Courtesy of Becky Johnston
There is something about a deep closer in horse racing that elicits the inner underdog in humans. We can relate.
Who hasn’t had their back up against the wall in some task in life? Whether through
procrastination or others simply having a better start. It is hard to beat that feeling when you can finish a task with a full head of steam when all others had lost faith.
Zenyatta may have been odds-on leaving the gate in the Clement L. Hirsch on Sunday, but by the top of the stretch, her backers were imploring the big girl to do something that looked impossible. As the daughter of Street Cry reached for the wire with a desperate lunge at the finish, her fans took a collective breath and leaned for the wire with her hoping the perfect mare had scored her twelfth win.
Amazing what you can accomplish when you keep plugging away and keep your nose to the grindstone.
Speaking of Grindstone and incredible finishes, Zenyatta’s win sent me reminiscing about other close calls. Overbrook Farm’s son of Unbridled needed every step of the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby to defeat Cavonnier on the biggest racing stage.
1996 Kentucky Derby
You need not look too far back to find a heavily favored champion that was under the gun. Stardom Bound sent hearts racing earlier this year.
2009 Santa Anita Oaks
Who can forget Meafara, looking like a winner in two consecutive runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint only to lose in the final stages on both occasions. Eddie D. gave the talented gelding Cardmania a measured ride leaving just enough room to nip the gutsy gray distaffer.
1993 Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Epitome put in a miracle run at Santa Anita for owners John A. Bell and Jonabell Farms to shock Charlie Whittingham’s Jeanne Jones in the Breeders’ Cup.
1987 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies
Real Quiet looked like money until his nemesis, Victory Gallop, blew out the flicker of hope for the first Triple Crown winner in twenty years.
1998 Belmont Stakes
Victory Gallop’s sire Cryptoclearance was no stranger to leaving his backers with a quickened heartbeat.
1989 Donn Handicap
You can’t talk about closers without thinking about the brilliant undefeated Personal Ensign in the Churchill Downs’ mud.
1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Zenyatta may be royalty in this country but across the pond, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a fast closer too.
Okay had to throw that one in. Here is real American Turf Royalty, one more time, with her most determined victory.
2009 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes