Popular Vote - By Lenny Shulman

By Lenny Shulman

Here in Central Kentucky, where we’ve just gone a month without rain, the grass and leaves are both turning brown, the evenings require a light jacket for the late dog walk, and the sun is blinding through the windshield on the morning drive east toward the office. Summer is finished, which means Horse of the Year talk is just heating up.

With two rounds of significant races left in the season—one in early October and the last a month later at the Breeders’ Cup—the battlefield for HOY is pretty well crystallized. And 2010 presents a far different picture than 2009, when HOY became a head-to-head battle between two horses that never went head-to-head on the racetrack.

There forever seems to be two schools of thought on picking HOY. One bloc holds forth that the best horse deserves the honor; the other that the horse that accomplished more on the season is the one to select. The past two times this dichotomy came to a head, the “accomplishment” horse came home with the hardware. In 1997, Favorite Trick enjoyed a spectacular season beating up his fellow 2-year-olds in undefeated fashion. Skip Away, meanwhile, proved the best older horse and won the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) for fun. Favorite Trick was voted HOY, although anyone who thinks he could have gotten within five lengths of Skip Away on the racetrack is clearly delusional.

Last year Rachel Alexandra ran the table in eight starts, beating males three times and older horses once. Zenyatta was a perfect five-for-five and won the big one, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, becoming the first female to do so. As great a year as she had, it would be very difficult to envision Rachel Alexandra beating Zenyatta in that race. In fact, despite skipping the race that was designed to define champions, Rachel was awarded HOY based on her previous accomplishments.

That vote had ramifications beyond Jess Jackson carting a trophy up to his vineyard. On that late January evening after the vote was announced, Zenyatta owner Jerry Moss looked shell-shocked, like some technology had pulled the plug on his beloved music industry. Wait, that did happen. But Moss clearly wasn’t expecting Zenyatta to lose the HOY vote. Hadn’t she won the race that was supposed to anoint champions? Hadn’t she been perfect? Hadn’t he a right to be ticked off?

I won’t go into the qualifications or wisdom of the voters for year-end awards, except to admit that on a regular basis I fail to understand their logic, if any. But I will say they unintentionally did racing a favor with this particular vote, since it undoubtedly played a role in Mr. Moss deciding to bring Zenyatta back in 2010 for a 6-year-old campaign that no one would have predicted before that Eclipse Award night.

Now, Team Zenyatta has heard it from several corners, including this one, that her 2010 campaign has fallen short of the original bravado to take her to new places and different races and let fans in other regions thrill to seeing her in person. The bottom line, however, is this: If Zenyatta scores a repeat victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, absolutely no one is going to care about her season up to that point. She will be voted HOY. If she loses the race, then the low-risk strategy will prove fatal to her chances.

This year, unlike the previous couple, we have every expectation that HOY will be determined by the Classic. Any of the Big Four—Zenyatta, Blame, Quality Road, or Lookin’ At Lucky—that wins the Classic is HOY. This year, you have to be in it to win it. The only voter discretion will come if a Volponi or Arcangues jumps up to stun the race. Even then, a close-up finish by one of the Big Four would prove critical as a deciding factor. If they all finish up the track, the field opens up to include Blind Luck or Devil May Care if either wins the Ladies Classic (gr. I).

Whatever unfolds in the waning months of 2010, and whether or not Zenyatta gets her HOY, her 18-for-18 record has already transcended a single year-end award. History tells us a horse like this come doesn’t come around but once every 30 or 40 years. Let’s appreciate what we’re lucky enough to witness.

88 Comments

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Zen's Auntie

Win, loose or scratch out due to conditions Zenyatta has no more to prove to anyone. Coddled or not she is a phemomena to be relished and cherished by not only racing enthusiasts but by all equine fans. Haskin took us down the Big Red Memory lane this week stirring our hearts to remember and share. We all should take note that we are again living in a historic moment in Thoroughbred History. 30 years from now - God willing this keeps going - we will all be telling tearful stories of the Great Mare and how she touched us.

She has been kept in obviously top form for 3 years and has a presence that transends Racing.  HOTY is not as impressive as Horse of a LIFETIME and if voters dont acknowledge her its a shame but it will not change what she is or has done.

God bless them all.  

15 Sep 2010 10:18 AM
DawnStorm

I think you're right in that this will be the year that winning the Classic will win all the marbles. At this point, all I can suggest is that someone get a dart board,divide it into quarters,  write the names of the Big Four, one in each quarter, and then throw that dart. Yeah, that's how up in the air HOY is at this point. Crossing all available digits that everyone stays healthy.

15 Sep 2010 10:36 AM
Dawn

Great article, and I love, love, love the last paragraph.  My feelings exactly!!!

15 Sep 2010 10:43 AM
Dona

Thank you for a very accurate analysis of the HOY predicament. Personal preferences aside, let the madness begin!

15 Sep 2010 10:46 AM
Catmom

No matter what the big wigs thought Zenyatta ranked and ranks as HOY.  Last Year and this Year.

Eighteen  wins certainly makes her outstanding in anyone's book.  I wonder how qualified the committee is to declare R. Alexander last year..Beats Me...

15 Sep 2010 11:10 AM
Patrick

While thinking Favorite Trick could get within five lengths of Skip Away in 1997 is indeed delusional, it is equally delusional to argue, regardless of the Eclipse results, that Skip Away proved himself the best older horse in the country that year having lost his only meeting with Gentlemen and 4 of 6 against Formal Gold.

15 Sep 2010 11:21 AM
Rachel O

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The HOY award is a bunch of baloney and should be eliminated altogether. 1. The voters can't make up their minds how to vote as far as criteria go. 2. Most of the voters are biased because they are, in numbers, mostly east of the Mississippi, and you can argue with me to the end of time, but the East does look down on the West! 3. Zen IS the best horse that has appeared in this country since Secretariat. 4. Zen's competition has been inferior. Of course. All the horses that have raced against her have been inferior to her. Duh...!

At any rate, there is not a horse out there that captures the awe and admiration of the public the way Zenyatta does. The atmosphere around her is absolutely electric, and she makes people weak in the knees. Not to mention horses. Just ask St. Trinians and Ginger Punch.

I don't travel well, either, or I'd be at the BCC in November, but I'll be at HP on Oct 2, to be scared out of my wits again thinking maybe this will be the first time she'll lose. She toys  with the public as well as with the equines. And she has more fun than any other horse on the track.

15 Sep 2010 11:30 AM
Courtney

well said!

15 Sep 2010 12:17 PM
queenzenyatta

Finally a well published article!

The east coast naysayers just dont get it and never will. They want zenyatta to lose because they are, well, quite simply JEALOUS.

She is after all THE horse that comes along every thirty or forty years and will prove it come November 6.

15 Sep 2010 12:31 PM
Jimmy

Thanks for the unbiased opinion Lenny. Did you really just compare Rachels season from last year with Favorite Tricks season from 1997? Really? So Favorite Trick had arguably the greatest campaign ever for a 2 year old and stepped outside of his division 3 times? Come on man. I expect more out of you than to belittle Rachel Alexandras accomplishments from a year ago. And you are probably right; Rachel may not have won the Breeders Cup Classic, just like all dirt horses couldn't win a main track race the past two years at the "championship" of horse racing. Your favorite horse had home field advantage over a soon-to-be defunct surface that she absolutely adores and it showed. How do you think she will do this year when the playing surface is fair, and she has to "fly over the Rockies" and run on a dirt track against the best in the world? But since you seem to think this way, why not just crown the winners of each Breeders Cup race the champion for that division? You believe that, so maybe horse racing should. Since you were fuming over Zenyatta losing HOTY, were you also appalled that Vale of York didn't win champion juvenile? After all, he did win the BC juvenile over Lookin At Lucky, making him the better horse, right? Just checking.

15 Sep 2010 12:42 PM
Dan

"since it undoubtedly played a role in Mr. Moss deciding to bring Zenyatta back in 2010 for a 6-year-old campaign that no one would have predicted before that Eclipse Award night."

One problemm with this--they announced BEFORE the Eclipse Awards that Zenyatta would be racing in 2010. So no predictions needed, Lenny. It was announced on HRTV and to DRF BEFORE the awards.  Do agree there is no one like her and witnessing her this year and her whole career is a great privilege.

15 Sep 2010 12:49 PM
patti d

Thank you for putting into words exactly how I feel about the HOY mess last year and this year's upcoming decision, which should be less controversial.  I cannot wait until the Breeder's Cup races - I think there will be a lot of exciting horses and a lot of thrilling races this year.

Safe trip to all of them.  And may Queen Z take her rightful place as HOY when she flies by the boys again!

15 Sep 2010 1:04 PM
pam r

At this point, I think HOTY will be decided on who wins the Classic because unlike last year, we do not have a horse that is undefeated in major stakes races and against males. Yes, Zenyatta is undefeated, but she has not run against the quality of horses Quality Road has faced.  What RA did last year is almost completely unheard of for any horse, much less a female, and her incredible accomplishments were clearly more than any other horse had done.  Championships should not be based on just one big race at the end of the year. If we did that all the time, we would definitely leave out a lot of more deserving horses.  It would also undermine the importance of the other big races throughout the year. Like I said earlier though, I do think this years BC Classic will help decide HOTY.  There hasn't been any clear, overall dominance RA showed last year.  I think that if Zenyatta wins it, she wins HOTY, but if Quality Road wins it, he wins HOTY.  Lookin at Lucky could also be a contender should he win it.

15 Sep 2010 1:28 PM
Rita Robinson

Zenyatta is the greatest.  Voting her HOY this year would make up for failing to do so last year.  

15 Sep 2010 2:15 PM
Mr. PJJ

Lenny, Lenny, Lenny,  I couldnt agree with you more.  We will never witness such a joy and fabulous mare as Zenyatta.

All the other horses have ran and lost some races,  but she remains to keep her record the same.   UNBELIEVABLE is what it is.

Winning 18 races in unheard of in todays' racing world,  just ask RA and the others how hard it is to win every race,  even agaisnt claimers...........

Horse racing fans , I promise you, You will never witness a mare/filly doing what ZEnyatta has done...........in your lifetime again......

15 Sep 2010 2:16 PM
Anne

The hardcore Z and R fans are being quite annoying. What happened to being a fan of all the horses?

15 Sep 2010 2:24 PM
Pat in the hat from San Diego

I only  missed one of Zenyatta's California races (when my daughter had twins) & was booked to go to the apple blossom if she raced against Rachel..the mosses have been very gracious & incluuded me in the winners circle numerous times & all the group,Mosses, Sheriffs,Mike etc, is wonderfull,friendly & so willing to share their "pet" with every one.I know that she's more than a race horse to them & they really don't want to let her go, but also would like to see her babies!Zenyatta is is a boost to racing..she loves the crowd & loves to race & every one has adopted her & her antics..she deserves a special award!!

15 Sep 2010 2:27 PM
Susie

I love all four horses slated to run in the BC, especially QR because it broke my heart a bit to see him not get a chance to run in the BC last year.  Having said that, I want Zen to win because of what that victory might do for the sport.  She has a pretty big following, I imagine.

15 Sep 2010 2:55 PM
dinkydiva

Lenny thank you for the well manicured article! I love you and Steve on "And theyre off!"  I tune in every chance I get. Anyways, yes Zen loosing HOTY was a shame but, Rach did deserve it.  However, they need to create another award, "Horse of the Decade" for Zen.  After watching many of Big Reds re-plays and movie trailers etc, I swear, he is in Zen's body!  They have such a similar stride and both know they are special and have caught the imagination of the public!  I wasn't around for Big Red and thank goodness I am for the Queen!  Once in a lifetime!!!!!

15 Sep 2010 3:11 PM
Cyd

Then what you are saying if you get your horse to win only one race in a year and it is the Classic then they are automatically horse of the year....Doesn't matter what goes on the rest of the year......Then it needs to be renamed and the Eclipse trophy automatically given without a vote to the winner of the Classic.

15 Sep 2010 3:41 PM
Lonnie

Great article about HOY.  All of the fans on the East Coast are not RA fans.  We love Zenyatta and what she brings to the track everytime she races.  She deserved to be HOY last year after the Breeder's Cup Classic.  It matters not to those that love to watch her race and just watch her perform, she is the Horse of the Year and will remain that way.  She was brought back to racing after retirement because she wasn't done, not to win Horse of the Year.

Thank you, Zenyatta, for everything you have done for racing.  Be safe.

15 Sep 2010 3:48 PM
Jose93

I suppose if we had a decent Grade 1 grading system, this could all be resolved without the need for voting. Oh wait, America is the country with 113 Grade 1 races, of which around a third simply aren't worthy of being Grade 1 status.

15 Sep 2010 3:57 PM
Funny1991

Well written article to win awards in any sport you need to have a great season and do things that normally do not happen in your sport if you want the award. What I cant stand is people who think that just because Zenyatta won one great race she should have gotten horse of the year in 2009 even her owner thought so. Look at what Rachel Alexandra did in 2009 and she had FIVE GREAT RACES so which had the greater number of great races Zenyatta's one to RACHEL ALEXANDRA'S FIVE. That would be Rachel Alexandra and you would need to go back to 2nd grade if you cant tell who had more great races. So Rachel Alexandra deserved the award because she had the better YEAR. Now if Zenyatta wanted to get horse of the year she should have raes in races like the Pacific Classic, Hollywood Gold Cup, and the Breeders Cup Classic and all she would have to do is win 2 of them and she would have been horse of the year because those races have more history to them.

15 Sep 2010 3:58 PM
Dakota

Mr. Shulman,

Thank you for making it clear that there are two schools of thought on the HOY. It seems from other blogs, that many of Rachel Alexandra's fans don't understand that.  While I agree that Rachel Alexandra had the more impressive campaign (I won't go into what I think it did to her), I have no doubt that Zenyatta was (and is) the superior race horse

Jimmy,

I'm not sure where you get the idea that Zenyatta "adores" the Santa Anita track. Her connections have said repeatedly that Zenyatta hates the Del Mar surface, tolerates Santa Anita, and likes the Hollywood surface which plays closest to dirt. All the Zenyatta naysayers ("neigh-sayers"?) insist that she's a "synthetic specialist". What she is is a dirt horse that runs very well on synthetics. She's just that good.

15 Sep 2010 4:11 PM
Bonnie

I would love to see Zenyatta and Quality Road come in...one...two in the Breeder's Cup....seems only fair after her not getting HOY and him getting scratched last year.

15 Sep 2010 5:19 PM
Bonnie

DinkyDiva,

Or just for fun think of it the other way around.... It's Zenyatta in Secretariat's body.  If you check out her physical attributes she's not unlike Big Red when it comes to prowess.  But, I know what you mean, even the description of his personality reminds me of Zenyatta, he was kind, funny, playful.  

15 Sep 2010 5:30 PM
Marshall

Mr. Shulman, with all due respect this article is nothing short of propoganda... welcome to the bandwagon, my friend!  Where were all your articles proclaiming the superiority of Zenyatte last year?  That's right, there weren't any.  Sure, now that Rachel has "struggled" this year (and I use the word struggle lightly as she's still had a great year by any other horse's standards), it's easy for you to write that it "...was going to very difficult to envision Rachel Alexandra beating Zenyatta in that race".  In fact, nothing had occured up to that point to suggest she couldn't have.  There is no way anyone can sit here and say that, up to and just before the Classic was run, Zenyatta had proven to be the better horse.  Granted, she was undefeated, but she hadn't done anything spectacular, really.  Her entire career to that point had been spent racing against fillies and mares, mostly lackluster competition with a few exceptions.  She didn't win races by large margins and she didn't set very many records.  In fact, if we were basing "best horse" on performances up to that point without focusing on the unbeaten record, I think the logical choice for many would be Rachel Alexandra - and apparently it was for a great many considering she won HOY.  And there is a reason, Lenny, that "this year, unlike the previous couple, we have every expectation that HOY will be determined by the Classic."  That reason is that this year, unlike last year, there wasn't a single horse that stood out nearly as much as Rachel Alexandra.

15 Sep 2010 5:31 PM
txhorsefan

Great article, Lenny, and I agree especially with your final paragraph in that I also believe Zenyatta is one for the ages and we should all be grateful for what we're now witnessing and experiencing.  I'm not knowledgeable enough to get into debates with commenters on the results of the BC races determining the Eclipse awards, but didn't Goldikova win the award based on that one race?  Did she win other races in the US?  As a novice race follower, I find it confusing that it does seem to go both ways when the Eclipse awards are handed out and frequently makes no sense to me so I just have to make up my own mind how each particular horse makes me feel and be grateful when they race healthy and cross the finish line safely.  

15 Sep 2010 5:49 PM
Sharon

I first saw Zenyatta at the 2008 Breeder's Cup, coming around all the other horses at the top of the stretch in the Ladies Classic.  I've been hooked ever since, including BC 2009 and Apple Blossom 2010.  What a blessing to see this great mare in her prime!!!  Horse of the Decade, no doubt!

15 Sep 2010 5:50 PM
GreyK

Yeah, just what we all need: let's re-fight HOY 2009 all over again.  The first zillion words on teh subject (including some of mine) weren't enough?  I agree that this year the race will come down to the BCC winner, though I will never be a fan of deciding Eclipse Award honors that way.  I'm glad I was alive to see Zenyatta and sorry her connections didn't choose the kind of campaign that would make the race irrelevant to her finally winning Horse of the Year.  It would have been exciting for all racing fans to see this great mare in the sort of season her connections promised when they decided to race her in 2010.  But like the 2009 Eclipse Awards, that's all water under the bridge now.  It's down to the BCC.  She'll be in it to win it.  It's going to be an exciting race, and for my money, the only exciting race she's run all year.  Hope it's a thrill for all of us.    

15 Sep 2010 5:58 PM
DB

The vote for HOY is the same as the voting for college football..... and neither does their respective sports any good. I do not know any racing insiders who did not foresee the events of 2010.  Greatness was in front of us the whole time.  Not everyone is capable of recognizing it.

15 Sep 2010 6:12 PM
Mike in SB

Until there is a way to determine the different divisional championships by the horses facing each other on the track, the Eclipse Awards will remain a joke. No other sport determines their champions by a vote of writers. The problem with the Body of Work vote is that the Breeders Cup has greatly diminished the importance of all the other races, including the major fall races that in the 1970's determined Horse of the Year. Look at the field for this years Woodward, it was a few weeks ago and I can't remember any horses that ran except for Quality Road and Mine That Bird. Quality Road is a nice horse, but should he be Horse of the Year for beating that field? Unfortunately today the Breeders Cup is the only time that horses from all parts of the country face each other on the track. Until they come up with a series of races where horses actually compete against the best of their division, something like the Triple Crown races for 3 year olds, maybe they should just give the Eclipse Award to the winners of the Breeders Cup.

15 Sep 2010 6:22 PM
Lenny

To Jimmy,

"Your favorite horse?" "Fuming?"

Look up the word 'projection' in the dictionary and calm down.

To others: Never did I intimate that winning just one race automatically makes a horse HOY. But when you have been undefeated all season and win the Classic, it is a pretty good resume, no?

15 Sep 2010 6:24 PM
swede

IF SHE WINS HER NEXT TWO RACES THERES NO DOUBT BLIND LUCK SHOUD BE HORSE OF THE YEAR.  SWEDE

15 Sep 2010 6:38 PM
wee o

Am done with the last year's HOY talk.  New year and let us honor the horse that ignited new race fans from the east coast to the west and all around the globe.  Thank you to all connections of the Queen for the loving care she gets daily and hope no matter when and where she runs she is safe.  Never before have people had such opinions on these 2 racehorses.  They have all talking whenever they run and that in of itself is great for the sport.  Be safe Zenyatta.

15 Sep 2010 8:27 PM
Robin of Michigan

I'm hoping that Zenyatta gets horse of the year this year, and will be able to win the Breeders Cup Classic, for a second year in a row. That would be a wonderful thing. I love Rachel Alexandra, and I love her to death, and even though the 4 year old filly in Rachel Alexandra has not really been doing that bad, no matter what other people say, Zenyatta does deserve to have her share to be honored as Horse of the year. To bad, that in 2008 when she went 9 for 9, she got robbed of the honor, by a colt named Curlin, I believe this is the year, that Zenyatta would finally get her pleasure of winning Horse of the year. She deserved it all the more. And I certainly can't wait, until they decide to put Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame, because they both deserve that honor as well.  

15 Sep 2010 8:51 PM
vegasvixen

There should be no voting for HOY.  Assign each graded stakes race a point value and add up those points for the winner;  the horse with the highest total wins HOY. By the way, why weren't the Z gang disturbed when Curlin won HOY the second year?  Why just pick on RA?

15 Sep 2010 9:26 PM
Forbidden Apple

Relax folks, I don't believe for one second that Lenny was handing over HOY honors to whoever wins the B.C. Classic. The B.C. was meant to be a year end championship event and it should continue to be highly important. The best horses from around the world compete against each other, enjoy it.

I'm from NY and I am completely in love with Zenyatta. She deserved HOY honors in 2009 after smashing her rivals in the classic and remaining undefeated. Who cares if it was won on synthetic or dirt, this horse can run lightning fast on any surface. As much as I love Zenyatta, I have to say that Blame is the horse to fear this year. These two horses will battle it out in the classic, there are no other horses that interest me.

Pam R,

Take a look at Quality Road's competition this year and you will find a load of cupcakes, with the exception of Blame. His competition has been just as weak as Zenyatta's. Q.R. was knocked out by Blame, who was on cruise control. If you watch the Whitney again, you will see how easily Blame disposed of a hyped up Q.R.

Marshall,

Since when are track records and bullet workouts the only measure of a champion? On some racing days the surface is scraped and the result is fast times. Do you remember all of the ridiculously fast races that were at Santa Anita back in 2007/2008? Some track records have more to do with the surface than the horse. Zenyatta has done everything in spectacular fashion, wake up pal.

Patrick,

Thank you for mentioning Formal Gold on this blog. His 1997 Iselin victory gave me goose bumps. He is by far the best horse that I have witnessed in the past 20 years that most people give little respect. He was brilliant and built out of cast iron, what a tough horse!

15 Sep 2010 9:35 PM
LStein

2009 HOTY IS OVER!!! I just really want to enjoy these last few races with a horse that we will never probibly see the lokes of again. From her sheer beauty to her sweet disposition. From her pre-race "getting her game face on" antics to the way she always comes flying down the lane with those huge strides to get to the wire first. Zenyatta is a complete original and I am going to sorely miss seeing her after she leaves the track, but it will be time for her to go live her horse life. I really hope Bloodhorse has a blog to follow her life at Mill Ridge or wherever she goes like you do for Barbaro's brothers. I would love to be able to keep track of her and her babies. Someday I hope to meet the big mare, but in the meantime LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! She is a true bringer of joy.

15 Sep 2010 9:37 PM
Pam S.

Pat in the hat...,

How wonderful to be invited into the winner's circle by the Mosses!  What Zenyatta fan (me included) wouldn't kill for that opportunity!  You know, everyone agrees that a racehorse is not a pet -- the purpose of a racehorse is to race and hopefully win.  But Zenyatta, with her showy demeanor and her adoring owners, really blurs the line.

Some people believe the Big Z will not show up for the Classic.  I think she will, and if she does, she is 100% ready to stomp 'em.  The Mosses are preparing her for her final appearance on the track and no doubt it means everything to them.  No handicapper will have to wonder if Zenyatta is doing well or not.  If there's any doubt, her name won't be in the program.

I think most years HOY comes down to the Breeders' Cup, and it should.  The BC is where nearly all of the top horses meet, so it should carry a lot of weight.  No, you're not going to make Volponi HOY.  But I also didn't like that the award was considered to be wrapped up last year on Labor Day weekend.

15 Sep 2010 9:39 PM
John T

Never in my wildest dreams did I

ever think when the time came for a

filly or mare to win the Breeders

Cup Classic that it would not be named horse of the year but that is exactly what happened when Zenyatta finaly broke through for her gender.When I look at how she seemed hopelessy beaten just beyond

the furlong pole but yet somehow came on to win the race I am still

wondering how the powers of voting

failed to notice such a thing.

15 Sep 2010 11:53 PM
Ranagulzion

LENNY,

Your article is very interesting and provocative.  I tend to agree with Jimmy's response that you were undermining Rachel Alexandra's 2009 accomplishments by reference to Favourite Trick/Skip Away comparison.  Also I have to agree with Marshall that one great race (2009 BCC) does not definitively say which was the best horse.  It is easy in hindsight to now say Zenyatta was the best and that Rachel Alexandra had no chance of beating her on the Pro-ride (considering how all the Dirt runners fared dismally at Santa Anita) therefore respectfully I'd have to say that your argument is disingenuous.  Why is it so hard for hardline Zen-supporters to admit that the mare, as great as she is, has been compromised by a timid campaign over three seasons, instead of trying to knock down HOTYs Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.

This year Zenyatta is once again in danger of losing her HOTY bid to Quality Road or Blame when she could have locked it up before the Breeder's Cup by venturing out to Saratoga for the Personal Ensign or taking on the best older horses of California in the Hollywood Gold Cup or Pacific Classic.  A win in either of those races could have given the connections the option of running in the Distaff for a thriller math/rematch with Rachel Alexandra at 9 Furlongs (RA's favourite distance), thus "checkmating" and possibly eclipsing the BCC rematch of Quality Road and Blame.  As it stands now, she has no viable option apart from the daunting task of facing the two "kingpins" Quality Road and Blame in the BCC and a couple of salty 3YO colts.  She stands to lose more than HOTY by not winning that race.  That's the hand the connections have dealt themselves ...a tough gamble indeed.  Don't you think?

16 Sep 2010 12:06 AM
Nancy

Hi Lenny,

As always a very good balanced article!  I'm in total agreement with you and in particular your last paragraph!  I'm in total agreement with Zen's Auntie! Well said Auntie -:).

Lenny, I look forward to 'And Their Off' every other Wednesday with you and Steve and Stable Boy.  Good balanced information, insight and plenty of laughs!

May they (our fantastic equines) all come home safe and sound from the coming racing wars!

16 Sep 2010 12:06 AM
Andrew in Alaska

I like Zenyatta an Rachel Alexandra in there own rights, but as beautiful as they look an run, I have a slight pull back from givin honors where they are not really due an in reference to your comment on "low risk strategy" you hit the nail on the head. I do think Rachel deserved HOY 2009 cause she did mix it up an win the Preakness for first time in 85yrs ws it! I feel that both camps are so reluctent to race these horses outside there area that they have damaged there career.  Now winning races is nice an all in a row, but ya gotta mix it up like Citation did an Cigar...you do'nt race in your home turf an call youself a champ. In my opinion. The other two horses that had 17 wins in a row do'nt even come into my idea of champions with my home turf theory.  So all in all I do'nt care if R.Alex or Z ever meet, cause they are just nice horses to look at an they look great winning when they win.  Glad the filly an mare have carried the industry the last two yrs cause its the real looser in my opinion.  With all the money in thoroughbred industry an not being able to compete with football an baseball is a real loss in my opinion an my brain is not frozen cause I live in Alaska.  

16 Sep 2010 3:05 AM
John

What people tend to forget is that Zenyatta last year beat the winner of the 2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, Life Is Sweet, three times then beat Chile's Horse of the Year the multiple Grade 1 winning racemare Cococa Beach in addition to beating the winners of twenty-three Grade 1 races in the Classic.

Even the final NTRA poll and the final World Thoroughbred Rankings had Zenyatta on top.

16 Sep 2010 10:39 AM
Ann in Lexington (aka Pedigree Ann)

Zenyatta's connections have gotten away with running her against outclassed mares because track handicappers have no backbones and haven't had for years. If she is the greatest mare of all time (arguable), she should be carrying more weight in handicaps than the great mares of yore. "Oh, no, you can't put 132 lbs on her; you'll break down my poor little mare!" Yeah, right. Ta Wee may have been a sprinter, but she beat mares carrying 142 (not a highweight handicap, either). And if her connections didn't want Zenyatta to carry the higher weights she had earned, they could seek relief by running her in open races, where she gets a sex allowance. That's the way it worked when we had real handicap racing in this country.

16 Sep 2010 11:10 AM
pam r

It's too bad Zenyatta's connections didn't race her outside of California more than they did.  It's hard to compare her to so many of the historical greats because wether or not she "likes" the synthetic surfaces, her career lacked the chance for her to show her versatility(if she likes the dirt better, why haven't they raced her on it more?). Has she raced in mud? (Wasn't she scratched from a race last year at CD cause of it?)  Cigar stamped himself in history with a super win in the Classic on an off track. RA has literally kicked mud in the boys' faces. It's like a sports team always having home court advantage. I really like her and I have enjoyed her tremendous career.  There will always be though, questions about what she may have truly been capable of.

16 Sep 2010 11:15 AM
Manny

What's interesting is that Blame has beaten most of the same horses  this year that Rachel Alexandra beat last year, Macho Again, Bullsbay, Mine That Bird, General Quarters and further,has also beaten Quality Road, and yet, no one is calling him a super horse.

Matter of fact, the connections of Blame know that in order for him to be the HOY he must win the Classic.

That should have been the case last year.

16 Sep 2010 1:33 PM
Jordan

pam r,

"Versatility?" as a preexquisite for greatness.

Then how about Ruffian racing more than half of her races at six furlongs or LESS (She raced just three times past a mile and lost one of those races).

Travel outside of California?

How about Ruffian racing only once outside of New York.

16 Sep 2010 1:38 PM
1800s

Pam r,

November 6 2010

your question will be answerd.

Tune in.

No excuses.

16 Sep 2010 2:08 PM
Rachel

If Zenyatta had run just once against the boys in '08 and just once on dirt in 09 we'd be witnessing a year where she could have been going for her 3rd HOY, but her connections don't take the risks, which is perfectly fine. I just wish they had.

16 Sep 2010 3:09 PM
Freetex

Lenny, great article.

I love watching Zenyatta just being the Queen.  She is and always be the QUEEN.  What higher honor is there than that which has been bestowed by the public.

16 Sep 2010 4:34 PM
ruffianruns

Jordan -

Knocking Ruffian to defend Zenyatta?  Really?

Just ignore the Zenyatta bashers - they'll be force-fed their medicine in the Classic.  And if you can't ignore them, try not to bash other horses in your defense of your favorite.

And Ruffian didn't lose that race, she broke down and DIED.  Get a grip.

16 Sep 2010 4:35 PM
pam r

Jordan and 1800's

I would love to see Zenyatta win the Classic again.  I'm not saying she isn't a great horse, but I would have liked to have see her travel a little more.  Also, Jordan, I didn't say anything about Ruffian.  I believe she was great too, but I think RA, last year espcially, may even have been better than her.

16 Sep 2010 4:51 PM
Rachel

Jordan, to be fair, Ruffian didn't live long enough to pass that kind of judgement on her abruptly cut short career, dead the first week in July of her 3 year-old life...now if she had lived long enough...

16 Sep 2010 5:42 PM
PJJ

Have you all heard the news?   Zenyatta is listed in Oprah Winfrey's  2010 Powerlist, the most influential women and earnings....

16 Sep 2010 5:59 PM
dinkydiva

For you Zen fans, here's a link to "O" magazine.  She's in Oprah's magazine!! How remarkable is that!

www.oprah.com/.../21

For the Rach fans, check her out in Vogue.  

16 Sep 2010 6:19 PM
LaurieK

As has been pointed out, Zenyatta was unretired before the Eclipse Awards.  I do think Team Z was badly stung by the vote count, though, as well they might be.  As for her lack travel this year, the horse turns out to be a lousy shipper.  They want her fit and ready for the BC, and she'd be neither if they followed their original plan.  And if that original plan had gone through, and she ended up losing the BC Classic...she'd lose HOTY anyway.  There's a great deal of parochialism among the East Coast voting block, sad to say.  

16 Sep 2010 6:34 PM
Mademoiselle Mondatta

Lenny,

BRAVO to you for this analysis!! There are assumingly MANY who will agree and/or disagree with your assessments BUT I for one, AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY!!

If Zenyatta wins the BC Classic this year she is a LOCK for HOY!!

It is interestng to note that all the Zenyatta naysayeras are the very same that cannot have more than one favorite (tunnel vision? You tell me) and there are also those , like you colleague Jason Shandler who denigrate her simply because she didn't win them any money!! My advice: they shouldn't have bet AGAINST her in the first place! Then maybe they would have won their money and could give her the credit she deserves instead of deniggrating her to the ranks of claimer/synthetic specialist (when all along Mr. Shirreffs has said she is BETTER On dirt but because of the premature synthetic mandate in CA she is only provided with ONE option to run on. Hence why she trains at Hollywood Park where the training track is still DIRT. Seems they don't realize that horses that train over synthetics train stronger and are generally holding better fitness levels. Ask Mr. Jackson about that. You know, Mr. "She's only 88.3%, etc.etc.etc. BLAH BLAH BLAH). No matter how ANYONE looks at it, either or both parties have waffled and taken the hgh road. It makes no difference to any of us, as we are only given the privilege of watching and enjoying them BOTH but for some reason, people feel they only have room in their harts and brains for one of these rare female racehorses. The fact of the matter is, people will always choose sides instead of seeign what is right in fron tof them: TWO AMAZING RACEHORSES THAT WE ARE PRIVILEGED TO HAVE AND WHO WILL BE WHICKED OFF TO THE BREEDING SHED AND ONLY BE A MEMORY OF GREATNESS. Everyone should quit their belly-aching and enjoy them and regardless of what side they HAVE to stand on, they should give credit to the other no matter what for each deserves it! Lenny, thanks for showing us that Zen deserves it in yru column, just as others have shown that Rachel Alexandra deserves it too!

Rachel O,

GREAT post(s)!!!

Mr. PJJ,

LMAO!! Good One!!!

Marshall,

There wasn't a horse that stood out nearly as much as Rachel EXCEPT for one and she ran on November 6th and stomped ALL her competition while remaining undefeated.  

Anne in Lexington,

How quickly you must have forgotten that Zenyatta DID carry supreme weight to her opponents. 129 pounds TWICE. While that may not compare to the past, it is what it is for the present. Maybe you should see the glass as half FULL.

Lenny,

Keep up the GREAT work. It's nice to see that You and Steve H. can remain OBJECTIVE and devout to the sport of horseracing and especially to the equine stars who take us on all the thrill rides, no matter what coast they are on.

:-)

16 Sep 2010 7:35 PM
Bet Twice

Ranagulzion,

You seem to be talking out both sides of your mouth.  On the one hand, you bemoan her weak campaign and on the other, you suggest she should have taken the easy route by winning the PE or the Hollywood Gold Cup/Pacific Classic and then going in the Distaff (to avoid Blame, Quality Road and a few salty three year olds.)

The whole point of a "championship" race is to decide it on the track.  You may not agree with the BCC being the  championship race, but it certainly looks like its going to be the best field assembled this year.

I'm curious why wouldn't you want to see Zen race against the best?  Why do you think it would be better for horse racing for her to go in the Distaff?  Do you really think beating RA, after her very mediocre year, is going to bolster Zen's resume more than the BCC?  It seems a little disingenuous after complaining about her timid campaign this year.  

On the subject of Zen and RA, you are delusional if you think Zen winning the Personal Ensign this year would have wrapped up HOY for her.  Why?  Because she beat Persistently?  

Similarly, winning the HGC or PC probably wouldn't have done it either and the Mosses were clear at the beginning of the year they were coming back for the BCC.

I will absolutely concede Zen has had a timid campaign.  They've been extremely conservative and they've been rewarded with a mare who is still racing at 6.  They've also eliminated any talk of all time greatness outside her own sex, if that was ever a possibility, and made it very tough to win HOY.

Now, you should concede that Zenyatta has nothing to gain by racing Rachel and even less to gain by going in the Distaff.  RA is nowhere near the head of her division and she's yet to win a G1.  What does Zen accomplish by beating her?

"As it stands now, she has no viable option apart from the daunting task of facing the two "kingpins" Quality Road and Blame in the BCC and a couple of salty 3YO colts.  She stands to lose more than HOTY by not winning that race."

Curious what you mean by saying, "She stands to lose more than HOTY by not winning that race"?  What more could she lose?  Even if she finishes up the track she'll be champion older mare.  If she finishes well, or gasp, wins, she puts her name in the HOY conversation. If not, I'll still applaud the Mosses for taking on the best.  Why wouldn't you?

16 Sep 2010 7:51 PM
pam r

To those who think I don't think Zenyatta is a great horse, I didn't mean for what I said to come across like that.  I DO think she is a GREAT horse. I only meant that she is no Man O' War, Secretariat or Citation.    Also Jordan, I'm a little surprised that you tried knocking Ruffian for losing a race that went past a mile.  She lost because she BROKE her leg, something I hope never happens to Zenyatta. Ruffian also ran in fewer races, and had fewer chances to prove herself.  Please read the whole blog-I'm not the only one who is disappointed she didn't run outside of CA more.

16 Sep 2010 8:29 PM
sentinel

You know, Lenny, I don't care who gets HOTY.  Zenyatta is a treasure and has earned a place in our hearts no matter how the Classic goes.

Also, no one agrees with me but I wish Rachel could have stayed with her original trainer and not competed with the boys.  She's obviously not happy with the route they've put her on. I bet if she were human she'd say she's wishing she could go back to the "good old days".

16 Sep 2010 9:36 PM
Jordan

pam r,

..."It's too bad Z's connections didn't race her outside California..it's hard to compare her to so many of the historical greats...versatility...".

Please! And I mean please! If you don't like the Ruffian analogy try Personal Ensign or even Shuvee or perhaps Go For Wand or even Genuine Risk that didn't travel much at all outside of New York.

And versatility, please answer the "six furlongs or less" statement.

Rachel,

"Ruffian didn't live long enough to pass that kind of judgement on her abruptly cut short career..."

Fair enough, but if you want Ruffian to be considered among the greatest American horses (#35-best for female racehore in

Bloohorse) you have to take in the fact that Ruffian did indeed have an abrupted short career and judge her on that, and not what she could or could not have done. Her record is available to those who want to see.

Ruffianruns,

Sorry to break this to you but Ruffian did tragically break both sesamoids bones in her right forelegs in her match race with Foolish Pleasure. I, along with countless others, were sickened at the sight.

However, people who bet on Honest Pleasure to win were given the opportunity to cash in their winning tickets. She did, indeed, lose the race.

16 Sep 2010 9:55 PM
John T

My own personel view of why Zenyatta did not win horse of the

year after her historical win in the Breeders Cup Classic was because the race was run on an arificial surface.Which brings us to the age old question,a good horse should be able to win on anything.Zenyatta won her two races

on original dirt at Oaklawn Park in

a very impressive manner and indeed

she is still unbeaten as no one has

been able to lower her colours.If she does get beat in this years running of the Breeders Cup Classic

it will be because of a racehorse

with outstanding ability,not because of what she is,an outstanding mare who deserves to be talked about with the best of them.

16 Sep 2010 11:20 PM
Jimmy

Jordan, that is an absolutely sick comment you made about Ruffian. There is no need to say something like that. You should really try to read about Ruffian, and then you will see how great she truly was. She set/tied speed records in 9 of 10 races, broke the track record at Belmont in her very first race (as a 2-year old filly!), and that summer, ran the fastest 6 furlongs ever for a 2 year old at Saratoga up to that date, which includes the likes of Secretariat, Man O' War, Native Dancer, and all the greats that had run there before. Ruffian was a horse that dreams are made of, and she was gone way too soon, but her brief presence on the track will be remembered forever. There is no knocking Ruffian.

17 Sep 2010 12:20 AM
Rachel

LaurieK, those of us who love Zen but want her challenged UP to her greatness, we don't mind them wanting to keep her home, but she could have raced in a couple of choices against the boys...to me, she's the greatest race horse I've ever seen, she just hasn't been raced like the greatest. (and I've seen 3 triple crown winners and all that era)

...I think she's a female Man O'War...her look, her walk, her seemingly easy, huge stride...has she ever laid her body down, even in her close races? Has she ever been tired after a race, I mean really tired?

17 Sep 2010 6:53 AM
Stacy

I am tired of everyone saying that Zenyatta was robbed of HOY last year. Horse of the Year is decided by several factors: campaign, performance and competition. I think Zenyatta is a good horse but, aside from being undefeated, she ran a very boring and safe campaign beating the same horses that she beat the year before.

Voters were right in choosing Curlin over her in 2008 and Rachel over her in 2009. The Mosses have no one to blame for losing HOY last year except for themselves.

I am interested to see how she runs in the BC this year at Churchill against a far superior group than the horses she faced last year. Even if she wins the BC, if Blame or Quality Road finish on the board, then I think that HOY should go to one of them. Blame has run a hell of a campaign this year. If he wins the JCGC then I think he will be the leading contender for HOY. HOY is not decided on one race. It is given to the horse who performs the best that year beating the best horses and stepping up their game.

17 Sep 2010 7:58 AM
Giddyup

The decision on who is the best horse each year is determined by people, who almost without exception, lost money at the windows because they couldn't pick race winners. I love that irony.

17 Sep 2010 8:48 AM
Slew

It's a good blog, filled with a lot of hope.  I do believe that last year, the biggest travesty was the Eclipse committee itself, who would not allow Co-Champions.  No other horse came close to what the both ladies accomplished, and if ever a year screamed co-champion, 2009 was it.  How many voters abstained because they wouldn't vote against either mare?  Rachel A and Zen both earned it last year.  As far as 2010 goes, I don't know what to think.  We certainly have a big 4+...did everyone forget about LAL?  I can't even pretend to know what's in the mind of the voters.  The blogs are endless, and the debate rages on.  For me, 18-0 is unbelievable and legendary.  Whatever else happens this year...that record simply cannot be ignored.

17 Sep 2010 9:13 AM
Slew

Jordan: Take into account, the only horse in history as fast as Secretariat was Ruffian.  That's enough for me.

17 Sep 2010 10:27 AM
Pedigree Ann

129 lbs versus mares??? Gee, just 3 lbs over scale for the best mare ever? Whooo, how impressive is that. And this is AFTER she had won the BC Classic at wfa over males. After Ta Wee won the Fall Highweight (then a major sprint) under 140, she beat mares in a regular handicap under 142. Forego carried 136 and still ran down the Derby winner in the stretch. The object of a handicap is to give each runner a proper chance to win by giving the best horses more weight and the lesser horses less weight. With no 100 lb jockeys around these days (no 14 yo undernourished kids get licenses), if a 20 lb gap is indicated by form, it has to be 110 to 130, or even 112 to 132. And don't tell me that the worst horses in Zenyatta's races aren't 20 lbs her inferior. Track handicappers won't give the best horses the weights they deserve because they are afraid they won't show up, which means they are shortchanging all the other horses in the field. And you wonder why handicap fields are so small these days?

17 Sep 2010 11:13 AM
Jordan

Jimmy,

Again. And I repeat again. Please seperate emotion from fact. We were all heartbroken that day Ruffian broke down.

But please, if you want to judge Zenyatta with one sets of standards (basically racing in one state and over one surface or distance) then you must apply them to others as I have mentioned.

Any other way is pure blindness to the fact or ignorance.

17 Sep 2010 11:33 AM
Ranagulzion

BET TWICE,

I agree with you that Zenyatta has nothing to gain at this point by heading to the Breeder's Cup Distaff.  The "Zen-Rachel" match-up is dead.  However before the PE it was still alive, and had it occurred, would certainly have been regarded as the race of the year thus far IMO.  I am persuaded that a win there over Rachel Alexandra and Life At Ten (no disrespect to Persistently) would have catapulted her all time ratings into orbit because: 1) it would have been on Dirt against the top two dirt fillies/mares; 2) the presiige of winning a grade one at Saratoga scores big time; and 3) doing it in the Personal Ensign (named after another undefeated champion) would add to the value of her accomplishment.  I think those considerations would weigh very heavily on the minds of HOTY voters for the remainder of the season.

Regarding what the big mare stands to lose, besides HOTY honours, by not winning the BCC, its the stigma of being just a Synthetic champ with a padded resume as well as the forgiveness of many connoisseurs of the game and frustrated fans.

17 Sep 2010 1:55 PM
randy h

Once again Z has taken a safe route not leaving Calif.  Yes she is a great mare maybe the best of all time so why not go to New York?  She ships well track surface dosen't seem to matter so why not?  Back in the day great horses ran all over the country and 10 to15 races a year.  Or is the modern day TB so fragile they can't take it my .10 worth

17 Sep 2010 2:22 PM
DJ

the BCC should be the most important race in deciding HOY because only the best go in that race. There's lots of other big name grade 1 races during the year, but they often only draw one top notch horse whos able to win easily, like QR in the Woodward. The BCC's the only race where all the best come together and nobody has it easy, so that's where the champion should be determined.

17 Sep 2010 3:34 PM
dinkydiva

How can anyone knock Ruffian?  That would be like knocking Big Red!  Who knows what could have been with her, but, we saw what she did!!

Rachel:  I agree, she reminds me of Both Big Red's!!  Her stature, stride, elegance, size, etc.

17 Sep 2010 3:35 PM
UCLinden

I'm sure most , if not all of you here, have watched Zenyatta run. To watch her running style will answer , I think ,most of your questions about why her connections make the decisions they do. I picked up on it long ago. There's a reason why she sits in the back and comes from behind , and its not just " thats her style ".

If her connections take a certain course , so be it , the sky's ( $$$ ) the limit when she is bred. You protect your investment and wait for the return.  

17 Sep 2010 3:39 PM
Dakota

Sentinel,

Actually, I do agree with you. I would have much preferred to see Rachel with her old connections. We probably would have seen her in the BC Distaff (as she'd already had a win on synthetic) and she'd likely be a happier, more successful horse this year, too.

To everyone who unequivocally stated that HOY is based on the best campaign:  Read the third paragraph in Mr. Shulman's blog. It's not that cut & dried.

Zenyatta didn't have just "one good race" last year. She was undefeated in four other races, three grade 1s and a grade 2. She not only became the only filly/mare to win the Classic; in doing so, she beat Personal Ensign's 13-0 mark.

17 Sep 2010 4:17 PM
Rachel O

Well, now, people have complained that Zenyatta hasn't faced top competition. Apparently Blind Luck's trainer wants no part of Zenyatta and has said so quite openly. He nominated BL to the Lady's Secret but will probably bow out because Z is running. Zenyatta can't make the others show up. Nor can John Shirreffs or the Mosses.

And for those of you who think Z is a synthetic specialist, she ran best on dirt in Arkansas.

Get real, people. She's the best there is.

17 Sep 2010 4:52 PM
John

Stacy,

Please.

Zenyatta last year beat three Divisional Champions, three Eclipse Award Champions, beat the 2009 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic Champion three times, beat Chile's Horse of the Year and multiple Grade 1 winning racemare Cocoa Beach, then beat the winners of 23 Grade 1 winners in the Classic.

And Stacy, like I abovementioned last year's Classic included the winners of 23 Grade 1 races not including Zenyatta. So far, between Blame, Quality Road, and Lookin At Lucky is a total of 10 Grade 1 wins. What are the other horses that can make up 13 Grade 1 wins just to match last year's field?

17 Sep 2010 6:53 PM
Ranagulzion

BET TWICE,

I don't speak out of both sides of my mouth.  For the sake of clarity and the records, I do not wish for the BCC field to be watered down in any way (perish the thougt), neither was I intending to suggest an easy path to HOTY honours for "Queen Zen".  I was merely pointing out how a more enterprising campaign (venturing out of California to take on her arch-rival Rachel Alexandra at Saratoga or toppling the California "big boys" at Hollywood Park) could have "locked up" the much coveted HOTY title and given the connections more options, such as a possible "fan thrilling/farewell" Distaff match-up/rematch with Rachel Alexandra.  In such a scenario I don't think that many fans would complain about an easy road for Zenyatta or about watering down the BCC, given that the Quality Road-Blame rematch will be a "thrilla in manilla" by itself.  

18 Sep 2010 12:45 AM
Mademoiselle Mondatta

Pedigree Ann,

You didn't do your homework, Zenyatta carried 129lbs (more than any other handicap horse male or female) in the Vanity TWICE ('08 & '09). It is clear you prefer to live in the past comparing a MUCH sturdier breed of TB to today's horse so handicaps cannot be what they were then otherwise our ranks would be loaded with the likes of Ta Wee, Forego, Round Table, etc. Comparing the PAST to the present is like comparing apples to oranges and we have the breeders who shoot for speed to thank for that! If they had continued to breed for the classic distances then maybe we would see the handicaps you crave. Until then maybe it would be cool for you to quit denigrating WHAT WE HAVE in favor of TRYING to compare them to pedigree standards (on paper) LAST century. They don't race on paper and we have only the human breeders to thank for WHY the handicaps aren't what they used to be. I'm just saying......

Ranagulzion,

I think the match-up between Blind Luck and Rachel Alexandra will be a good one. While they are leaning towards the Distaff with Rachel, I think they are still considering the Classic for her as well so it's possible that a Rachel/Zenyatta/Blame/Quality Road/Looking AT Lucky/Euro match-up may just be int he works. If WOULD prove to be the race of the year for sure regardless of WHO won!

:-)

18 Sep 2010 5:47 PM
Bet Twice

Ranagulzion,

We'll have to agree to disagree on the value of an RA/Zen match up.  IMO, the value of the match up ended when RA lost her first two races this year.    

Appreciate the clarification about her going in the PE to substantiate her dirt form.  Totally agree it would have been great to get another win on dirt and would have given them a better argument against the synthetic specialist criticism.

I trust Zen's connections when they say she doesn't ship well.  I have had horses for years and some travel and some don't.  If she went in the PE and dropped a bunch of weight coming home, she'd be up against it to make the BCC (see Looking at Lucky), their stated goal.

IMO, they picked the BCC because all of Zen's immediate caretakers can go with her and stay at Churchill (Nov is pretty slow on the West Coast and unlike Asmussen or Pletcher, Shirreffs doesn't have barns doted across the country).  There's also only a finite amount of weight/conditioning she can lose over a week or so.  If she comes unravelled coming home, they'll give her more time off before she's bred.  

I agree she should have gone in the HGC but if she had won it and then opted for the Distaff, I think she would have been crucified (synthetic argument yet again).  

I do think Zen's campaign has tarnished her legacy.  Where I disagree is their motivation.   I think her campaign has been geared around trying to keep a very big, very high strung horse together, not avoiding the competition.  If you are ducking, why go in the BCC or try to meet RA, when that might have been meaningful, at Oaklawn?

Would they like to win HOY?  Of course, but they are dealt the hand they are given - a bad shipper, synthetic tracks in SoCal, the Breeders Cup at SA for two year, QR's meltdown in the BCC gate, RA coming back poorly and competition that won't run against her.  I think they've shown tremendous sportsmanship in sending her in the BCC and racing her at 6.  How many of the dirt horses gearing up for the BCC will be racing at 6?  My guess, not one.

I'm sorry about the disappointed racing fans, but planes go both ways and she'll be at Churchill in November.  Suggesting she has a "padded" resume is ridiculous.  Last time I checked she wasn't HOY and she didn't have ungraded races written for her.  She's run exclusively in G1's this year.  She can't help who enters.  If Hollendorfer says, “You nominate to keep your options open, to cover all your bases, and if Zenyatta doesn’t run maybe you would run."  How do you blame Zenyatta for "ducking" Blind Luck when her trainer says plainly, he'd rather run in the Beldame against RA?  

18 Sep 2010 7:08 PM
duchess

For what it matters, I think that Zenyatta will live forever on in legend beside great names of American racing such as Secretariat and Man o' War. She is simply extraordinary, by any measure!

That said, I do not mind that Rachel Alexandra won the HOY in 2009.

Some food for thought (yes, I know that track conditions vary from year to year - and I am really tired tonight, so hope I got these right):

Rachel's KY Oaks time: 1:48:87

Blind Luck's: 1:50:70

Rachel's Preakness time: 1:55:08

Lucky's time: 1:55:47

Rachel's Haskell time: 1:47:21

Lucky's time: 1:49:83

Rachel's Woodward time: 1:48:29

Quality Road's: 1:50:00

(Not comparing her other stand out win from last year - the Mother Goose - with this year's winner, as I believe they watered down the distance between last year and this year).

She would probably be the outstanding three year old this year, too- and I am not knocking either the classy and game Blind Luck or Lookin at Lucky when I say this, as both are good solid individuals who I hope to see go on to be stand outs as older horses.

Rachel's 2009 season was something we might never see again from a three year old filly. Most female racers in NA rarely face males at all, and for a three year old to face them three times in grade ones - once against older males - is incredible (and it may well have taken its toll on her in 2010).

Just as we might never see an overall career like Zenyatta's.

If there were any justice in the world, they would have been co-champions last year.

I only wish we could have seen Zen in some different races. Not necessarily traveling, if her connections want her to promote California racing or if she does not travel well. Not even necessarily against males, because most females in NA rarely (if ever) face males. But I wish I could have seen her go at 1 1/2 miles. I think she would have been very special at that distance, and would have no problems handling it. And I wish I could have seen her on the grass, even if it had been an allowance race. Given how she handles the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, she might have been wonderful on turf, and her pedigree suggests she could be very very very good on it. Alas, she was never given a chance...

My feelings for her are mixed as a result of her human connections. She is obviously a truly great one - perhaps (probably) the greatest NA mare of all time. I just wish she could have had a bit more of a chance to prove it...

(And by the way, no East Coast or West Coast bias here. I am a Midwestern girl who cheers for the good ones no matter where they come from).

19 Sep 2010 2:35 AM
SMTDL

The 2009 HOTY vote was correct but some still refuse to accept that while Zenyatta did win the biggest race of the year,she only had 4 other rraces ..all in California and all against Fillies. People keep using her overall record as a basis for their position that she was robbed.The year has to stand alone each time for comparison to what others did during the same time frame.Some even claim that HOTY is not important anyway.If it wasn't important,people would have stopped debating it by now. Personally I do hope Zenyatta wins HOTY this time.She is certainly a great horse and deserves that distinction.I just wish she had stepped up her campaign as promised.Good luck ...with traveling to Kentucky to face the best on dirt, she won'thave the edges she had from the last 2 years at the Breeder's Cup.

19 Sep 2010 2:18 PM
Frank

There are two things in common with both Zenyatta and Blame.

First, Regal Ransom beat Blame in the Super Derby - and Zenyatta clobbered Regal Ransom in the Classic (finished 8th)

Second, Blame beat Einstein in a photo finish in the Clark - This race came after Einstein finished 11th (and next to last) in the Breeders Cup Classic.

Length of Stretch:

Del Mar: 919 ft

Santa Anita: 990 ft

Hollywood Park: 991 ft

Churchill Downs: 1,234.5 ft

20 Sep 2010 2:52 AM
carla

While I think the Classic should play in the role of HOY. I do not think it should be the only thing that HOY should be revolved around one race. I think it should be judged over the year of racing and not to mention the competition range.  So far this year out of the horses that have been mentioned I think Zenyatta so far stands above, where she wins the BC this year I think her record stand alone especially if the only races she looses is the Classic.  I think taking into account the surface plays a big part. A lot was said since Rachel didn’t race the Classic last year; had it been at Churchill I think we would have seen Rachel and maybe not Zenyatta…….Some horses like a type of surface; problem with Santa Anita it tends to be more of a non conventional dirt surface so how can you condemn a horse that is a true dirt horse not wanting to run on a favoring grass horse surface?  As for the comment of Skip Away vs. Favorite Trick, for HOY, my personal feeling is that no 2yr old should be HOY. All but one 2yr old became great as a three year old. I think many of the best 2yr old do not race until 3; maybe it’s not the “jinx of the BCJ winner not winning the Derby the following year its more that many two year old are not developed yet.

Another is racing quality. Should a horse that wins 19 in a row over Zenyatta but has raced allowance company does that initial that horse to be HOY? So I believe the company of grade one races should play into the role of HOY.

I was a RA fan for last year still love her I also loved Zenyatta too. But I felt that RA was a bit better last year and with what she did so deserved HOY. Personally I think it should have been a tie

20 Sep 2010 2:52 PM
blind date

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.

21 Sep 2010 7:42 AM

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