey’s Website that attracts an estimated 70 million page views a month. But this week, we racing fans might want to check out both.
Yesterday in New York, Oprah honored her 2010 O Power List of Personalities. As noted on the Web site and in the October issue of O that hit newsstands Tuesday, the O Power List features “… A visionary educator...a headline-making newswoman...the designer every bride loves and cherishes... not to mention a 91-year-old who's still kicking up her heels: Meet 20 women (and one amazing horse) who blew us away this year.”
Yes, that’s right. Right there among Oprah’s short list of the 20 most influential females in the World—people like journalist Diane Sawyer, designer Vera Wang, actress Julia Roberts and philanthropist Kelly Chapman Meyer—is the Champion racemare and leading contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Horse of the Year, Zenyatta.
In an eloquent tribute, Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit, writes that Zenyatta “could well be the world’s most invincible athlete.” Hillenbrand goes on to point out the five things in her mind that make Zenyatta so special: her unbeaten record, her size, her running style, her drinking habits (Z likes a taste of Guinness every now and then) and her dance, which she performs in the paddock and during the post parade before each race. Click here to read the entire O feature on Zenyatta.
Such is the reach and influence of Oprah that I noticed the O Power List not on one of her media platforms, but on the widely read HuffingtonPost.com Web site, which itself draws millions of page views each month. The Huffington Post tribute also features some terrific video of Zenyatta strutting her stuff before the Apple Blossom Stakes.
Having a star like Zenyatta around certainly makes it easier for horse racing to cross over into the mainstream press. Such coverage is an important validation of our sport as vibrant and relevant. You can’t buy this kind of endorsement, especially where Oprah is concerned. She is arguably the most respected arbiter of style and authenticity in America today. A couple of years ago, she did an extended segment on her TV show about a sprinter named Oprah Winney who competed in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Monmouth. Whether it’s Oprah Winney or Zenyatta, when she takes notice of one of our athletes, it is a good thing for our sport.
And Zenyatta isn’t our first Thoroughbred superstar to cross over into mainstream media. A photograph of Rachel Alexandra appeared in an edition of Vogue last year. And the Disney movie about Secretariat, who graced the covers of Time and Newsweek in 1973, will open nationwide on October 8.
Zenyatta, meanwhile, was featured on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ “This is My Town” billboards earlier this spring throughout that city. And though she doesn’t have her own motion picture yet, with a couple more victories this season, a movie-like ending could be just around the corner.
Check out the Zenyatta praise at Oprah.com and HuffingtonPost.com and let me know what you think.