Golden State - By Dan Liebman

Despite the legitimate gripes by Easterners about the Breeders’ Cup World Championships being run two consecutive years in California, there is much to like about having the races at Santa Anita. It is a beautiful place to watch horses train, offers majestic scenery (when the haze allows you to see it), and the weather Nov. 6-7 was nearly as spectacular as the racing.

Granted, the continuous on-track announcement proclaiming Santa Anita as “the most exciting place on earth” was laughable, but for two days, the racetrack lived up to its label as “The Great Race Place.”

Despite the fact Santa Anita is an excellent place to host the Breeders’ Cup, it should not have had the event two years in a row. Nor should any track. The founders designed the Breeders’ Cup to change locations each year, moving around the country, and that is as it should be, for many reasons.

Only a handful of tracks can play host to the Breeders’ Cup, and it is good the organization’s leaders appear ready to announce a rotation for several years into the future, as is done routinely in other sports.

Clinging to the marketing-speak that the reason the Breeders’ Cup was held in Southern California in successive years was to attract Hollywood stars may have actually been a dream some marketing person had, but suffice it to say it was a pipe dream at best. While some sports and entertainment stars show up annually for Kentucky Derby weekend, there has never been a huge turnout from that community at the Breeders’ Cup, including the past two years.

Because of the economy, and because some Breeders’ Cup races seemingly were contrived and have no real divisions to support them, the organizaton’s board should seriously discuss changing the event back to one day and trimming the number of races from 14 to nine or 10.

One is left with some impressions from this year’s event:

  • It was pleasing that in a year when the Breeders’ Cup was held in California, two winners—California Flag and Dancing in Silks—were bred in the Golden State. Not unlike what is occurring in some other states, California’s breeding industry has suffered mightily in recent years; farms have closed; mares have left or are not being bred; and the number of stallions is decreasing. Hopefully, this Breeders’ Cup success will help.

  • Breeding and racing is about the dream, no matter who you are. We were reminded of this during winner’s circle celebrations. There were winning owners of considerable wealth as well as others in a far lower tax bracket. A good horse can come from anywhere.

  • The Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) win by Zenyatta opens up the Horse of the Year discussion. Her victory was exhilarating. But the vote should not be about one race or who won the most recent race. It should be about the body of work over the entire year. Just as a horse should not get an Eclipse Award for winning one race in this country, neither should a horse be rewarded for showing up, or be penalized for not showing up, on a particular day.

  • Repeat wins by Goldikova and Conduit and then watching the first female win the Classic were simply as good as it gets.

  • Zenyatta had a bit of trouble loading, had to suffer with the rest of the field through Quality Road’s antics, broke on the wrong lead, was throwing her head the first 200 yards…and then won with a dramatic run to deny a most game Gio Ponti. She walked onto the track with her head bowed, reached her right front out in a sign of majesty, and on the way back to the winner’s circle, stopped to pose before parading in front of her adoring fans. She is class personified in the Thoroughbred. Even members of the press, as jaded and cynical as they are, stood and clapped.


Leave a Comment:



Thank you for reminding us of the rules for electing the Horse of the Year! Without you, we had lost our way while cheering for the mighty Zenyatta. But the powers that be, who know far more than us, humble fans, will do the right thing and elect Rachel Alexandra HOY, in spite of the fans who, after all, do not recognize greatness when they see it. :(

Why am I reminded of our wonderful Washington legislature?...They also know better than the lowly masses they govern soooo effectively.

10 Nov 2009 5:37 PM

Dan - you're wrong about the celeb factor. Ask your friends at the BC for a list of attendes over last two years.

10 Nov 2009 5:39 PM

I believe this is Zenyatta's year.  She proved her worth by the magnificent spectacle she gave to racing fans all over the world.

Think about the fact that she ran against the best horses in the world who showed up to race for the Breeders Cup which is the culmination of the racing year.  The Breeders Cup races are the championship races.

However, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta are completely at the top of the people's polls.  We are blessed to have experienced these two fabulous female horses after the turmoil and sadness of the recent past.

10 Nov 2009 6:26 PM

You are wrong, Dan, and I will tell you why.  Jess jackson paraded his "bought" horse aroun d and even if the races had big names, the competition was never what entered the gate in the BC Classic.  If Jackson wanted Horse of the Year, he should have showed up at Santa Anita.  And, by the way, are you people nuts?  Zenyatta is 14 for 14, an undefeated career.  The comparisons between these two horses is laughable at best, because Zenyatta is hands down the superior race horse.

10 Nov 2009 6:50 PM
ronald friedman

I have been following racing for 40 years and Zenyatta's tremendous performance in the classic is in my top 5 of all time.She defeated the derby and belmont winners and dismantled the best older horses in the world. There would be no discussion of horse of the year if zenyatta had run in the Woodward. There is no way in the manner it was run that she could have possibly lost.

10 Nov 2009 8:49 PM

Zookeeper - No need for nastiness.  However, I am implored to comment due to the sloppiness of the analogy in the second paragraph.  We are governed by a democracy, whereas HOY is determined by people essentially selected in a meritocracy.  The latter system, though not as representative of the population, is usually more "correct" so to speak, given that the average fan/constituent (as you so astutely pointed out) IS less educated.  The comment would have carried more punch had you left the second part out.  

10 Nov 2009 8:50 PM

Zenyatta "IS"...HOTY !!!

No longer should we accept J.J.'s notion of "Avoiding the Best and still being Honored for it".

Yes, Rachel had a great year and will still end up as Champion 3 year old Filly (as she should).   But, J.J.'s "Refusal" to run her on a surface that She loves , but he no more than a Dodge.   If Rachel we're injured then I would completely understand, but She wasn't.   He simply Dodged Zenayatta believing that she would not be able to beat the Best Colts in the World.

Well....J.J. was wrong and it cost Rachel the title !!!  

This time he gambled and lost !!!  

10 Nov 2009 8:57 PM

As for the B.C. being held at Santa Anita again...

I loved it !!!

Yes, the original concept was to travel around as it has.   But, the original concept never included 2 days and 14 total races with the newer races not having Divisions for Championships either (as mentioned above).  

Things Change !!!  

The original concept was also long ago when Racing in general wasn't on the "Downswing" that it has been lately.

I could understand "IF" it rotated between Santa Anita and Churchill...and maybe even a 3rd location at most.   But, I think it's more important to have a home base during Racings "Downswing" to help the newer Fans get familiarized with it's rituals.   Which "Should" be the Best of the Best "Showplaces" that Racing has to offer.  

And Not just because it's never been held somewhere else before.

10 Nov 2009 9:12 PM

It would be a damn shame if Zenyatta lost to HOTY twice in a row. If she and Rachel can tie for the award, then all will be right in the American horse racing world.

10 Nov 2009 9:17 PM


"The most exciting place on Earth" was "the most interesting place in the world." The announcer said that in conjunction with Dos Equis' "most interesting man in the world" ad campaign.

10 Nov 2009 9:44 PM
John T

I must confess I am one who was not in favour of the same track hosting the Breeders Cup 2 years in a row.But that does not take away from the wonderful 2 days of racing it really was .Besides what

you have already mentioned the racetimes on the pro ride were good

and perhaps the most important thing of all there was no serious injuries of anykind.But as one of those ''Easterners'' I hope they will go back to a rotation of tracks and I am hearing some good vibes that our own local track Woodbine might get a chance to play host again.

10 Nov 2009 9:56 PM
Mine Bugs

The breeders' cup needs a complete retool. The event was largely ignored again by the viewing public as the anemic ESPN rating shows. No one has watched the BC since it has moved to ESPN. I can't say I blame them. The whole package has become watered down with too many races, and the TV coverage is a mess. Friday ESPN 2, then Saturday ABC, then switching to ESPN. Very confusing for non racing fans.

11 Nov 2009 12:07 AM
Julie L.

Mr. Liebman, please, in voting for Horse of the Year do not forget that Zenyatta carried an impost of 129 lbs. and won. How many horses of both sexes did this in 2009? Weight is a factor that seems to be overlooked in judging how well a horse does anymore probably due to the fact that carrying over 126 lbs. is something that is rarely seen anymore so...since Zenyatta did accomplish this feat this year I believe that this fact should be used in judging HOTY.

11 Nov 2009 1:44 AM
General fort


Please read Zen's profile again-- the mare won 9 races LAST YEAR 2008, add that to 5 races she won THIS YEAR, and you have 14 TOTAL races.. sheesh.  

I thought its easy enuf to figure out-- a horse cant run 14 times in 12 months dont you think??

Zen, the Invincible Horse of One-Race, ACTUALLY ran 4 times before the BC-- four little races against YOUNGER fillies.

You race a horse 4 times, then win ONE big race, and boom.. you get an award for that?  HELLO?

All Zen's races were only in ONE SPOT -- California-- in ONE SURFACE -- Pro-ride.  Even the ONE race, the BC Classic, is ALSO in California Pro-ride AGAIN.

Zen, the Invincible Horse of One-Race, runs at speeds of less than 100 Beyer.  Her fastest is 112.  Her margins of victory are even SMALLER-- the largest is about 3 lengths, the smallest is a NOSE.


Why would you AWARD a horse for running 5 times in 11 months?  Is it so BREATH-TAKING for a horse to win after TWO MONTHS of REST????  And ALL victories took place in the SAME BACKYARD??

Rachel alexandra has been doing what Zen had done for the BC, THREE TIMES.  She won against males NOT in ONE race, but in THREE races -- Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward.  She ran NOT in ONE state like Zen, but in FIVE different states, in SEVEN RACETRACKS. She raced on the mud, off-track, sandy, narrow, firm, sloppy tracks.  She raced against anything on four legs that can run -- fillies, colts, stallions, etc.  

Rachel raced EIGHT TIMES in 9 months-- stringing back-to-back victories against both males and females.  With winning margins ranging from 20 lengths to a head.  And racking a BSF of 116 -- the HIGHEST RECORDED in NORTH AMERICA according to DRF's Andrew Beyer himself.

So, who REALLY EARNED the Horse of the Year 2009.  Only RACHEL ALEXANDRA does.  No contest.

11 Nov 2009 5:53 AM
Copper Mel

So Andy Beyer says Rachel is best?  I changed my mind; Zenyatta is Horse of the Year.

11 Nov 2009 10:53 AM

I've been fortunate enough to see both distaffers in the flesh, and while Rachel had some terrific performances this year, it would be a real shame if Zenyatta wasn't recognized for her spectacular career.  It probably comes down to how each voter looks at the award, since they aren't given specific guidelines as they are for the divisional awards.

I believe that either would be worthy of the title.

11 Nov 2009 11:01 AM

I am surprised and dismayed at the comments here which seem to denigrate one horse or the other. Why are all of you people so angry and combative about it?

Come on--the fault is with the voting process. Both horses are fabulous, we've been extremely blessed to have them both appear in the same year, so BOTH should win the award. Period! There will be an awful lot of disgruntled fans if the award is given to one or the other. And what does racing need? FANS!

Is the award given to the horse whose owners have out-maneuvered the other? Think about that for a minute. Are we awarding the horse or the canny, manipulating, or odd-duck owners? Looks like the latter. Then WHY call it Horse of the Year?

One possible solution: throw out the vote and decide--here and now, Powers That Be--that HOTY should be eliminated this year--OR--that both horses have won it against all those lame colts out there.

BTW I thought Zenyatta should have won last year. Curlin was over the hill. Though the fact that he was given HOTY in 2008 had nothing to do with his performance in 2008--or 2009 for that matter--I'll never forget how Rags to Riches won the Belmont!)  

11 Nov 2009 11:40 AM

Zookeeper - you win my "comment of the string" award.  I love sarcasm so artfully and respectfully applied!  And it targeted Dan perfectly.

Dan, be careful, your bias is showing.  

It's okay to have the opinion that Rachel is more deserving - but don't talk down to we "common rabble" as if we don't know anything.

We all know that - in spite of your directives - the HOY is ultimately a popularity contest voted on by a small community of voters.  I've seen a lot of crazy results over the years.

And before you trot out Rachel's lengthy campaign stats from this year as opposed to Zenyatta's short-but-perfect 5 race record - let's not forget when Skip Away lost HOY after dancing every dance and running on tracks nationwide, only to lose to Favorite Trick - a very lightly raced (but perfect record) 2-yr-old.

So don't tell us that the "stats" are what decide the votes.

As for me - if Zenyatta isn't awarded HOY - I agree with Baffert - it would be a travesty.  And it won't win racing any more fans.

11 Nov 2009 12:03 PM

Dan, you are wrong about horses avoiding Championship Day. If you don't have enough faith that your horse can win, even though this horse has won over synthetics before and then elect to stay home, all the while being quite vocal about your dislike for "plastic tracks," then you have no business being rewarded with something as important as Horse Of The Year. Many trainers expressed their dislike of Santa Anita's main track surface (this got really old), but they were there anyway and their horses ran. Golfing great Gary Player remarked that if you are a true champion, you go out and compete, whether the conditions are in your favor or not. Jess Jackson lost the BC Classic last year with Curlin and apparently thinks that no horse he owns could ever win over a synthetic surface in a race like the Classic. This is total nonsense and his attitude didn't help racing's image. He bought Rachel Alexandra and said that she deserved to run with the boys. Well, he sure changed his tune when it comes to giving RA chances in big races by keeping her in the barn. As far as anyone knows, she is healthy and sound. No, if you won't step up on racing's biggest day, then don't expect to win the biggest prize, Horse Of The Year.

11 Nov 2009 12:33 PM

Dan, of course I can't wait for the BC to return to CD and the dirt. But, your 'rules' on the Eclipse awards have some holes in them.

First WHO do you vote for as 2 year old juvenile? Lookin at Lucky? A colt who basically followed the same path as his elder and didn't leave California, ran 2nd at the BC? Okay, you pick him and there goes that knock on Zenyatta out the window.

Who do you select as 2.y.o Filly?

HDC? She only won at one track, not even different tracks in the same state. She Be Wild? She won/placed only on synthetics so now you say just running in more than one state is a criteria?

That won’t go over with the Secretaries who are pushing their tracks in the vote.

Plus  you send the signal that it's okay to not go to the BC, pretty soon NO one is doing it and it just disintegrates. Plus you say whoever won or ran well in the premier juvenile races even if it wasn't the most premier or went to more than one track in DIFFERENT states is the Eclipse winner.

See how convoluted it's all becoming?

Seems like THAT is the reason they came up with the BC to begin with, or am I missing something?

Like someone said, RA's races were chosen very carefully and her opponents measure was taken before the race. She was run on THE surfaces that they knew she would handle best, happens that mud is one of them. The connections KNEW that full well. Her most impressive victories came against horses that, sad to say, are running in claiming and allowance races for the most part now (see the Oaks), also some of the Preakness horses.

So all in all the 'voters' what a joke that is, when you look at who Rachel was beating up and who Zenyatta was beating up it's pretty comparable. The only thing you can look at statistically is NOT speed figures but it is common opponents. The surface is really irrelevant because some of those RA beat didn't like the mud or didn't like the dry dirt track. Some that Zenyatta beat didn't like the synthetics, although to a person the trainers all said that wasn't relevant. Richards Kid runs on it, Tim Ice said SB handled it, Gio Ponti's trainer said his horse liked it. etc.

IF like so many are saying, the synthetic surfaces are so different Zenyatta ran on 3 different ones, one of which is very iffy (Del Mar).

You people who keep harping on Beyers etc? That hasn't panned out in too many big races because the variables are too great. I can see that the reason Zenyatta didn't post the high figures is she always did just what she needed to do and no more. The only one getting rich off the Beyers is Andy, for selling the product.

11 Nov 2009 12:34 PM

If Summer Bird didn't duck the B.C. RA shouldn't have ducked the BC - or the Kentucky Derby, or the Travers, or the Belmont.

She wasn't ducking plastic, she was ducking a mile and a quarter, all those G1 closers, and Zenyatta.

11 Nov 2009 2:07 PM

I like the two day format.

11 Nov 2009 2:54 PM


Thank you for your brilliant illustration of the elitist attitude I was referring to in my sloppy (your word, not mine) analogy. I'm sure the members of the meritocracy you value so highly are just thrilled with your recognition of their superior intellect...

But what do I know? I'm just a fan, a member of the unwashed masses who do not recognize GREATNESS, no matter how hard you try to educate them.

11 Nov 2009 3:03 PM

Mr. Liebman - This would've been a nice editorial except that what I'm taking away from it is your third bullet-point, effectively warning us that your vote for Rachel Alexandra as HOY has been pretty much cast in stone already.  You might take a look at your own Bloodhorse HOY poll, wherein your readers, subscribers and fans are casting votes *for Zenyatta* at a rate of 66% to 34%, last I checked.

KYFan, terrific post and an excellent use of Logic at this admittedly emotional time.

11 Nov 2009 3:44 PM

Excellent commentary, Dan, and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Rotate the Breeders' Cup every year.

Awards should be based on a year's body of work, and not just one race. The title "Horse of the Year" means just that.

And having said that, I am in awe of Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra, two great ladies, who gave us incredible rides.

11 Nov 2009 3:49 PM

How can a horse that went 14-0 at the highest level, won the Ladies Classic comes back and wins the Cup Classic NOT win a single HOTY award.

Does that sound right? Rachel had a hall of fame year but she did run on 'plastic' before and won. It's not Rachel's fault she was not in the Breeders but it would bother me more if Zenyatta never won a HOTY title after that undefeated career. Besides, somebody should be penalized and there is nothing more presumptuous than saying "RACHEL will be in the 2010 Breeders"

OK then. Let's see her win that and get HOTY for 2010! Amazing.

11 Nov 2009 6:42 PM

Well Said KYFan!!!  

Zenyatta won 1 gr. 2 and 4 grade 1's this year on 3 different tracks from 1 1/16 mile to a 1 1/4.  But you seem to forget that in your "who won one race" argument.  She carried up to 129 lbs and gave weight to the 3 year olds that Rachel beat.  Horse of the Year should be about the best horse.  Zenyatta defeated the best field assembled this year and became the first mare in history to win the BC Classic.  Azeri couldn't do it.  Jolypha couldn't do it and even the amazing Tryptich

couldn't accomplish that. Rachel is an amazing filly and in most years would deserve Horse of the Year.  But not this year.

11 Nov 2009 7:26 PM

Did I read some statement that Rachel's races "were chosen very carefully"? You've got to be kidding. OK, sure her races were chosen carefully alright, to be sure that she got to face tough opponents in major races.

Rachel took on the boys right after the Kentucky Derby and beat them in the Preakness, the first filly to do that in how many decades? Since when is putting a filly in the Preakness, choosing a race "very carefully"? She took the boys on again and won the Haskell, beating the Belmont Stakes winner by six lengths. I suppose this was being careful to. This Belmont Stakes horse went on to win the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup before finishing a respectable fifth in the BC Classic. Rachel wasn't through yet and took on older males in the Woodward. I guess they were still being careful.  She entered the race with a huge bulls eye on her back; they threw everything at her, pressured her into a torrid pace, and this three-year-old filly, all-heart, talent, and courage, beat them, becoming the first female to win that race. Oh, and did I mention that these three races, against males, are all grade 1s?

Rachel has started in several racing jurisdictions, on several different tracks, and in my opinion, has a more extensive and striking body of work this year than any horse. But I guess that was being careful to. If anything, others have ducked her. Who's really been careful?

I recognize Rachel, as I recognize Zenyatta with awe and gratitude. I see absolutely no reason to diminish the extraordinary accomplishments of either. Each, in her own way, has energized American racing, something we can celebrate.

11 Nov 2009 8:48 PM

Um...whatever happened to the old school rules....East Coast horse West Coast horse?

Most thoroughbreds are sorted through at the end of their 3rd year and pointed to either east or west coast tracks. Nuthin' wrong with that. Forget all the glitz of the Santa Anita, let's see the East Coasters run at Belmont Park or Churchill for the B.C.

Can't imagine if Lava Man had been an East Coaster once he was declared a West Coast horse.

11 Nov 2009 9:51 PM

I love Zen, but it makes me crazy that people want her to be HOTY for her Career not her Year...that is NOT how the Eclipse awards are done.

It's what's been done all the current year.

Not one race, or else Well Armed should get the award...he won the BIGGEST race in the world and has made the most money this year.

12 Nov 2009 8:51 AM
Pete M

"a horse should not get an eclipse for winning one race"  Are you Serious??, that has gone on since the BC started.  Would list you about 20 but it would bore you.  Zenyatta should and will get HOY.

12 Nov 2009 11:45 AM
Mike V.

Both RA and Zenyatt are great filly's and had remarkable campaigns.  But will say the arguments made by RA supporters are among the dumbest I would think you could put on paper.  She did not show up? She did not show up because JJ did not want to lose as he did with Curlin.  RA had run and won on synthetic, what was the reason to not run?  Safety? give me a break. It was to sit on the lead, and it backfired.  I am sure JJ sat home with a picking needles into the Zenyatta voodoo doll he made up, just did not work.  Next year RA can gets hers, not this year.

12 Nov 2009 11:49 AM

Johnny, her races WERE chosen carefully to assure success. The older crop running at Saratoga? Two horses that should have been retired before they were, a hard knocker and nothing more, who ALMOST beat her.

You obviously know NOTHING about Jess Jackson if you don't realize how calculating he is and that HE, not Steve, planned her campaign.

Go in the Travers, nope gonna get beat at that distance, run against Summer Bird in the Haskell, he likes a distance there's a winner. Run agains D'Tara and Commentator, both done a long time ago.

The Mother Goose? The Preakness after a breeze in the Oaks, Please. That comment about choosing her races carefully is in response to those who said Zenyatta's camp planned her races carefully.

Both camps did that. Jess after he wanted to buy the Horse of the Year title.

Zenyatta's camp after they decided the Breeders Cup is SUPPOSED to be the biggest event in racing and the Classic is the BIGGEST race in that series.

If Zenyatta ran against chopped liver, so did Rachel. The only real comparison to make is how they beat common opponents.

SB could only manage 4th, he's apparently a-ok and headed to the Japan Cup. Clement was pleased as punch with Gio.

My whole point is if Zenyatta is excluded based on the fact that she stayed in California and ran on 3 very different synthetics? How are the voters possibly going to explain the rest of their selections.

Ever been to the Eclipse Awards? Boring.............

12 Nov 2009 4:32 PM
Lou in TX

Being a fan from Texas, it's really amazing how all you fans of horse racing divide yourselves. East Coast vs West coast! I always thought horse racing was about the HORSES not the PEOPLE who live on different sides of the USA.  What does it matter what type of track they race on as long as they race?  I'll admit that I haven't been a race fan for very long. It was Barbaro who got me interested. And now I'm anxious to see how his 3 brothers and his sister to be do in their racing careers. It doesn't matter where they are from, which coast they live on, it's the horse that matters. Why can't you people be nice to each other and enjoy the horses you love and root for them no matter where they run or where they're from or what kind of track they race on. You all are acting like children. Grow up and enjoy the sport of horse racing like adults.  All this bickering gets old really fast.

As for HOTY....OUR opinons don't matter, we don't vote so all the facts and figures you are throwing out really don't count. Make up your own mind who you want and quit criticizing those who don't agree with you. I love both Zen and RA but MY opinion doesn't matter so why get all worked up about something you have no control over. Cool down everybody and have a great weekend.

Dan thanks for the nice article.

13 Nov 2009 12:37 AM

I agree with the comment made above; "Rachel is an amazing filly and in most years would deserve Horse of the Year. But not this year." This is Zenyatta's year.

13 Nov 2009 8:11 AM

The BC days were wonderful, with great races at a beautiful location. But it's time for the racing industry to own up to the fact that as a promotional vehicle, the BC has failed utterly. TV ratings were an embarrassment. Attendance was mediocre, when one considers that 10 million people live within an hour's drive of Santa Anita and many more than 58,000 used to attend just the Santa Anita Handicap. After all, this was the "world championships". Sorry, but we need a new model, because the current one is not selling outside of the core fans who simply are not enough for a viable business. Let's start thinking "outside the box". Maybe have most of the races for those numerous divisions at different locations around the country and have just three: Classic, Ladies Classic and Turf on a single Big Day program at a major track. But heavily promote these three races, and make it a two hour program to attract network TV. This is just one of many ideas that smart racing people could come up with.

13 Nov 2009 6:23 PM


Zenyatta is 5, Rachel is 3.  Rachel has had 8 straight wins at 3.  Z raced once at 3.  She started on her 4 year old campaign and was brilliant and undefeated.  Let's wait to see what RA does at 4 and then judge the two.  Right now Rachel has 9 wins, 5 less than Zenyatta at 5.  

13 Nov 2009 7:27 PM
The Beav

I read a comment in another space in that asked if  there could be an exception made this year so people have the coice to vote for both Rachael and Zenyatta for horse of the year if they so choose.  It seems that rules are made to be changed when the need arises.  How can you not vote for both of them?  They both took our breaths away, they both broke records that are unatainable by most horses.  It has been since Seattle Slew that we have seen this greatness and to have been able to see it on both sides of the country is remarkable.  These two mares gave this sport the magic again.  

I was able to get to the Breeders Cup and I knew as soon as I saw that gorgeous mare, Zenyatta,  she was going to win.  You could see it.  She was majestic.  I did not get an opportunity to see Rachael live but she must have left the same impression on fans.  Both these mares took my breath away.

I say, let's have both mares share the "Horse of the Year" honor.  They both deserve it.

13 Nov 2009 9:33 PM

I love both girls, but at the end of the day, Zenyatta was capable of doing what Rachel did if put on that path.  There is NO way RA could have done what Zenyatta did against that field (Summer Bird is not the same horse in November he was in May & June and SA is not on a track that suits his running style), those tough race circumstances,  that distance (RA was clearly vulnerable one step past 1 1/8 miles), at that time of the year (Zenyatta was peaking).

13 Nov 2009 10:27 PM
Theresa S.

I like the two day format.  I also like it being held at different tracks every year.

I think the idea to have it at SA for 2 years "to attract Hollywood stars" was ill advised.  Even if they'd met that goal, I've never met anybody that watches a horse race to see celebs.  Just the opposite, I've heard probably hundreds of complaints about the Kentucky Derby pre-race show devoting way too much time to celebs.  

And remember when the BC did attract "stars" back in the 80's?  The only thing the celeb interviews were good for was bathroom/snack breaks for the TV viewers.  

13 Nov 2009 11:33 PM

To Lou in Tx,

Being a new kid on the block I'll just say that there IS a difference between East and West coast horse racing. This isn't about mean spirited people Lou but about the fact that once a horse matures, age 3, and begins his racing career the owners and trainers decide where the horse should be placed. For example, Lava Man was distinctively a West Coast horse. That's just the way it is. The cream of the crop horses are pointed toward one coast or the other (Churchill Downs is considered East Coast).

Personally I like that system and I hope it never changes.

Lou you might be interested in the quarter horses and their tracks in the western areas of the country as

well as thoroughbreds.  Also spend some time listening to jockeys and you'll find that they themselves have a preference for one coast over the other. The racing is different on West Coast tracks versus East Coast tracks.  Just an historic thing about horse racing.

14 Nov 2009 1:05 AM

Next year we will be at Churchill and I’m sure we will see the normal slop of either an unsealed dirt track that has taken quite a bit of rain prior to the event or a sealed dirt track that is probably hard as heck and unsafe for horses to ride on.

The constancy of Santa Anita these last two years during the Breeders Cup was truly unbelievable.  Now it’s back to horses breaking down in the slop of dirt racing at next years Breeders cup.

Lets just skip the next few years and wait for the event to be back at Santa Anita where it belongs each and every year, where an international field joins up to compete in a fair and safe environment.

14 Nov 2009 1:20 AM

Dan, you are a real professional.  and you are a good person.  Your article is just a SPOT ON reminder of how professionals judge any contest around here-- HOY or not.

To Cgriff, be careful yourself.  You ARE NOT a HOY voter, but Mr. Dan IS.  Don't get TOO CARRIED AWAY.

To KYFan, sidekickflats, et al:



No horse can become HOY just because of winning ONE flashy race.  Even if it is the biggest race in the whole wide world (NOT REALLY.  The Dubai cup is bigger).

HOY has to be EARNED through an ORDEAL OF FIRE.  ONE-HIT wonders are NOT QUALIFIED for HOY.  Maybe Moss knows this that's why he's gonna DRUM BEAT for Zenyatta by having a parade for her in Sta. Anita.  

HOY is NOT A CIRCUS, Mr. Moss.  If your horse deserves HOY, he/she will get it.  No FANCY SHOW OR FIREWORKS WILL SUPPLEMENT HARD WORK AND TALENT.  If your horse DID NOT work hard ALL YEAR, then WHATEVER show or act you put on will not MAKE UP for what was missing -- the WILL and talent of champions.

I realize Mr. Moss is QUITE RICH, and he can PAY ANY PRICE to compensate for WHAT ZENYATTA LACKS -- a SOLID campaign in 2009.  But its WAY TOO LATE for FANFARE or HISTRIONICS now.  IF he was serious about HOY, he should have given Zenyatta a TOUGHER 2009 CAMPAIGN starting February, Instead of racing her just 5 times for the last 11 months..

To give Zen the HOY now would be to DISREGARD Rachel's sacrifices and accomplishments ALL YEAR LONG.. and just GLORIFY ONE SINGLE FEAT done in THE SAME LOCATION, IN THE SAME SURFACE.

Heck, it doesnt matter if Zen defeated ALIENS or EVIL MARTIANS in the BC Classic, she still won just ONE RACE.  That's it.

It DOESN'T prove anything and..

PLEASE dont bring up Zen's accomplishments LAST YEAR 2008.  They belong IN 2008 ALONE, and CANNOT be ADDED to her credentials for HOY 2009.

Fact is:  Zen was UNDEFEATED IN 5 RACES in 2009-- Rachel was UNDEFEATED IN 8 RACES in 2009.  Zen is SHORT by 3 wins to match Rachel's record.

Rachel, therefore, IS the UNDISPUTED HORSE OF THE YEAR 2009.  Zen doesnt quite get there, even with that FLASHY BC win.

14 Nov 2009 5:50 AM

As a racehorse I would take Zen over Ra any day. The fact is though both deserve HOY. I f you look at the facts both ran against some suspect competition. Ra appears to have distance limitations and Zen never left Cal this year but Zen did something Ra wasn't allowed to do and show up on racing's biggest day and beat one of the deepest fields ever assembled for the Classic. That something no ever filly or mare done so I give the edge to Zen.

14 Nov 2009 9:09 AM

I don't think holding it at Santa Anita every year is a sound idea.  Having it at one far west location prevents a lot of east coast and midwesterners from attending the races in person.

Having it at variety of tracks is the best way IMO because they all offer a wonderfully unique experience.  One of my favorite years was when it was at Woodbine and I'm not Canadian.  It was interesting to see their beautiful sites and their way of doing things.  The same track or two over and over would get boring real fast.

The breakdowns argument is a straw man.  The BC went over a decade without a dirt breakdown.  Having the vets examine, examine some more, and then reexamine the horses the last two years played a major role in reducing injuries.  Last I heard they're going to permanently continue with that no matter where it's held.

14 Nov 2009 2:23 PM

I agree with Daniel that having The Breeders Cup at SA every year would be boring. I do believe that we do have to consider the weather in November where ever we hold it (remember Momouth). It used to be in October and we seemed to have better weather. I don't seem to remember that many rainy BC's. Any one know why they switched was it because of the Arc and the euros? I did enjoy the SA Breeders Cup this year and it was one of the most exciting in many years but 2 years is to many at one track. The surface debate is like what Daniel said above a straw man. We need to focus on better breeding and closer race day examinations and eliminate the drugs. I'm not sure all the euro's that were first time Lasix would have done as well W/O it. I am not a fan of the 2 day format but I really enjoyed the Marathon and I think they need to keep this race as it provides incentive to  breeders to breed for more stamina not the speed freaks we have had for 10 to 15 years. I would love to see a program for these true long distance runners.  We have made the TB into a jumped up QH in the last several years. No disrespect to QH's because I own them but they shouldn't be TB's.

15 Nov 2009 3:26 AM
Mike Relva


No matter how many rants you do regarding Zenyatta it doesn't change the end result!

15 Nov 2009 3:57 PM

I too am interested in seeing what Rachel Alexandra does if she is not retired. Maybe in a year her lifetime career will compare to Zenyatta's.

Yes, HOY is for one year only. However, people don't vote that way. They remember a career. This goes for HOY, Oscars, etc. So you are all correct in saying just to focus on these two mares' 2009 records, but I hate to break it to ya, it ain't gonna happen!

I don't believe horses should win for one race. Zenyatta won the BC Classic, but AFTER A SUCCESSFUL SEASON, no matter how short. There are a lot of champions out there crowned after as short a season. Or even one race, which I disapprove of (Invasor? Am I the only one who never heard of him before he won the BCC? Zenyatta at least we knew!).  Zenyatta capped off her season by beating a field of champions. It's like playoffs. Horses run all year, some emerge as exceptional individuals, and then these individuals compete in one race. The winner of that race really proves something. It's the Super Bowl of American horse racing. Rachel Alexandra was a true superstar this year, but she spent the final contest on the bench. How can we make her the champion of champions? Champion 3YO filly, for sure, but she didn't get her chance to truly shine IMO. We distilled talent all year and Zenyatta was the moonshine that dripped out at the very end.

As many have said, both mares are great and both deserving. I'm sure you can see I'm for Zenyatta, and a big part of that is no matter how great Rachel Alexandra was all year, she never won my heart. Zenyatta made me a fan last year and proved herself again this year. I know a lot of you are in the opposite boat, you love RA and don't connect to Zenyatta. That is ok. And the good thing is, the excitement isn't over! We will never see them go head-to-head, but there's one more race to be run - and I am rooting for Zenyatta!

16 Nov 2009 1:55 AM

So many people seem to be getting lost in the facts and figures.  I've been an ardent Rachel fan all year, but not one of her races visually and emotionally matched what Zenyatta did to the Classic field, in my humble opinion.

That, for me, is what Horse of the Year should be about, not cold, sterile facts.  Racing is about so much more, at least it should be if it wants to earn and retain a fanbase.

16 Nov 2009 4:31 AM

Dan Liebman,

It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Zenyatta will be the recipient of "Horse of the Year" honors:

The horse who shows up and runs in the Breeders Cup Classic is the front runner for the "Horse of the Year" hardware. Look through your history books, cowboy.

16 Nov 2009 7:20 PM

BMCRacing: quite a number of horses died before they got it right for the "important" horses, last year and this year.

17 Nov 2009 7:44 AM
Pam S

Zenyatta in one race did more to bring horse racing in its more pure form back to all people.  There hasn't been a horse, with the state our nation is in since Seabiscuit who has rallied the American people on the race track.  Many people involved with racing read horse related publications, but the general public reads their everyday paper, online posts, and information on TV.  If the racing industry wants to gain a fan base back, I would suggest they go to the current media and develop it.  The BC was a perfect example - gorgeous grounds, great commentary, a heroine with an entire 58,000+ cheering her on.  It's a public relations person's dream - but how many of the general populace got to see it, feel the excitement, the emotion, see crowds surrounding the heroine and owners, trainers and jockeys.  I think rotating the BC is something that is good for racing.  But until people in this country can get back engaged with a live embodiment of sporting at its best, I don't know that we can continue.  The West Coast needs nurturing - it never used to need this.  Specials on the background of champions - their sires, broodmares, history of how this developed are the stories that need to be told.  And by the way, Zenyatta is my pick for HOY - she's a PR person's dream.

17 Nov 2009 9:06 PM

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