At last, it’s here. After months of anticipation, it all comes down to one day. The ads are about to run their course. The pundits and prognosticators have all had their say. The people have engaged in ways that no one could have imagined just a few short years ago. The polls have been all over the place. The arguments and rhetoric have been heated and at times very personal. The media has given the events of the day unprecedented coverage. Finally, our collective date with destiny has arrived.
I am not talking about Election Day 2010 – a day which, like the finish line for a tiring frontrunner, cannot come fast enough. I don’t know about you but one more negative political ad and my head may explode.
I am talking about the amazing race mare, Zenyatta, and her quest for perfection in the Breeders’ Cup later this week. In case you have been living under a glacier in Antarctica for the past few weeks, at 6:45 p.m. this Saturday, November 6, at the Breeders’ Cup in Louisville, Kentucky, 14 of the best horses currently in training will be going to the post in the 27th running of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. With all due respect to the 13 other contestants, the focus of just about everyone’s attention at this year’s running of the BC Classic will be the lone female in the field.
Zenyatta, the fabulous 6-year-old race mare from California, could become only the second horse in history to win the Classic in back-to-back years. Eight others have attempted this herculean feat but only Tiznow has done it. Even more amazingly, if she wins, she will finish her career with an unprecedented 20 wins and no defeats. And that elusive Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year? It’s hers hands down if she wins.
To truly put this race in perspective, though, you have to consider all the many factors that combine to make this Saturday’s BC Classic a once in a lifetime event.
First, consider the stage – historic Churchill Downs, a highly competitive Breeders’ Cup Classic field, and an international television audience watching live on ESPN. Certainly in the United States and arguably around the globe, there is no better venue for a great horse race than Churchill Downs. In addition to being the home of Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs has hosted virtually all of the largest and many of the most memorable Breeders’ Cup events in the Cup’s 27 year history. This weekend’s two-day extravaganza promises to be yet another record-setter. If Zenyatta is going to convince the world of her greatness, this is the best place to do it.
And since the Classic is the biggest race in America for older horses, this is definitely the race to win. The 14 horse field that she will face may be one of the best ever to contest the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Any one of a number of horses has a legitimate shot at taking home the trophy, including Quality Road, Blame and Lookin At Lucky. They all will give Zenyatta the race of her life. It will take her best effort ever to get to the wire ahead of this deep, talented field.
Keep in mind that no matter what happens on Saturday, this will be last race of Zenyatta’s long and glorious career. Truth is, Zenyatta’s connections did not have to bring her back for this year’s campaign. Owners Jerry and Ann Moss, trainer John Shirreffs, racing manager Dotty Ingordo and Jockey Mike Smith could have ended her career after last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic victory and no one would have questioned that decision. But they kept her sharp through the end of 2009 and after carefully considering her best interests, they decided to keep her in training in 2010. It was a huge sporting gesture.
Finally, everything will be on the line for Zenyatta on Saturday. Not only would this be a second consecutive Classic victory, a perfect 20 win career, and an undisputed claim on Horse of the Year honors, but also a win this Saturday should finally silence her detractors.
A career as long and distinguished as Zenyatta’s cannot be made or lost in one race. She is a champion no matter what happens. But on this stage, against this field, at this point in her career and with so much on the line, a win this Saturday would put Zenyatta on the short list of all time greats - right up there with the likes of Secretariat and Man o’ War.
Make your plans now to watch this Saturday’s ESPN broadcast, or better yet, attend the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs in person to witness what promises to be history in the making. I wasn’t alive in the early 1900’s when Man o’ War went 20 for 21. I was too young and unaware to see Secretariat capture the Triple Crown in 1973. There is no way I’m going to miss Zenyatta’s bid for racing immortality.
How about you? Where will you be watching on Saturday? What will a Zenyatta victory mean to you? Let me hear from you.