Lost Opportunities - By Eric Mitchell


(Originally published in the October 23, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Eric Mitchell - @EJMitchellKy on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell

California trainer John Shirreffs looks back at 2009 and believes racing missed a huge opportunity to build up the sport and attract new fans.

“They had a great filly on the East Coast and a great filly on the West Coast, and they didn’t celebrate both of them. Instead they pitted one against the other. I thought they made a huge mistake,” said the man who’s molded the champion Zenyatta, keeping her focused and conditioned through 19 consecutive victories.

Who exactly “they” are is a matter of interpretation. Shirreffs points some of the blame for the divisiveness surrounding Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra at the racing press. But no one has to read through too many blogs to see two passionate camps had formed around these two outstanding athletes. For every voice saying, “Shouldn’t we recognize both of their accomplishments?” there were 10 shouting out their reasons to love one more than the other.

But that’s in the past. What is disturbing now is that racing as an industry has missed another prime opportunity this year, as it did last year, and in 1995 and 1996 with Cigar and in 2007 and 2008 with Curlin.

“They say they are looking for stars to promote. ‘Where are our stars?’ they ask,” Shirreffs continued. “Here she is and then they seem to be looking for something better. The opportunity here is that (Zenyatta) is so unique.”

Sure, Breeders’ Cup has got Zenyatta’s name plastered all over Louisville for several weeks leading to the World Championships and will have her name sprinkled throughout ESPN/ABC programming. Wouldn’t the momentum be stronger, however, if the industry had some coast-to-coast promotions back in late February/early March? That’s when a series of missed opportunities began. Where were the television spots, radio promotions, updates on Twitter, or posts on Facebook promoting Zenyatta’s first race of the year? We could have started the year asking whether the extraordinary mare who beat the boys in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) would return to her winning ways in 2010? Then promote her road trip to the Apple Blossom Invitational Stakes (gr. I), then her pursuit of win 17, then 18, then 19.

But who is the “they” that should be grabbing these opportunities and running with them? That’s the problem. There isn’t “they” anymore.

The Thoroughbred industry has no robust central marketing/promotional arm that was originally part of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association when it was created in 1998. In 2001 the NTRA had an advertising, marketing, and promotions budget of more than $21 million. By 2009 this budget line item had fallen to around $3 million—nowhere near enough to sustain a national marketing campaign.

The NTRA continues to do what it can with a significantly smaller budget. This year the organization streamed 14 stakes races featuring Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and key Breeders’ Cup prep races on its website. These webcasts attracted around 1,000 to 7,000 views. But again, it is not enough to raise racing’s stature nationally.

Would a national campaign to promote racing be successful? Is there enough of a core to build on? I think so.

I recently attended a digital publishing conference in Boston. One evening a colleague and I hitched a ride with a half dozen fellow attendees from a conference center to the hotel. When the group learned we represented Blood-Horse Publications, one of them asked, “So, is there a big horse right now? Like a Secretariat?” As a matter of fact there is, I told them. I gave them a five-minute synopsis about the big mare and her accomplishments. I left them with, “She’s looking to tie the all-time North American record for consecutive wins on Oct. 2.” These were not racing people, but they were intrigued by the story and repeated Zenyatta’s name aloud to themselves a couple of times before we departed in an attempt to remember her.

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When Zenyatta traveled to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., Shirreffs said about 150 people every day came by the barn to see her. For her California races, people have flown from Maine, Missouri, North Carolina and Michigan, to see her run in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) and Lady’s Secret Stakes (gr. I). Even Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens is a fan.

The interest is there. We have Zenyatta—one of the brightest stars we’ll ever see. It’s a shame the industry didn’t do more to share her with the rest of the world.


Leave a Comment:


Agree wholeheartedly.

Racing insiders need to understand that all the little nitpicky things they may harp on about Zenyatta (synthetic tracks, not enough travel, easy competition, slow speed figures) is of no concern or interest to a potential new horse racing fan. They don't know or care about that kind of thing. All they need to know is that she's undefeated, record-breaking, beautiful, and she dances.

I adore Zenyatta and whenever I have the opportunity to tell people about her, I do. All of my non-horse racing fan friends know who she is and what she has done. I tell them about traveling to California just to see her run over the summer, share pictures and videos, let them know every time she wins another race.

Many have gotten excited and are now looking forward to watching the Breeder's Cup, just to see her try to make history.

She is special and I put her right up there with Secretariat in the way that she makes me feel when I watch her. Only I wasn't alive for Secretariat, and I am alive to see and experience Zenyatta.

19 Oct 2010 2:01 PM

Everyone needs to get on board with seeing Zenyatta make history in the Breeder's Cup.  There are still a lot of people out there who don't know who she is or what she has accomplished.  Before it is too late let's show the support and love to everyone on her "Team" and Zenyatta herself.  It will be another tough run for her but we who are fans will be right there with her every step of the way.  How about a cover on a national magazine to let people know what they should stay tuned to watch on November 6th.  It may never happen again.

19 Oct 2010 2:29 PM
the maui cowgirl

Thank you for this article, which is very accurate. My husband worked side by side with John S. for appx 15 yrs., and besides being the best horseman on the planet, he is very astute.  Despite all the fan support and fanfair for Zenyatta at this late date in the game, she has been belittled and maligned for her racing accomplishments b/c the majority of her wins were on synthetic and now hallowed dirt. Too little too late folks, so your industry is going to continue to wither and die away and you deserve it for your pious shortsightedness.

19 Oct 2010 2:33 PM
Cal Racing Fan

I was at Santa Anita last year for Zenyatta's win in the Classic.  Directly in front of me was a couple with their young son (6 maybe) who had never been to the races before but had come to see Zenyatta specifically.  They had a wonderful time, made great family memories and my guess is they will come back.  How many people did they tell about their great experience?  Probably quite a few.  We need a lot more of that.  Zenyatta, Goldikova, Rachel, Curlin, we should be talking about and promoting all of these horses.  They are all special and worth sharing with the world.  Every fan, every racing industry official, all of us should make it their business to introduce new people to the sport every year.  Maybe we need a "tell a friend" or "bring a friend" campaign.  Let's all do something to help the sport we love and stop fighting. We need heroes and stars - right now Zenyatta is the biggest one.  Let's show everyone how amazing the sport can be.

19 Oct 2010 2:33 PM

This has been a thorn in the side of her fans. Anyone that has seen this amazing racehorse, has to wonder whats going on here. She has personality, she's a big ham and she breathes fire like a dragon at race time. She's unbeaten, won the classic and as you said has scores of fans and yet that's not enough for some. Your own people at blood horse are no different from anyone else in that some put her down for where she's raced and who she's faced. Such a double standard is disgusting. She's ducked no one and if her owners have handled her in what they deem as best for her, instead of praising them for their care, they are blasted for not taking more chances with her. Like they would be in the connections camp if something happened to her.

The racing industry has blown it and her devoted folowing are totally miffed. It's about the "handling" of what many of us deem as "The Horse of the Century". Have never seen anything like her and know for certain we never will again during our lifetime. Yes, thre are other horses out there and some have accomplished alot but there's only one Zenyatta.

19 Oct 2010 2:41 PM

Your article is precisely about issues I focused on earlier this year regarding racing's future.  The people within the industry also think this is just about gambling.  This is about winning, athleticism and the beauty of horses.  Show me a another sport where more people are interested in the excitement about competition than they are about wagering.  I wonder what the average person had as disposable income when Seabiscuit was running as an example.  Yet, he gave many in the country a winning hope to gravitate around.  We should be greatful for the Rachel Alexandras and Zenyattas - 2 fillies who have shattered the glass ceiling in the perception of male dominance in a sport.

Yet I see oddsmakers, bookmakers, nay-sayers, disparagers.  You can't celebrate greatness if that is what your Public Relations to revive racing relies on.

Another great story - 2 in fact. Both on the West Coast, Hollywood Park had not seen that attendance for Zenyatta's last race in 10 years, and the Grand Dame set up against the mountains - Santa Anita - is turning back into a dirt track.  Where's the hype, where are the track owners, horse owners - the NTRA?  This is general sporting news, not to be hidden on the back page of the sporting section if at all.

History needs to be told with all the glory, fame and competitiveness it has embraced from the importance of horse racing throughout the United States history.  Then we'll see people interested not just in the Sport of Kings, but in the glory and majesty of the horse.

19 Oct 2010 2:55 PM

Let me tell you about the impact Zenyatta has made on my life.  This may sound corny, but it happens everyday.  My 2 year old son absolutely goes crazy everytime he sees Zenyatta whether it be in a commercial or in a race.  He absolutely loves this mare.  He jumps up and down and yells her name when she is racing to the point that I sometimes had to tell him to calm down a little bit.  But then I thought, why should I temper his excitement with horse racing.  I now tell him to yell louder.  I even recorded her 19th win on TVG and we play it over and over.  I have to let it play to the point where they show Zenyatta being walked back to her barn so I can tell my son that she is going to get a bath and then to sleep, so I can put something else on the T.V.  I can show him pictures of 50 other horses and ask "Is this Zenyatta?".  He answers no each time.  Then I finally do show him Zenyatta and a big smile comes across his face as he tells me "Yes Daddy.....thats Yatta".  HE names EVERY horse he sees "Yatta".  I have already told him that I will do everything I can to take him to see her next year when she is retired and infoal and living on the farm somewhere here in Kentucky.  The point of the story is this:  IF only our industry jumped up and down and cheered everytime we see our champions and non champions alike, imagine how much better our industry would be.  I thank my son for reminding me why I got into this business in the first place.  For that I will always hold Zenyatta is a special place in my heart for already making a little boy smile and love horse racing.  Who could ask for more?

19 Oct 2010 2:56 PM


I even called and emailed our local TV stations and newspaper. Its not football so no one wants to do it. I find that totally disgusting. I show a TB stallion in Dressage Sporthorse Breeding and try to promote TB's in other areas, and Zenyatta is a gift that hs been squandered that cuold have relly put a plug in for wanting TB's. Shame on "they" the media. There is more out there than football and basketball.

19 Oct 2010 2:57 PM

I totally agree with this article.  The industry should have done more PR work for the mighty mare!  She IS a STAR and shines awwww so brightly and that star will shine even brighter and bigger come Nov 6th! After that, that STAR will no longer be gracing the track!  Missed opportunity, Yes!  I'm still hoping that Oprah does the show!  Give Zenny her accolades that she has earned and deserves!

19 Oct 2010 3:04 PM
Mademoiselle Mondatta

As much as they "missed the opportunity" to promote better through the year, there are many of us who feel that Rachel Alaxnxdra's retirement was tragically done. Not because she is retiring but because she was ripped away from her adoring fans like a shadow in the night. Many Breeder's Cup attendees, including myself booked our trip to see the greatest two horses to race in recent years and were left saddened and confused by the loss of not being able to see Rachel there. Wonder why they couldn't give her a fan fare sending off filled with rousing applause int eh stretch of Churchill Downs (the site of her coolest victory, and her hoe track) on Breeder's CUp weekend. Let the fans enjoy her, perhaps invite 150 per day to her barn over the weekend of the 4-5 days surrounging the Breeder's Cup to see her, feed her carrots, pet her, take pictures with her and her crew. It is truly sad that she will not be there and as a big Zenyatta fan many of us are also Rachel LAexandra fans and feel that this superstar filly deserves just as much of a rousing send off and Zenyatta does (and will get and DID get last year where her initial retirement was announced). Imagine how many Rachel fans would tell their friend abotu meeting her, going to see her and say farewell, and just how many of those fans would invite a non-fan to come with and that non-fan would be enthralled to meet her and become a fan. I wish desperately Mr. Jackson would serious consider this request as some of Rachel's most devotred fans will definitely be at Churchill and many of them will also be cheering for Rachel's counterpart, Zenyatta. Fans are fans are fans and true fans love them all but passionate fans would travel from anywhere to see th ehorses they love and while alot of us wll be traveling to Louisville to the Breeder's Cup to see all the horses, it would have been blissful to have the opportunity to bid adieu to two of the most super horses to grace us with their presence in recent years., Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Both thiese magnificent horses will be en route to motherhood this time next year and surely both of them will be on our minds in th eyar ahead as we all reflect and miss the bright stars that both of them are and how we miss what they have given the sport of horse racing.


We were blessed to have them both as such a major tour de force for as long as they were. Together they really put the fun into racing and following true brilliance.  

19 Oct 2010 3:15 PM

Eric,  I totally agree.

And for "those" people looking for, waiting for, hoping for a STAR to emerge, all I can say is what a loss.  Shirreffs got it right. "Here she is and they seem to be looking for something better."  Are you kiddin' me? Celebrate this Thoroughbred!

The industry would be well served to change marketing strategy and promote its stars. There are a few talented people out there who would jump at that job.  The broadcast media has done a great dis-service to the masses in not telling this story every time she runs.

I saw Secretariat and feel blessed every day of my life to have been able to see the best of my sport.  My wife and children have now seen Zenyatta, and they will tell you that they too feel blessed to be at the right place in time to see an animal that is truly something special.

ESPN/ABC have invested deeply in showing the Breeders Cup.  As you noted, they will now plaster Zenyatta's face all over town and their channels.  Good for her; she deserves it.  Good for the sport; it deserves it.  BUT...they should have shown support for this mare along time ago.  They will now, because it serves their promotional needs.

They make me want to PUKE!

As you wrote, "Zenyatta is one of the brightest stars we’ll ever see. It’s a shame the industry didn’t do more to share her with the rest of the world."


19 Oct 2010 3:24 PM

You don't have to go any further than this website to find articles designed to downplay Zenyatta's accomplishments and to denigrate her connections.

I realize that everybody is entitled to his/her opinion  but I find it baffling that a publication, whose existence depends on the survival of the sport, would consecrate so much time and space to ridicule a great mare's career, the care she was given by her connections and the utter joy she brings to her adoring fans.

Although The Blood-Horse is not the only culprit in this manic self-destruction it is, according to it's own description, "dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing" and should promote and celebrate it's greatest star... not belittle her.

19 Oct 2010 3:30 PM

Yes, I have been wondering for a LONG time why the mainstream media has not picked up on her more! She is a huge star the likes of which has not been seen since the Seventies, and I never thought I would see a Secretariat-like phenomenon again in my lifetime.

I feel very privileged be able to experience the wondrous Zenyatta in the age of the Internet. I may not be able to see her in the flesh, but I can watch her on TV and YouTube, and read about her life  as it unfolds in a way I never could do with my first hero, Big Red.

As for Rachel Alexandra, her 2009 season was one of the greatest of all time, for any horse male or female, and still the media forgot about her for the most part after her Preakness win, since racing coverage is so abysmal on the major networks. Both of these mares are exceptional by any definition , but I guess we racing fans are left to celebrate them all by ourselves. (Meanwhile, known dog torturer and convicted criminal Vick gets front-page press when he returns to the NFL. Go figure.)

19 Oct 2010 3:55 PM

Same here, nonnonheinous.

19 Oct 2010 3:59 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Much to my displeasure, horse racing has become the 'red-headed stepchild' of sports. Except for the Triple Crown races and high profile breakdowns, the local sports papers and stations almost NEVER have any report. Upon returning home from Hollywood Park after Zenyattas 19th consecutive and record tying win, I was thrilled to see the event reported for about a minute on CBS's sports news. ESPN only had the streaming news feed below their extensive football, basketball, baseball, golf and NASCAR video reports. How sad to have such an event reduced to only a streaming news feed at the bottom 1/8 of the screen.

The horse racing industry needs to freshen up their ad campaigns. Churchill Downs, Del Mar and some other tracks have created a party atmosphere by adding concerts after the races. This is a step in the right direction. The younger generation is on the lookout for new thrills and excitement. Tracks could generate interest in so many economical ways. By including race fans, both entrenched and newbies, to something as simple as being in a drawing to be in the winners circle, for even a low level claiming horse, and getting the souvenir win picture.

I think back to the 1970's and 1980's and some of the print ads for big races. Frequently Pierre 'PEB' Bellocq would do characterizations of the horses and jockeys. Sometimes his work was printed on a shirt or poster as a giveaway. These are the types of things that will also sell well in the gift shop. How about having a local artist competition at the racetrack? There is so much marketing potential that I don't think has been tapped yet.

19 Oct 2010 4:13 PM

Zenyatta is a gift to the industry, a gift to the fans. She dances, runs with a deep heart and her accomplishments beg the whole world to notice.

Ditto Rachel Alexandra, who is now lost to the industry and lost to the fans.  Let's not lose this opportunity!  WHERE are the writers pushing her story....not just in publications devoted to racing and equines in general.....but in ALL types of  media.....just as Secretariat enjoyed?  Sad... so very sad.  She will be here and gone.    

19 Oct 2010 4:19 PM
patti d.

I am amazed that we have this great race mare making history and not more has been made of her accomplishments.  And I think the so-called "sports media and horse racing specialists" are largely to blame for what has gone on during her fabulous career.  

Penny Chenery said it best after the Lady's Secret when she said to the Mosses "I had the boy and you have the girl".  At least she recognizes greatness when she sees it.

And when Zenyatta blows by all the boys in the Classic this year, maybe she will finally get her due.  We won't see one like her for a very long time, if ever.

19 Oct 2010 4:23 PM

Wonderful article. We ask the Racing Gods for a horse like this, then fumble the opportunity to advance our sport. The country would love to love this horse. Everyone went nuts over Smarty Jones and given the chance would go nuts over the Queen.

19 Oct 2010 4:27 PM
Larry Ensor

Anybody remember the revelry between the fillies Lite Lite and Meadow Star of the early 90's?  Another East verses West. But there was far more to run with then just the horses.  Lite Lite was owned by the most famous rapper of the day MC Hammer, Meadow Star by a wall street tycoon, Carl Icahn.  Two outstanding horses and two completely different owners.  Talk about missed opportunity to build up the sport and attract new fans. Taking nothing away from Zen and Rachel, better horses IMO nice owners but boring, no disrespect, as far as a story line goes.  The legendary Mother Goose Stakes between the two could  not have been written better by Hollywood.  The reported half million dollar bet between owners. The flamboyant Hammer in full hip hop regalia in the Turf Club box section of Belmont.  I though some of the old guard were going to have heart attacks when he took off his shirt! Heck, I wasn't allowed take off my jacket until Mr. Vanderbilt did and he held out a long time on the hottest days. This was pointed out to the trades and the Breeders' Cup to no avail. For years myself and others have asked time and again why the industry has not/does not hire a PR firm. I am not talking about some arm of one of the alphabet organizations.   Not only for promotion but for damage control also.  The way the industry handled the tragedy of Eight Bells was a huge blonder something we may never get over and surely contributed to loss of fans. And the sport being dismissed by the press, advertisers, sponsors and future fans. If there is a reason then lets hear it.   It seems we learned nothing from Lite Lite and Meadow Star some twenty years latter.

19 Oct 2010 4:39 PM

Unfortunately when it comes to mainstream media, it's a question of return on investment.

Zenyatta is the exception, not the rule and the disgraceful way Rachel Alexandra was retired is a perfect example of the hesitation you see today.  

Why should any media or for that matter any fan get invested with these horses?  Again, Zenyatta is the exception but how often have we discussed how the top 3 year old colts immediately get whisked away to the breeding shed if they so much as get a wart on their nose?  

Horse of the year Azari, an amazing mare who captured a lot of attention with her runs and her wins was sold at auction and shipped off to another country where we'll be lucky to hear a whisper about her foals or her career as a broodmare.  What sense was there in being her fan?

Rachel Alexandra, retired with little more that rhetoric lip service and then whisked away practically as an afterthought, with no final bow to the fans she brought to the game.  How can you ask a casual or new fan to the sport to stick around when between one day to the next the very horse they invested so much in is just ... gone.

Sports teams are a safe bet.  Players may be injured, may be traded between one day to the next but the team will still be there for the fans.  Race horses just aren't in that league.  Due either to injury or owner arrogance, here today and gone later today.

Out of all the top horses out there, all the big name owners, I can only think of two sets of connections who I would deem 'fan friendly'.  The Moss's with Zenyatta and Roy and Gretchen Jackson with the access they've given to Barbaro's dam and full siblings.

Two small access points to a controversial sport are not going to support any level of mainstream investment in the sport.  It's just not going to happen no matter what these horses accomplish.

19 Oct 2010 4:54 PM

Absolutely! The "establishment" has been too busy knocking her, when they shoulda' been on the band wagon. Well, better late than never, I guess, but what a missed opportunity - for them. Some of us have enjoyed the ride!!!

Thank you, Jerry, and Ann Moss, the Sheriffs, and Zenyatta!

19 Oct 2010 4:55 PM

Excellent article.  The media has failed to promote Zenyatta miserably.  Instead of promoting her accomplishments and star power they would rather nit pick at what they think she should have accomplished.  Perfect example, your own Jason Shandler.

19 Oct 2010 4:56 PM

Excellent article, but it is another sad reminder of the lack of exposure racing has fallen into.  I feel fortunate that I live in an area that still has a racing reporter, but the author most often disparages Zenyatta for all of the above reasons - career spent mostly in CA, synthetic tracks, etc. instead of writing a few positive words about her achievements.  Also, I'm in complete agreement with Zookeeper in mentioning that there are those here on this site who tend to always negate Zenyatta's record.  I may read that blog occasionaly, but after it gets going and all the negatives growing, I won't go there any more.  The Breeders Cup organization has finally taken advantage of Zenyatta's celebrity and created a web-site for her, but it's a little late in the game in my opinion.

19 Oct 2010 5:18 PM

Just now is she really breaking into the mainstream...with one race left in her career. Too bad racing's marketers were as slow to get going as she is in her races.

19 Oct 2010 6:00 PM

The racing industry promotes itself about as well as Roseanne Barr sings the national anthem. The young fans which must be won over to secure a future for the sport would rather spend $50+ million to see Jackass 3D than Zenyatta (who most have never heard of)...how depressing is that?

19 Oct 2010 6:02 PM

Market her into what? There has been very little horse racing on mainstream television all year.

19 Oct 2010 6:04 PM

The "industry" either doesn't know a good thing when it comes their way or they are bogged down in politics and can't see the forest for the trees.  Get a grip, follow the fans and they will lead you to the excitement of racing.  Get rid of the bureaucratic red tape and find the joy of seeing a great horse thunder down the final stretch 19 times in a row!

19 Oct 2010 6:20 PM

Marketing and promotion of the sport and its stars is empty and void of substance without good ON-THE-TRACK rivalry.  Promotion of the sport does better when they i.e. the star performers, are actually facing each other in competitive races, not protecting winning streaks by dodging tough races and choosing soft spots.  There's no doubt that one or two races with Zenyatta pitted against Rachel Alexandra would have worked wonders for the popularity of the game and killed off all the bitter fighting on the blogs because the rivalry would be settled on the track.  

Alydar & Affirmed, Sunday Silence & Easy Goer, Dr Fager & Damascus lost no marks in defeat suffered at the hands of their respective arc rival.  John Shirrefs et al should contemplate such facts.  The opportunities lost this past year has to be laid squarely at the feet of the connections of both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.  The stand-off between them was ridiculous.

Much of the hype surrounding Zenyatta is pityful IMO because this mare would've needed neither hype and contention nor crusading to tout her greatness had she been raced more competitively and outside her comfort zone (against colts and/or on dirt even twice per season).

I enjoyed this mare but with a mixture of disappointment.

19 Oct 2010 6:41 PM


Excellent point about owners. Most of them still behave like they are doing us (the fans) a favor by running their horses. The exceptions you mentioned have definitely pointed the way to a much better approach.

Websites dedicated to their stars is a great way to generate enthusiasm for the sport. But people who don't follow horse-racing have no idea they even exist.

Larry Ensor,

A good PR firm is the best idea by far. Beautiful commercials about horses running their hearts out would be just as effective for horse-racing as the Clysdales have been for beer.

The horses come and go but the jockeys are around for a long time. So, that is another angle that could be exploited. They are fantastic athletes also and are so unknown to the genral public.

It's expensive, but the money is there... it's just not spent effectively.


19 Oct 2010 6:42 PM
Dean Miller

Speaking only for me, I am more excited to watch Zenyatta on November 6, than any other race I've ever waited for.  Nevermind her records, just the presence of the mare on tv gives me goosebumps.  Since my exercise riding accident, some years ago, I've ended up in a state where I'm the only one who knows who Zenyatta is.   Because society is putting football and baseball ahead of racing, teachers and becoming a mature, adult country.

    Personally, I would sell my left kidney to take a picture at the Breeders Cup this year.  Alas, that is all I have, and there are no buyers.

So, here's to Barbara Livingston and Mathea Kelley.   May their cameras and their incredibly artistic talent capture these moments for the rest of the world to share.

19 Oct 2010 6:44 PM

Thanks Eric for a great article. I agree that the industry really has missed a wonderful opportunity not only on a national level but here in Southern CA. Shortly after Zenyatta's historic Breeders Cup Classic win. I sent an email to the editor of Califorina Thoroughbred Breeders Assocation. Asking why Zenyatta had not appeared on the front cover or had an artcile written up on the equine heroine. A limited budget was the excuse. My guess is she's a Kentucky bred. Regardless of the excuse. Had CA promoted Zenyatta on a large scale. I believe she would have a higher public awareness. Needless to say I no longer advertise or buy the CTBA publication. I'm sorry to say it's no longer managed by people who have a passion for horse racing. Not promotting Zenyatta proved my point.  

19 Oct 2010 6:50 PM

When network TV coverage doesn't cover the possible winner of 19 out of 19 races, something is DRASTICALLY wrong with the picture. Friends on my Facebook page in smaller television areas across the country said they couldn't get ESPN/TVG's coverage of the Lady's Secret Stakes run on TV, so either had to resort to trying to find it online, or wait for a YouTube posting. I'm old enough to remember a day when such a race would take precedence on at least ONE major network channel, but today it is football, baseball or basketball, instead. Additionally, although Zenyatta got a fairly decent number of inches in the local SoCal papers, I didn't feel it was anywhere near enough to explain to someone with little background why the Lady's Secret race was so important. Granted, Zenyatte drew an additional 20,000 fans (hummm, and she's done nothing very special for the sport, as some say???? Hah!) to Hollypark for that race, but there could have been more people with better press coverage, so in that I am in agreement with Eric. I don't know what it would take to change it, but certainly getting network coverage, advertising as Eric said, and more column inches once again would help.

19 Oct 2010 7:29 PM

Its up to the fans now!! 19 days to advertise a mare undefeated in 19 straight races. Post to your facebook, your twitter, talk to your co-workers, neighbours, aquantices, strangers in the grocery store... Lets get people *interested* about Nov 6th. Lets get people EXCITED about horseracing! Let get people to FALL in LOVE with ZENYATTA!!!! This is something special.

19 Oct 2010 8:50 PM

I have no idea who John Shirreff's "they" might be. We always say things like "racing should do this or that" but there is no "racing" to do anything. But there needs to be.

I think Shirreffs should be careful musing about lost opportunities with Zenyatta, since he and Moss are responsible for most of them. How different it might have been had they shipped to the Northeast and exposed her ability and charisma to that huge and influential media market.

It will be interesting to see if Zenyatta can make a positive impact on the TV ratings for the Breeders' Cup. If they decline much further we'll be watching the BC on TVG before too long.

19 Oct 2010 9:21 PM

I think the problem also lies in access to the stars. John Sherriffs is generous with people wanting to see Zenyatta and I know it is tiring for the horse. But the owners and trainers can regulate this. It is bad when horses like the great Curlin or AP Indy are in places like Lanes End where there are no tours to see the great champions. How to form a bond or following with a horse you can't see?

19 Oct 2010 9:23 PM
John T

Yes it really is a lost opportunity for horse racing not to have promoted Zenyatta better.

Here we have a mare going into her

last race 19 for 19 at the highest level.I can remember being at Woodbine in 1973 for Secretariat,s

last race and the atmosphere was electric.Despite the fact that Zenyatta is unbeaten there are still too many doubters for all the wrong reasons with the end result being the promotion level that should have been there never reached it,s heights.

19 Oct 2010 9:52 PM
Kevin A Burke

Mr. Mitchell,

We can blame the "Mainstream Media" all we want, the blame lays within ourselves. The old saying holds true, "United we stand, divided we fall".

Guided and pushed by thoroughbred writers and bloggers, many fans felt they must choose, and choose they did.  

As for those writers who did their best to split the fan base for "Z" and "RA"; how much did they really believe in what they wrote, and how much of what they wrote was to justify, support, and prove their vote of "Horse of the Year" was valid.

As for those who blog, how much of what they wrote was only to stir controversy? They there by ensured many responces to their columns, giving a false sound of validity to the existence of their on line words.

You have written a excellent article sir, but any blame for there being a lack of interest by main stream media must begin with those at the bottom of the rung, the fans and the writers. It is we who create, who begin any waves of enthusiasm, and it is we who failed to do so to the extent that was needed for both "Z" and "RA" to gain the full mainstream treatment they both deserved.

Fans and those fans who are writers complain about breeders, owners, trainers, jockeys, tracks, but in this instant, for this time, we can only find fault within our own actions and reactions.

19 Oct 2010 10:42 PM

YES! And love the story of the 2 year old boy jumping up and down for his "Yatta" I think most of us got into racing this way, a special horse for a child, a teen, a young adult, a mid-lifer. I think that whatever powers or money we have, we need to publicize Zenyatta's run and the opportunity to see her in the Breeders Cup. If racing won't do it-or there is no "racing" establishment, then some of the wealthy entrepenuers who love the sport as well as the rest of us contributing small amounts on the internet as we do for political campaigns should get this properly widely broadcast and advertised. Keeping her run in the inner recesses of the industry is a travesty. (The rivalry is not bad, it enlivens things actually. As "Carry Back" I still argue the merits of him over Kelso and Damascus over Dr. Fager.) The race that way goes on!-- but what if a superlative horse races "in the forest and nobody hears" or sees?

19 Oct 2010 10:47 PM

Follow the fans?  When 95% of them have spent the last 2 years bashing either Zenyatta or Rachel? It's probably a good thing the mainstream media hasn't realized how much sniping and all out mean spiritedness there's been.  We'd come off looking pretty bad.

19 Oct 2010 10:53 PM

When I first got into racing I saw alot of races on regular cable TV. Over the years there was less and less coverage. I finally went and got satellite so I could choose to watch as much racing as I wanted. This year was the 1st year the Arlington million day was not on ESPN or ABC. I don't know what the answer is to bring racing back, but it's basically too late to use the biggest star we've had for years. Her last race will be promoted, but most of the world has no idea who this great horse is. It will be a very long time for another one to come along. I think what happened to Barbaro and Eight Belles during the triple crown races did alot to turn people off of racing. That is a very sad side to our great sport but there are also truly amazing things that happen that are very inspirational. A triple crown winner would do wonders for our sport, but the way the horses get into the gate at the Derby needs to be rehauled so the best 3 year olds get into the gate and an equal opportunity to see the best horse win the race by lowering the field size. This is a different subject altogether. Anyway, I hope as many people as possible get to see the magic which is Zenyatta one last time. There will be a huge hole in my racing world when she is gone, but she will always be remenbered by her dearest fans. We will look forward to her babies and knowing Zen they will be champions too. I know that's not the norm but Zen doesn't know how to do anything that isn't done well! There is a light at the end of my missing Zen tunnel though- her name is Harmonious. LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!!!

19 Oct 2010 11:02 PM
christy tate

can we get a "AMEN"!i so agree with you Mr. Mitchell. the Toba, and the racing press, and theNtra,really need to try harder in promoting horse racing. John Sheriffs was right in what he said about celebrating both Rachel and Zenyatta. i also think that if the out side world knew more about the good work of the Thoroughbred retirement fund, Old Friends,etc. and if they saw that there are owners and trainers who weren't in racing for the money, who actually cared about the horses, then maybe they'd be fans. but racing has to clean up its image and refute the sterotypes before it can be big.

19 Oct 2010 11:29 PM


20 Oct 2010 12:13 AM

If she wins the breeders cup and people still don't believe she is the best horse in the world and still don't believe she is greatness than I would be inclined to believe that people are complete idiots. I don't see how people can't appreciate her. She's accomplished so much and for people to say she isn't that good is just absurd. People don't understand how good she really is. She's never even tried that hard? Imagine if she was cranked up every single time.

I just don't get it.....

20 Oct 2010 12:16 AM
Fuzzy Corgi

John T, have you actually been to one of Zenyatta's races? I have been at Del Mar for all three of Zenyatta's Clement Hirsch wins. In 2008 there was certainly a buzz about her undefeated record but I was able to get to the fence at the paddock and got some great pictures of Zenyatta from 4 feet away. Even my friend who has no equine experience commented that Zenyatta looked and acted different than the other entrants. The crowd erupted when Zenyatta won. Zenyatta glowed with the cheers.

The next year, 2009, the crowd at Del Mar was even larger and people were 20 deep surrounding the paddock. People were traveling from numerous states to see the great mare run. Zenyatta did not disappoint. The crowd went wild just to see her. We exploded when she won. Zenyatta absorbed all of the accolades. The crowd loved it as much as Zenyatta did.

The 2010 Clement Hirsch was massive! There were people from New Jersey, Florida, Idaho, Washington, Maine, Ohio, and a group of nuns from Nor Cal in our section. The place was packed. The place was alive. And then She appeared. The cheering didn't stop until the race was over and Zenyatta was out of sight. It was another amazing Zenyatta experience.

I have seen Zenyatta everytime she has made a public appearance in CA for the past two years. It only gets better. The crowds get bigger and Zenyatta never lets us down. She's given us some heart stopping moments but she always gets to the wire first... with her ears pricked!

The mare has style. The mare has class. The mare is truly one of a kind.

20 Oct 2010 12:45 AM

Somethingroyal -

"California Thoroughbred" is sent to all California Thoroughbred Breeders Association members and other subscribers. It's an association magazine, so its main focus is in line with that association - CALIFORNIA THOROUGHBRED BREEDING. That's what's put in the pages first, and what space remains is for other news. "The Florida Horse", "Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred","Trainer Magazine", and every other horse racing and non-horse racing niche magazine is the same way. I suppose you don't subscribe to any of those either.

Zenyatta WAS on the cover after her Breeders' Cup Classic win, along with the Cal-bred Breeders' Cup winners. It's a monthly magazine, so sorry it wasn't able to come out the next day for you. But I guess you would've known that if you knew what the magazine was about and hadn't cancelled your subscription.

20 Oct 2010 12:50 AM

THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR ARTICLE!!!  It's like a breath of fresh air to read your positive words.  I believe Zenyatta's connections have made a whole-hearted and concerted effort to promote the up-side of thoroughbred racing.  From the youtube videos to the welcomed guests who visit Zenyatta Shirreffs's team has turned the experience into one of the most joyful and captivating off-track rides around.  And on top of that they are doing it with a willing participant who also happens to be an incredible athlete.  God Bless them all!  I am eternally grateful!

20 Oct 2010 1:43 AM
Greg R

As long as the race horse is beaten with the whip to perform we are never going to redeem the sport. we are history....  

20 Oct 2010 1:44 AM
Rachel O

Mr. Mitchell,

Thank you for your thoughtful, sane, and positive article.

Racing is ill-served by many  sportswriters--even from this website--who shoot the business of racing in the foot by disparaging owners, trainers, and horses instead of seeing and appreciating the greatness in front of them. Horses are my heroes and don't get into petty bickering over nonsense.

I am very tired of the poor attitudes and controversy I've seen on some of the blogs in the last few weeks. Even some of us fans have been denigrated by the sportswriters, too, because of our enthusiasm! That is no way to promote the sport.

Your words bring a sigh of welcome relief and are a great breath of fresh air. Thank you again!

20 Oct 2010 1:52 AM

Eric, THANK YOU for this article---THANK YOU......to have this sport miss out on all but 95% of her career is definitely a lost opportunity---she is the most magical horse to come along in forever...Magical---how many are MAGICAL????? It has so much more to do with the whole being that is her than JUST athletic talent....the great ones all have something that is above athletic talent ---whether no one did heart and dogged determined ability better than John Henry...or no one did more to put the sport on the map EVER than MAn O'War- despite his nervousness about humans he flew almost before there were planes.....Kelso--no one did workmanlike class and brilliance and under appreciated by history than Kelso...the list goes on--every great one brings something above just athletic talent-SHE is magical.....all you ever had to do to know that is see her once and if lucky enough see her in person and see all the girls dressed in their outfits made to look like the Moss's silks or the families-her last race at Hollywood there was a family of obviously modest means sitting behind me--I talked to them--3 generations of them---grandfather and mom/dad and 3 children. I asked why they were there and the grandfather said proudly "I wanted him to come and see Zenyatta so he did in June" the son nodded and said to me "I wanted my children to see this GREAT horse in person. We love her"..........we need more of that.......and Zenyatta never has let any of us down...she is an amazing presence .....THANK YOU for such a thoughtful and refeshing article.  

20 Oct 2010 2:01 AM

They have no one to blame but themselves.  She should have raced outside of California, or at least in open company.

20 Oct 2010 5:20 AM

NTRA really blew it this year and last. If I could get several of my friends, some from out of the country, all who've never been interested in horse racing before, to get excited about Zenyatta's races so could the marketing/advertising people and on a larger scale. We had a gorgeous free-wheeling monster in Rachel Alexandra. We have, quite literally, the total package in the otherworldly Zenyatta. And what the hell did we do? We belittled each other, criticized again and again one horse or the other, emphasized all the wrong angles, and screwed our chance to garner an enormous new fanbase.

It's pretty pathetic.

20 Oct 2010 5:53 AM
Dawn in MN

Good article.

1.  PR, YES YES YES...get the networks and print media to cover and report on horseracing...don't know how to do that, but it needs to happen...how about more advertisements during baseball, football, etc?

2.  clean up racing's image...like christy tate said...what is racing doing for the horse?

3.  track promotions to bring new fans

4.  breed for soundness...track records are limited to fractions of seconds...it is not worth breeding or racing fragile horses

20 Oct 2010 6:26 AM
Mike C.

Horses like Funny Cide, Smarty Jones and Mine That Bird got significant national attention, so it's natural to feel that a horse like that Zenyatta deserves as much or more.  America doesn't quite see it the same way, though.  The general public embraces the Derby winner more readily than other, perhaps more accomplished horses.  Life is unfair like that sometimes.  Did the "They" Shirreffs refers to do a good job in 2003, 2004 and 2009, but a bad job in 2010?  "They" knew how to properly "celebrate" Funny Cide, Smarty Jones and Mine That Bird, but not Zenyatta?  Even if Zenyatta had been campaigned aggressively across the country, or raced against Rachel at some point, I'm not sure things would be much different right now.  Races like the Clement Hirsch, the Vanity and, for that matter, the Breeders' Cup are still several levels removed from the Derby in the hearts and minds of the casual sports fan.

20 Oct 2010 7:45 AM

I must also tell my story, how the majestic Zenyatta, and the dynamic Rachel have done for me. I lost my husband, suddenly, at age 55 to sudden cardiac arrest. He died in my arms. We had been married 33 yrs. This was in 2008. You can imagine my life since. However, these two amazing horses have given me such joy that they have actually allowed me to feel the beauty and magic of life once again.

I, too, play their races over and over again. It gives me such a rush of "life" again, such good feelings again, that I can't thank them enough. I hope someday, to travel to meet them, and thank them in person.

I also want to thank the connections, who, without them, we would not have these glorious horses.

20 Oct 2010 7:47 AM

I have worked in the thoroughbred industry for years and my husband works for one of the leading horse farms in Lexington. I do feel that the industry needs to do more to promote the sport. However, I also feel that Sheriffs and the Mosses dropped the ball. When Zenyatta was brought out of retirement, Sheriffs said that he was going to run a completely different campaign so that more of her fans can see her. That was a complete lie. They had the perfect opportunity to be ambassadors of this sport. They have this incredibly, amazing mare and yet, they chose to keep her in CA. Jess Jackson is often criticized by the campaign that RA ran last year. However, that campaign did more to promote racing than Zenyatta's streak. This industry needs to find ways of attracting new fans. When you have a superstar, like Zenyatta, you need to share her with the world. I give a lot of credit to Bill Mott and Allen Paulson, they took their superstar, Cigar, and win or lose, took on the best horses in the world. I think it is not just up to the industry to promote horse racing, it is also the responsibility of the trainers and the owners.

20 Oct 2010 8:43 AM
Fran Loszynski

I agree, there were missed opportunites but boy we had great events also. Perhaps these events could have been elaborated on more. We concentrated on Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta and they deserved it,"BUT" I take the event of Afleet Alex's son and Smarty Jones son walking side by side down the Kentucky Derby track, side by side in post positions! I'm often found screaming this fact out. Their Dads were watched and cheered and they were from the same area, Philly. The chance of that happening was awesome. Two great champions' sons side by side-C'mon that should have been reported to the hilt! It doesn't get any better than that-their sons together-the fact I used a whole box of kleenex confirms it. And how about Afleet Alex's sons winning the Pegasus first and second-c'mon another great achievement. I feel the events were there, they needed to be given a "WOW" when they happened, like in baseball and football. I know I keep writing about Afleet Alex but to know him is to love him. And if more people learned to love horseracing or a specific racehorse; the better for the sport.

20 Oct 2010 8:50 AM
Karen in Indiana

Zookeeper, you and I are on the same page with that.

20 Oct 2010 9:36 AM

John Shirreffs has only himself to blame... in spite of his promise to share Zenyatta with America, he woosed out and kept her under wraps.

20 Oct 2010 9:37 AM

Boatinggirl - Rachel Alexandra is NOT lost to the industry.  She is retired from racing, not dead.  She is contributing to the industry in the breeding shed, from whence she herself came.

Yes, an opportunity was lost.  There were TWO great mares running but many fans refused to cheer for the other, especially fans new to the sport. Seemingly incapable of holding love for more than one horse at a time.  Sad really.

I'm a big fan of both and have been critical of both horse's connections.  One shouldn't be a blind follower and is allowed to express opinion, after all.

20 Oct 2010 9:51 AM

Stacy, if you believe Zenyatta was ever retired, I've got ocean-front property in Nebraska you'd just love.

She continued to post official works throughout her "retirement", something retired horses just don't do.  Retired horses may go for a gallop, but not timed works.  Why would it matter how fast they work if they're winding down to live a pasture life?

No, Mr. Sherrifs is no innocent in this.  He helped perpetuate the myth of his mare's retirement when she was still in training.  Blaming the media when he used it to further his cause of promoting his mare. It makes a better story of an old veteran leaving retirement to challenge the young star when she never left the field.

20 Oct 2010 9:56 AM

It's time for the horse industry, from owners to jocks to racing secretarys to PR people, etc, to realize that the general public has no idea who Zenyatta or RA are and, worse yet, don't care. It seems as if every year we hear that a new 3 yo super horse has arrived and then nothing happens.

I don't know why the industry is unable to promote itself to the public but they better figure out how to do so before all is lost. Adding casinos at tracke is not the answer either. People go to these tracks and never watch a horse race.

I trained horses in the 1970's for about 15 years and I see nothing today which differs from the way the tracks operated then and now ( except casinos). Slow learners I guess.

I can make one observation which I feel is valid; the public does not like mega stables with trainers "training" hundreds of horses. These guys are barn managers and nothing more. The public see this and doesn't like it.

20 Oct 2010 10:15 AM
Mary P

I think breakdowns are a huge problem.  The public sure knew who Barbaro was.

Why aren't there any talent agents promoting our jockeys and individual horses?  Just a thought.

I am very disappointed about the "retirement" of Rachel.  A little fanfare would of been good for her fans and the racing industry.  The public might of seen the celebration of her greatness and turned an eye to Zenyatta's upcoming date with history.  We have a promising crop of youngsters that we could start getting behind.  Go Zenyatta!  Go Uncle Mo!!  We will always love you Rachel!

20 Oct 2010 10:45 AM
Diane J

Sure, Zen stayed in CA for most of the year, but do you really think any race of hers would have been televised on the major networks? Blind Luck v Devil May Care was a great matchup but I had to watch it on my HRTV subscription. This past weekend, ESPN showed the races at Woodbine, but the Keeneland races last week were more meaningful, IMO, to the upcoming Breeder's Cup. So yes, the Mosses did not campaign her all over the East coast this year, but again even if they did, it would not be a televised sporting event on the major channels.

20 Oct 2010 11:38 AM

The truth can hurt and this article is spot-on.

20 Oct 2010 12:10 PM

Why would the "they" put all that marketing into something that won't even be there next year? I mean, Zen wasn't even supposed to be here...

20 Oct 2010 12:19 PM

Here's a perfect example of what I was talking about in my first comment at the top of the page...

I have a friend who lives on the east coast, opposite of me, and we talk on the phone occasionally. Over the summer I am certain I have mentioned Zenyatta, if only to say why I was out of town from time to time, off to see her in the Vanity or the CLH. About a week ago I told him again about her most recent win, and how she was going to defend her title in the BCC with an undefeated record, etc etc etc. For whatever reason, the way I talked about it finally piqued his interest. He asked me remind him when the BC would be on TV, so he could watch her, and I also sent him a couple YouTube links, one of a montage showing all of her 19 wins, and another of a video I took of her entering the paddock at Del Mar this summer, breathing fire and showing off her fancy footwork.

A few days go by... I hear nothing... then he calls last night and the first word out of his mouth after I say "Hello?" is "ZENYATTA!! Oh my god, why haven't I heard of this horse before?!"

He then proceeded to gush over how amazing she is, how easily she wins, and so on. And then he told me all about what must be wrong with horse racing for a horse like this to be previously unknown to him. "Why aren't they promoting the h@ll out of this horse?!"

This is a guy who knows very little about horse racing, but he likes sports and dogs, used to box, and so knows a champion athlete when he sees one.

What he DIDN'T ask was, "Why wasn't she racing against more male horses?"

He DIDN'T ask, "How good--really--was her competition?"

And he certainly DIDN'T ask, "What's that cr@p she's running on?"

He just wanted to know why she wasn't some kind of national hero yet. I didn't have a very satisfying answer.

My point is that all the reasons we, as serious horse racing fans, may come up with to explain why Zenyatta might not be all that Great with a capitol G, is of absolutely no concern to the newbie fan who does not have the required context or historical knowledge to even know to ASK those questions, or evaluate her like that. And frankly, they don't want to hear it, either, they just want to enjoy that feeling of awe when you see something unique and special like her.

THAT is what needed to be taken advantage of.

20 Oct 2010 12:23 PM


With all due respect. I live in CA, so why would I spend advertising $$ in the Florida News? I've also subscribed and advertise in the Blood-Horse who's had Zenyatta on the front cover several times. I have the December 09 issue and instead of full front cover of Zenyatta. She's in a business card ad space in the far right bottom corner. It's the same size ad space that I've used for my ads. I understand that Zenyatta isn't a CA bred. However, she's done alot for CA and she deserved better. It's about the horse!!

As for understanding what the magazine is all about. I've been a subscriber and advertiser with the publication for 25 years. I know enough to know that the publication isn't the same as it was 25 years ago. Years ago she would have been front and center with a full page write-up.

20 Oct 2010 12:25 PM
Linda in Texas

Zenyatta - has music in her bones. Cannot describe it any other way.

If i were a writer maybe i could phrase it otherwise.

To me she is like a symphony on the track. She is drums, flute, piano,cymbals and violins all in one package and she brings her dancin' shoes to prove how happy she is every time she trots on a track be it poly or otherwise, California or wherever she goes.

I love her and what she has left imprinted on my heart and horse racing. And I feel sorry for the folks who don't experience the same feeling about her. You are missing so much about her magical, mystical presence and talents and most of all your ability to experience it with her and those of us who do.

She is talking to us with her body language. I cannot say it any other way.

Enjoy the moments now, as they are all so fleeting.

As for bringing new people to the sport, i feel that breeding more stamina instead of all speed into the bloodlines will help. Many people are simply afraid of breakdowns. And breakdowns that have happened in advertised, televised and important races have hurt the industry immeasurably.

May they all travel safely.

Amy - i share and understand your feelings. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta and more have helped me through the loss of my son in '09. He was 37 and loved horse racing also.  

20 Oct 2010 12:41 PM

It will be hard to get and keep new fans until the networks that do air the races get out of their "Entertainment Tonight" mentality and focus on the horses and the sport rather than what flash-in-the-pan low-range celebrity is at the races.  Used to be, in the days of Jim McKay with ABC, we learned a lot about the HORSES and the JOCKEYS and the sport of racing.  I really don't want to see the now obligatory shot from the jocks room and interviews about last minute strategy- like, they're going to give it away if they are contemplating something new?  I don't need to listen to a panel giving opinions, I want to see the horses, see the prep, get a little history.  Now, they cater more to the betting public in how the race is presented with heavy, continual emphasis on odds, rather than the public who is watching to see the horses and the race and wouldn't bet if they could.

They do a little human interest but not enough.  There are two great stories right here, from Robert and Whitney, that would make a great back story and lead up to the race.  The 2 year old and his "Yatta" are priceless.

If the racing industry wants to help get the networks interest, they need to begin sending them packages of video, stories, and information on how to access the people who are the backbone of the backstretch. (With permission) You do half the job for them and you might get some interest.

How much video do we see now of the horses and the sport compared to the anchors, opinion givers, celebrities, and the fancy graphics?  The networks have forgotten that the story walks on four hooves, is way more intelligent than a lot of people, and really are the stars of the show. The racing industry needs to get the attention back on the horses and the networks need to remember that most people watching are not that interested in betting on the race.  They are watching to see the living, breathing, incarnation of flight without wings.

20 Oct 2010 12:52 PM

I absolutely agree that an opportunity was missed with those two amazing horses racing at the same time to showcase them in a way to bring in new fans. All you had to do was look around the paddocks before their races and see all the young fans holding signs for them and waiting to catch a glimpse of them to know it would have brought them in in droves. I got hooked on horse racing when I was 9, about the same age as some of the kids I've seen in the paddock for their races, and now I'm 31 so definitely getting hooked at a young age can be a lasting love.

I didn't even get to attend a live race until I was 18 so I imagine even young people who had been able to watch Zenyatta or Rachel on TV could have been hooked for good, just like I was. All it can take is that one special horse or horses and knowing that racing is filled with such thrilling moments almost endlessly - though the players change. I've long thought it crazy that no one in racing was embracing them more and trying to get them on national TV. That's one reason I've lamented not being able to get HRTV or TVG this year like I did up until last year - because I was missing Zenyatta's dances and everything leading up to Rachel's races.

I guess it's true though - there really is no "they" to market them. That's a shame there's really not a unified force with a shared vision of what to do to bring racing back into the forefront. I know we had two horses that were electrifying that could have done that, and actually did, but just in a more limited way than national exposure would have given them. However, I bet they've still served their purpose as best they could. I do believe many of those young fans may already be in it deep because of seeing them, and how lucky they are to have seen them race live.

I too saw both Zenyatta and Rachel race live (Zenyatta at the Ladies' Classic in 2008, and Rachel in last year's Preakness) and they are experiences I will never forget.

Plus if all goes well, I will see Zenyatta once more at the Breeders' Cup this year. That will probably vault to the top of the list of my all-time favorite live races, and she knows what to do so I don't imagine it will turn out any differently than everyone hopes.

20 Oct 2010 1:31 PM

Nononheinous and maui cowgirl.  your posts are right on!  thank you both!   NTRA no longer has the funding to promote and get new interests from non racing people.  ESPN did show her races in between college football games.  But really did no do much to promote a National Treasure and Zenyatta. No one taught her those dressage moves she does before her races.  That is natural that is "her" the Queen.  The media should have capitolized on her and that she dances before a race to psych everyone up!  NO athlete has done that the way she has.  Is it because she cant talk and has 4 legs?  Well, she does talk, when she does her moves!  I hope T. O. promotes her like crazy!  Get the so called football fans to wake up to perfection!  Unfortunately after Nov 6 she is gone.  I will be at the BC!  I cant wait to see both her and Goldikova!  Goldi should be promoted as well!  They are star women and we are lucky they will be there on the same day again!  

20 Oct 2010 1:38 PM

SO agree! What a lost opportunity! Zenyatta is the GREATEST thing to come along in Racing since the 70s. And rather than malign her and her connections and where she races, I wish the people in this sport would take the opportunity to relish her and support her and Thank their lucky stars that they were alive to witness her! I can understand a good ole rivalry, but since she and Rachel never got to race, why can't we just be thrilled we got to see them both do their thing? Rachel with her fantastic 3yo year and Zenyatta with her incredible run the last 3 or so years. Undefeated, only female winner of the BC classic and about to go for her record 20th win and another shot at the Classic.  ON top of all that, you get her larger than life SIZE,incredible beauty, personality, dance routines and an AMAZING will to hit the wire first! Bravo Zenyatta!!!

20 Oct 2010 1:42 PM

The Triple Crown races are why Smarty or Funny Cide got national attention. Zenyatta couldn't race in those. So is the industry only capable of hoping something good happens in TC series instead of catastrophic breakdowns and drug stories. It can't promote good stories along the way? So is the industry saying these shortsighted things?

"Must be 3yr old or we don't promote you or us"

"Must race in the East or we don't promote you or us"

"Must campaign your horse in a way that shortens her career or we don't promote you or us"

"Must be a trainer with long history of drug violations before we vote you trainer of the year even if you do win both        Classics or we don't promote you or us"  

“Must have a horse bought for millions and millions of dollars or we don’t promote you or us”

      Maybe industry and fans need to take a long look at how California horses like Zenyatta or Lucky or Blind Luck or Harmonious or Concord Point or Evening Jewel or AZ Warrior all ventured out of California and won grade one races over “East Coast” horses and more than once in some cases this year. The Calif shippers winning percentage pretty good. Maybe East Coast either needs to get its stuff together also and quit looking down its nose.

Maybe we still have Zenyatta because every step along the way, Shirreffs and crew did what was right for Zenyatta’s well being adjusting as needed and should have been able to let racing do the promotion-not him. He delivered the product and kept it in one piece.  Maybe he took care of the horse not the self glorified critics and experts in the industry, in the press corps and in the fans. He took great care of the HORSE.

Bravo Shirreffs and bravo Eric Mitchell who wrote the first meaningful article on this website in a long time.

20 Oct 2010 2:20 PM
Average Joe

I totally agree with that which was so eleoquently written as it is precise and to the point. Yet it only scratches the surface and looks at only ONE facet of what the racing powers-to-be fail to grasp and/or acknowledge, that being... There are way too many egos involved and egos belonging to self-absorbed self serving people... There is also way too much talk and not enough action !  Horse racing has the potential of again being the most popular sport in the world based upon the fact that the athletes involved are still pure and compete for the sheer pleasure of being the best at what they do... From the owners, trainers, jockeys, to breeders, tracks and media, all are to blame and instead of everyone blaming each other, they need to look in the mirror and save the talk and start walking the walk ! thank you

20 Oct 2010 2:38 PM

I tried last year to get people interested in co-champions for Zennie and Rachel.  I had seen this happen in another sport, where one girl had to share year end honors with another.  Historically in our county the highest scorer on the number 1 team is granted year end honors.  Yet, all the coaches believed it was fair for these two share.  It had never been done before.  The second girl was on a defeated team and while she was their number 1 scorer--the girl who should have taken year end honors was on an UNDEFEATED team.

What a shame that people have dig have to dig their heels in and say my horsise is faster than yours.  It ruins the whole sport, because we start believing that if Zennie loses the BC she shouldn't get HOY.

Last year her entire team was snubbed at year end honors.  Steve Asmussuemen did a wonderful job--his earnings prove that.  But John Sherrifs trained TWO BC champs from two different races.  No one else did that.

To say that to date Zennie has only beaten mediocre horses is slamming every horse that showed up in last years BC.  They were the best of the best last year.

I'm sorry but with some of the reports I've seen about light training and racing--I just don't believe that's true.  Zennie may need more time between races to recover--well she's is older.  What other horse has 13 grade 1 wins to their name?

I sure hope some of these people who vote this year will do away with their own prejuidices and vote according to wins, money and perhaps crowd appeal.

I wonder if they can a Dance of the year award--Zennie would have that hooves down.

20 Oct 2010 2:44 PM

I think the media missed out too.  The network rankings were sure to go up if public networks would have promoted all of Zenyatta's races this year.

20 Oct 2010 3:20 PM

Viva Zenyatta, the Dancing Queen. I'm so glad I have been able to follow your amazing career and because of all the videos and articles concerning you, feel like I know you even though I've never seen you in person. Hopefully, that will change and I will get to see you at CD. You and your equine sisters, Rachel Alexandra, Goldikova, poor Tuscan Evening, Stardom Bound and so many others have brought such joy and smiles to the faces of racing fans in the US. Girl power at it's best.

20 Oct 2010 4:07 PM

I was not the first racing fan to jump on the Zenyatta bandwagon but I have told all my friends about this wonderful story. I have forwarded links to the videos of her races, workouts, interviews. How can ANYONE not fall in love with this mare? I cannot for the life of me think why the NTRA at the very least has not been promoting the heck out of Zenyatta. If we had a national racing organization that was a true leader for the racing world, they would have been on top of this. Instead, left to our own devices, we have formed 2 camps and never the twain shall meet. Missed opportunity, indeed!

20 Oct 2010 4:13 PM


After Zenyatta's Del Mar race, on Sunday the L A Times Sports had a sentence about her race below the fold saying story on page whatever which was about the last page.  

Mean while they had a full page picture of Tiger Wood, took up 3/4 of the page & all about him.  In that event I think he finished 18 strokes behind the leader.

I wrote them asking why when they have this brilliant super star in Zenyatta why they would promote the low life Woods.  I pointed out the paper should be for promoting California businesses & horse racing needs all the help they can get. 

I told them their coverage was a disgrace, they did not even put her picture in their last page article.

This is an outrage.  I did not get a response from the paper.

20 Oct 2010 4:15 PM

the major networks just focus on the triple crown. but the triple crown is just a small part of racing. i remember when devil his due ran in those nationally televised handicaps in the 90s. but gone are all that good tv after great reporter and racing fan JIM MCCAY passed.

20 Oct 2010 4:40 PM

nonnonheinous - Your post at 12:23 about your phone conversation with your friend sums it up.  I also like your first post.  I've also got a lot of people watching Zenyatta and some of them had never seen a horse race.

Go Zenyatta!

20 Oct 2010 5:06 PM

Lots of great comments!

Mike C., I agree with your assessment of the Derby's power. It makes stars and magically turns the average sports fan into an avid horse racing fan for a day. I still would have loved to see what could have been accomplished with a campaign that followed Zenyatta's racing career throughout the year.

Somethingroyal, I have to say something about the reference to the "business card" image of Zenyatta on the cover of the Dec. 5, 2009, issue. The reason she wasn't the main cover image was because the stories in the magazine were features about some of the people connected with Zenyatta...David Ingordo, who found her at the Keeneland September sale and got the buy of a lifetime at $60,000; and, the husband-wife team of Mario Espinoza and Carmen Zamora, who do the hands-on care every day. The cover of that issue belonged to Kodiak Kowboy, who had won the Hill 'n' Dale Cigar Mile. I think even in 1985, the winner of his third grade I race would have won the cover spot.

You are correct that publishing is not the same as it was 25 years ago when the Dec. 7, 1985, issue of The Blood-Horse was 219 pages, you could still buy LIFE magazine, and the Internet was still the playground of university researchers.

20 Oct 2010 5:32 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Outside of racing circles, the advertising failed by not getting anyone interested in Rachel or Zenyatta. I don't think the trainers should have to add reviving a dying industry to their daily chores. Trainers train their horses and run their barns. The industry is supposed to create interest and advertise. During the Triple Crown campaign there were 'showdown: Rachel vs. the boys' commercials. After the Belmont Stakes, horse racing fell off of the radar for most people. Here on the west coast I never saw or heard any commercials with Rachel and/or her connections promoting the next race. The most anyone heard from Team Rachel was in racing publications. Maybe there were commercials local to that area but there was nothing here.

The same can be said for Team Zenyatta. There have been some local commercials promoting Zenyatta's next race and giveaways, but since the races are usually only covered by TVG and/or HRTV there is little or no national exposure to be seen by non-racing fans.

I think back to the media coverage during the 1970's thru early 1990's. Stakes races were shown on one of the three major networks, ABC, NBC, or CBS. There were always commercials and at least a little hype nationally for the next event to be shown. The bigger the names were, the bigger the hype; i.e. Secretariat, Affirmed vs. Alydar, Seattle Slew, John Henry, Cigar, etc. On the other hand, the only way to see a local tracks races on TV were to catch a replay show on a local station in the evening, or sometimes as late as 1:00 AM. For how limited race viewing was, in some ways the replay shows were great. I sometimes grow weary of listening to the handicappers opinions, certain ones in particular, and their Pick-6 dreams. I want to know more about the people and horses and less about how much this horse will pay or what that horses time was in his last work. BORING! If I feel that way then what about the non-horsey set? I at least understand what the handicappers are talking about, but it's like a foreign language with a secret handshake to get in the door for someone who is new to racing.

The racing industry needs to relearn to market itself. Public awareness should be first on it's list.

20 Oct 2010 6:50 PM

Shirreffs ought to take a look in the mirror if he wants to know why mainstream America does not know about his horse.  Moss built up anticipation for a competitive year and did not deliver and took the conservative path and kept her tucked away in So. Cal.

As far as the Rachel Alexandra - Zenyatta chasm it is the bloggers who have created the monster.

I saw Rachel Alexandra race twice and Zenyatta once and am a fan of both.  Has not been pleasant to deal with opposing sides this last year but the horses themselves never disappointed.

20 Oct 2010 7:09 PM

Thank you for your positive and very insightful article, Mr. Mitchell. How wonderful to read an article that celebrates and appreciates Zenyatta for all that she has accomplished and for all of the positive things she has done for racing.  She has done what few athletes and even fewer race horses have done - she has transcended her sport. She has captured the imagination, the joy and the love of so many of us.  For me, there are two words to describe Zenyatta: Pure Joy.  And those who have missed that and  those who have relentlessly sought to generate controversy and attention by diminishing her accomplishments have missed out on something very, very special (although I have no doubt they will try to jump on the bandwagon should she win her second Classic).  There is such negativity about horse racing on the one hand, at times with good reason, and disinterest on the other hand.  It's been an amazzzing journey to follow and support Zenyatta.  It is a shame that many in the industy have lost an opportunity to overcome that negativity and/or disinterest, because there aren't many like her who will ever come along.  And oftentimes, people don't appreciate it until it's too late. Bravo to all who celebrate and support Zenyatta and appreciate her connections for all they have done in so magnificently bringing her along every step of the way.  Thank you to John Shirreffs, the Mosses, Mario and everyone who is part of Team Z.  Thank you for your article, Mr. Mitchell.  And most of all, thank you to Zenyatta!                    

20 Oct 2010 7:47 PM

I have been railing against the mainstream and racing press since before last year's Breeder's Cup. I have been promoting Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, Quality Road... so many of our excellent horses. There is interest, as soon as people see these magnificent creatures run. But, when they see Zenyatta dance, they are hooked for life. My sister has never been to a horserace in her life. I kept talking and talking about Zenyatta, but she had no chance to see her on TV and she isn't someone who is going to try to find her on the internet. Finally, ESPN broke into their programming just long enough for her 19th race. My sister and I watched it together from 2 different states cheering for her over the telephone. The result... my sister and her husband are traveling from GA to meet us in Kentucky, to visit the Kentucky Horse Park, stud farms, Keeneland, and the entire Breeder's Cup. Zenyatta created two new racing fans who knew nothing about Zenyatta or the Breeder's Cup from the racing industry or the mainstream media. It is a shame and a tragedy. We in Maryland are struggling to keep our proud racing heritage alive, but the industry squandered the chance to capture the hearts of a new generation. It will not have such a golden opportunity again for another generation... and then only if it is extremely lucky.

It is shameful that Zenyatta was ignored and demeaned in the industry press, because she defied their systems and their East Coast prejudices. It is equally shameful that Rachel Alexandra's excellent 4 year old campaign -- any other owner would kill for a 2010 record like her's -- was treated like a failure. We the fans love to see her run. She is a champion, and yet she was retired as though she were disgraced. Instead of being hailed as the heroine she is and allowed to shine at Churchill Downs, she was swept out of sight with no appreciation, much less fanfare. It is as though unless she could be horse of the year twice in a row and run in the BC Classic, she wasn't worthy of being on the track.

When our two greatest living racing treasures are treated so shamefully, how can the industry hope to survive.

20 Oct 2010 8:34 PM
Kathy from Toledo

Spot on, Mr. Mitchell! If it were not for Bloodhorse and Alex Brown Racing, I wouldn't be able to find out ANYTHING about horse racing. My local paper never has any news on racing other than the Triple Crown. The NTRA needs to wake up and start marketing this sport. I am going to the Breeder's Cup solely because of the magnificent Queen of racing, Zenyatta. And I love Rachel Alexandra, too.....and Quality Road.....and many, many others. It's not just about betting. It's about the HORSE. Zenyatta deserves all the accolades she can get. So does Rachel. And all the other equine stars. In these difficult economic times, we have these bright, shining stars.....they all deserve attention and accolades!

20 Oct 2010 9:51 PM

Thanks for this forum to read about a great horse, and to find out that there are others out there who are passionate about the sport.  And thank you, John Shirreff for allowing the fans so much access.  I’ve looked at several videos on You Tube posted by those very fans. I am not an avid race fan, although I have been privileged to have been to two Derbys, on the finish line, one was to watch history being made with the second filly to win the Derby, Genuine Risk, in 1980, with 92,000 fans in the infield!  My high school thesis was on the "Sport of Kings", so while I don't run to the track every week (I'm still working for a living!), I do appreciate it when something wonderful happens like Zenyatta’s remarkable win in the 2009 Breeders Cup.  I accidentally turned on my tv and was surfing that day last year when Zenyatta blew out the competition in the 2009 Breeder's Cup! Wow! I watched the race reruns, and then found it on YouTube, emailed it to all my friends, business acquaintances, about anybody I had ever met!  Recently, I started a blog about the Memphis and Mississippi Delta area’s music history (Home of the Bues, Brthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll), and when I realized that the 2010 Classic was near, I caught up on my favorite horse.  I just completed a posting to my blog about Zenyatta, her remarkable accomplishments, and also sent info and videos to about 50 on my email circle.  I also posted videos on my Facebook page, as well.  I don’t understand how anyone doesn’t think what she has done is just extraordinary.  At the end of the post, I said this:  

Some interesting facts:

She is a huge horse! 17.2 hands high, 1,217 pounds! She dwarfs some of history’s most honored horses: Secretariat was 16.2 hands high and weighed 1,175 pounds! Man o’ War was 16.2 hands and 1,125 pounds! War Admiral was a mere 15.2 hands; scrappy Seabiscuit, 15.2 hands; Rachel Alexandra, Horse of the Year in 2009, was 16 hands tall, certainly big for a filly.

She has beat out horses who won the Derby and other Grade 1 stakes races.  I mean, what does it take to impress people, anyway?  Some of the greatest horses in history never won a Derby or even got close to running in one!  Man o’ War was not even entered because his owner didn’t like to race in Kentucky!!!  Seabiscuit.  The great Rachel herself.  

I think it was incredible that it took nearly 30 years to get a movie about Secretariat to the screen!  Lauren Hillenbrand’s book on Seabiscuit led to a cinema masterpiece.  It took over 70 years to finally get a good story out on his accomplishments.

I guess the point that should be made is, America loves horses, they love a good story about a horse, and with horses like Rachel and Zenyatta, this is just such an easy case to  make to promote these horses to support the industry!  Why is that such a difficult thing to see! There needs to be a separate PR group within the blood horse community that is charged with this task. The breeders/owners/track owners, etc., all need to contribute into a common pool to look for PR opportunities.  Really is a no-brainer!

20 Oct 2010 10:08 PM
Rachel O

The LA Dodgers promoted Zenyatta with a grand billboard this last summer. And Oprah featured her as one of the 20 most powerful/influential beings on the planet in her October isue. Why is it that the racing industry depends upon other sports and media to feature a racing legend?

20 Oct 2010 10:38 PM


21 Oct 2010 1:44 AM

The public is also greatly swayed by the animal rights movement, that has made a HUGE impact onto the American stage. For example, I was talking to the librarian, at my small library, in Maine. I was recounting my pleasure of the new movie, "Secretariat". Do you know the response?? "I can't watch horse racing, as I worry so about them falling down, and being killed." I tried to explain, that injury does happen on the track, but there has been significant improvement for both horse and rider. And yes, there is risk.

I am sorry to say, I don't think I made an impact whatsoever.

My point, however, is that the animal rights movement despises horse racing. They were successful in closing down dog racing in Massachusetts, and are working on other states now. They are having a harder time with horse racing, I feel, since there is still money behind the industry. But mark my words, they are busy all over the USA trying to end ownership of animals, all animals.

21 Oct 2010 7:20 AM

That's exactly the problem. As I keep saying, if the people fall in love with the horses, they'll come see them - and if they come, they'll also wager. If they have fun the day they come to see Zenyatta (or any other star), they'll come back and wager some more. It's not about wagering - not at the beginning, at least. It's about making 'em love the HORSES - and the only way to do that is to make sure they KNOW the horses. There are lots of stories about the life histories of breeders, trainers, jockeys and owners - and with out them, there wouldn't be a sport - but the ones the fans will love and come to see are the horses. How about some life histories of some of the top runners (and maybe a few of the little guys too, so the public knows we care about them and cherish them too)? I am most likely to put my money on the horses I've come to love - and I don't think I'm so very different from the casual or new fan, even after almost 60 years with this incurable disease! Whether or not you like John Shirreffs and whether or not you think he should have shared her with all of us, not mostly Californians, he did put her out there as someone people KNEW - and look how they love her! Publications, both trade and otherwise - he has offered a lesson racing cannot afford to ignore.

21 Oct 2010 12:37 PM

I've just read in an article that "60 MINUTES" is planning to do a segment on Zenyatta. This is HUGE!!! That's exposure, outside of the sports world. Does ESPN intend to do anything like that AHEAD of the BC?

21 Oct 2010 3:00 PM

If you want to read what's wrong with horseracing then read the above posts.  The naysayers are right here.  The disparage her trainer because he protected her.  He didn't use her  to promote his ego, his thoughts were with his wonder mare.  So, how can we get the world to follow us when we shot ourselves in the foot everyday and everyway including the posts here.

21 Oct 2010 3:22 PM

ROBERT: You have the perfect opportunity to do something with this wonderful 2 year old of yours! PLEASE PLEASE videotape him and post it on youtube and you KNOW it will go viral! This is a HELL of an opportunity for her one last race. I emailed the Oprah show and begged her to do a follow up on Zenyatta after publishing her as one of 2010's most fascinating "women" in last month's magazine--she was written up by Laura Hillenbrand, who we know can write. Now, I don't know if they edited her or had a standard format for the question/answer portion but it didn't even REMOTELY cover the other important parts of Z's career. If you already knew her you knew her, but they didn't express anything other than her win streak (rather insignificantly as if horses do this sort of thing all the time) but more about her power and beauty. But of course. It's a women's magazine and they didn't even say "Girl Power" or anything!!! ARgggghgh. Every marketing dept at every track is suffering and has suffered tremendous financial/staff blows over the last year or two and it isn't going to get better overnight. They do what they have the money to do, whether it's right by us or not.

21 Oct 2010 5:59 PM
Jim C.

Zenyatta will be featured on 60 Minutes on Sunday, October 31.  The Sunday before the Breeders' Cup.  Details here:www.paulickreport.com/.../zixty-minutez

21 Oct 2010 9:37 PM
John T

Glad to hear Zenyatta will be featured on 60 Minutes.A mare that

has won 19 out of 19 at the highest

level of racing should be cheered on not only by every American racing fan,but every racing fan worldwide who loves the sport of horse racing.It does not matter where she finishes in the Breeders

Cup Classic she still will be a great champion and if she wins it an even greater chanpion.

21 Oct 2010 11:42 PM
christy tate

thanks Dawn inMN, for your support of my idea to clean up racing's image as i stated before. i also think that those people who say a horse should race on both coasts, have a valid point. however, if trainers are really looking out for the intrest of their horses and not for money, they go where the races are that will suit the ability level of the horse.

22 Oct 2010 1:03 AM

It seems to me one deciding factor for the Racing Industry to promote Zenyatta was the fact that people who see her or watch her race, share their experiences with family and friends. Reading what people have said about Zenyatta and how thrilled and moved by her they were brings a smile to my face because I experienced the same thing. WE all want to share when something makes us happy, thrills and enthralls us and when we fall in love. People love her! They want to share that experience and that's what Racing should have capitalized on.

Thanks for the heads up on the Sixty Minutes show.

22 Oct 2010 1:37 AM

60 Who? You mean on one of the alphabet dinosaur stations? On a Sunday night when you should be somewhere having fun? ;-)

22 Oct 2010 10:42 AM
Mrs. B

I have been following thoroughbred racing for 50 years and I thank God for TVG, HRTV and the Internet so I am no longer at the mercy of the main stream media for bits of news.  I love both Zenyatta and Goldikova.  I will be at the Breeder's Cup this year and SO look forward to seeing them, and fortunately not running against one another!

23 Oct 2010 6:24 AM
mike stroh

my parents had a great harness mare back in the 60's. she raced mainly at vernon, batavia and buffalo raceway. almost every race had some kind of sponsor, business companies to friends get togethers. exposed alot of newcomers to the sport, got their pictures taken in winners circle handing out trophies or blankets with their company. i just don't see that anymore when i visit a track, only the rich seem to get that priviledge. rich will not be able to sustain this sport, who cares if we have 2 different win photos, get some new blood coming and being involved. on the big girl, insiders fret about race schedule, speed figures- give me a break, most of the female company she's raced against has been harder than older male division the last couple of years. quality road wins a couple - deemed a superstar, then boom blame comes along- hey he's a superstar- then what happens, he loses. the crowd behind zenyatta should be praised for keeping her around another year. all i know is when she starts rolling down the stretsh at churchill, i want to hear my wife screaming at tv , just like every other zenyatta race. go big girl go

23 Oct 2010 8:53 AM

Fabuouls article and responses.  Maybe ESPN should get the 2year old "Yatta" fan on their broadcast instead of the stupid betting clown from England.  I agree with Carryback - and CB was my first live  horse to follow on tv and newspaper and was sooooo great.  I, too, had wished that Zenyatta had traveled to somewhere east for a race on dirt this summer.  But she didn't.  I am praying for a good to fast track at CD because I am unsure if Camp Z will run her on an off track even if it is the final race/defending BC Classic.  I wish someone would explain to me how I can get my horseracing 'library' on my DVR onto a DVD so when I am in my 80's I will be able to pop in the 2008 ladies classic, 2009 Preakness, 2009 BC Classic and see Zenyatta dance in the paddock before the race.  Not everything is on UTUBE although I am thrilled to see the Z website.  I would love to be able to fly to so.cal and visit Zenyatta in her stall but I am self supporting glass artist (talk about glmbling!) with a parttime job that does not pay well.  Maybe I will be able to see Zenyatta in Kentucky someday (MillReef?) and I hope to see more than a tiny image across the field.  But Z owes me nothing.  I love to talk about her to non racing fans and they just shake thier heads in disbelief since they are not any kind of sports fan.  Maybe with 60 minutes and the gorgeous photo in W, Zenyatta will get more fans.  Horseracing will get more fans.  Of course I want to see her win and set yet another record and tie one with Tiznow.  I would love to see her keep striding out like Secretariat did in The Belmont.  But mostly I want to see her come home safe and sound. I do think she can knock their socks off!

23 Oct 2010 12:41 PM
kathleen o

60 Minutes doing a segment on the queen on 10-31

23 Oct 2010 4:41 PM

I totally agree people should honour these great stars yet nothing is said. Last year here in the UK the biggest star was Sea The Stars yet when i mention the horse, my friends (even those who are horse fans) say 'who?' I think that generally the newspapers should have something better to talk about than ' The X Factor' or ' Britain's Got Talent'. To be honest the talent is within the horses that race and make history. People want a star to follow all year round so why not talk about these stars? And i also think that international racing should be more recognised amongst some countries.

24 Oct 2010 9:00 AM

I remember growing up in Los Angeles and watching Ruffian on TV.  How I cheered for her greatness and when she suffered a tragic ening on national TV, I was crying.  I remember cheering for Forego and Seattle Slew and goo-goo over Affirmed and Alydar.  Most of these great horses performed on the east coast. It didn't matter to me, I still loved their greatness.  When Zenyatta got into the spotlight after her 2008 Ladies Classic win, there has been much negativity against her.  Much of it has come from east-coast writers.  Not all, Haskins has been level-headed and I thank him for that.  But the disresppect comes in a geographical form.  A California-raced horse CAN'T be this big, and they started picking at EVERY POSSIBLE flaw imagined!  It's like preventing her from being in the same sentence as Secretariat was more important than help saving the sport we ALL love.  And blaming THE horse for things she has NO control over.  Zenyatta's connections deserve a pat on the back for one thing that nobody can deny:  They have made her accessible to the media and the PUBLIC.  No horse ever had a retirement ceremony at two different tracks like Zenyatta.  There's video of strangers petting and playing with Zen.  I really think THIS stuff is what draws in fans, maybe as much as the races itself.  When we see videos of Zenyatta being treated like royalty on the backstretch, it's the best publicity we can get.  We should all thank the Moss' for their decision of openess.  I have yet to see the Rachel Alexandra "Interview" or Blame or QR and it's sad that owners and trainers don't take this opportunity to follow suit.

Arazi44 said it best.  I've told my mother (who doesn't like horse racing because of the gambling) about Zenyatta.  She's going to watch.  I've told my co-workers, some of them will join me at the sattellite facility to watch, I couldn't afford to go to Churchill and I couldn't watch at home.  I need to be with the fans to celebrate.  Arazi and everybody, get the word out.  She's on 60 minutes next Sunday, that's a great way to introduce her to those who had never heard of her.  I'm predicting record ratings for the BC Classic.  And remember if she wins, we saw the movie before it came out.  

24 Oct 2010 5:11 PM

I found myself explaining Zenyatta as a living legend, to a family member who said; "WHO"......

thank you for a great article..

25 Oct 2010 8:28 AM

You got it all wrong.  

1.  Rivalries are blood and blood attracts sharks.    Everyone loves a good rivalry and the NTRA missed out on that.  East vs. West.  War Admiral vs. Seabiscuit.  Rachel vs. Zenyatta (Cat Fight of the Century!)  Listen, if rivalry didn't work, the World Series wouldn't exist, nor the Superbowl.

2.  The NRTA tries to blame it's budget and I can tell you a lot of publicists save dollars by tipping off the news organizations.  Big advertising firms do it everyday all day long.  Only when a publicist, for free, tipped off the visit by Terrell Owens did Zenyatta's name make it to the news here.  Even then she was treated as second billing.  Why?  Because the racing industry didn't turn the tables.

If the racing industry sees they have a star like Zenyatta around and don't do anything about it, it's not the star's fault.  It costs very little to put out press packets these days.  Westminster Dog Show's champion gets more airtime than Zenyatta because they put out the word.  The racing industry acts as though their stars are privileged information and then wonder why the track handle is so low.  The only news to be found on horse racing is in the DRF, Bloodhorse and TVG.  You might as well have said the AMA, National Geographic and C-Span.  (Wait, they get news coverage.)

Horse racing will remain obscure and misunderstood as long as the industry keeps it's news to itself.

25 Oct 2010 4:35 PM

Mr. Sherriffs has it right. The racing associations lost a major opportunity last year when they decided NOT to allow people the chance to vote for Rachel and Zenyatta as joint HOY, even though both deserved the honor. They could and should have make every effort to celebrate both incredible horses and the unique situation that the top two horses in North America were mares. But, no. These industry "leaders" seem so hapless that it is hard to sympathize. IMO the mass media has appreciated both Rachel and Zenyatta far more than the racing press, who are, as everyone has noticed, preoccupied instead with deciding which is better and/or criticizing one or the other's supposed weaknesses. We've been incredibly blessed to have these mares running the last few years, and Zenyatta is absolutely unique and amazing-it doesn't get any better than she is, as a racehorse and as a personality, so what are they thinking?

25 Oct 2010 9:23 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

The news media is against horse racing. It's almost impossible to get a positive story about racing; i.e. Zenyatta and her undefeated record. Yet the news about the owners license suspension of Robert Rizzo, the former City of Bell manager who was arrested in September on 53 counts of misappropriating public funds, was on every LA channel today. I mentioned the story to a few people at work and the over all feeling about the story was how corrupt racing is. I pointed out that the reason Rizzo's license was suspended is that he didn't show up to the stewards hearing to respond to the charges of conduct detrimental to horse racing and the meeting was actually to keep racing clean.

I'd love to see the media report on the good things that happen within racing. As fans we need to alert the media that there are plenty of people interested in racing. C'mon everyone, call and write your local news sources and ask for some coverage. Maybe it'll catch on. What have we got to lose?

25 Oct 2010 11:09 PM
Pedigree Ann

Have to say Ranagulzion and Stacy make a lot of sense. Seabuiscuit became a national hero because he ran all over the country, traveling on railcars. Secretariat went to Chicago and Canada, Seattle Slew went to California (even if was a bad idea). John Henry raced East and West and in between. So did Alysheba, "America's Horse."

So far, Zenyatta has had exactly one race against horses anybody outside of racing has ever heard of. Mares only race are not the glamour division and that is a constant; mares winning in the glamour division - Rachel winning the Preakness, Personal Ensign winning the Whitney - that makes news.

And if Zenyatta wins the Classic, she will be the main track champion in North America. But the best horse in the world will probably be running in the Melbourne Cup next Tuesday. Yes, he isn't unbeaten, but he tried to do difficult things, like beating older horses in G1s as a spring 3yo (1 win, 1 second). His name is So You Think and he is 4 for 4 already this season as a 4yo (the racing year begins 1 August down under).

26 Oct 2010 11:26 AM

Pedigree Ann is right. So You Think is a 4yo who's just won, back to back, the best weight for age 10 furlong race in the world. On Tuesday he'll line up to race nearly 16 furlongs against older more experience horses from all over the world and will probably win. Our racing authorities failed on this one. They have never made the most of either Rachel or Zenyatta. No matter what happens on Nov 6, Zenyatta will still be a champion. It's just a shame that more people all over the country did not get to experience her greatness.  

27 Oct 2010 11:58 PM

Fuzzy - aptly named - can't you just enjoy a magnificent one of a kind mare that brings joy to everyone that has seen her race.  I've been at most of her races, actually I enjoy watching her on TV more because I get to see all her moves - her dancing moves and her energy.  I don't get it.  Why do people have to put down the best?  She is one of a kind. You will never see a Zenyatta again.  ENJOY!!!

28 Oct 2010 1:23 AM


28 Oct 2010 1:56 AM

I was stiing at about the 1/16 pole at the BC last year and I thougth for sure after the Classic Zenyatta would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated after her performance.  Well, that didn't happen.

If she wins this year and she is not on the cover of SI the following week, either there is nobody in horse racing that has any contacts at SI or SI just has no horse racing people working there and they don't know how significant this accomplishment will be.  We will have to wait and see what happens.

But if she wins and she doesn't make the cover, there is nothing that horse racing people will ever be able to do to get the sport into the mainstream media again.

28 Oct 2010 12:06 PM

I have taken a page from some of the other posters here and have begun talking about Zenyatta on facebook and in other forums that I frequent where horse racing is never discussed other than maybe the Triple Crown races very so often.

I am disheartened that so few have ever heard of her. An undefeated champion of her magnitude comes along so seldom...

On the other hand, once people HAVE heard of her, they have become fans. Some of my facebook friends who had never before heard of her are now posting you tube videos of her as well - and I have people planning on taping her segment on 60 Minutes (they will be out with their children on Halloween night but are VERY interested in the big mare once they hear about her).

I even have two fathers planning on watching her in the BCC with their young daughters as special daddy/daughter Girl Power dates. They want their daughters to see Zenyatta!

If one tired middle aged working mother from Michigan (hardly a hot bed of horse racing) can do this why can't horse racing as a whole?

I can attest from personal experience that as soon as people hear about this great mare they go crazy over her - even ones who have little to nothing to do with horse racing. It is as if they are desperate for a hero - and a heroine for their children - and Zenyatta seems to fit the bill perfectly.

29 Oct 2010 2:32 AM

I think the "tell a friend" or "bring a friend" campaign is the best idea since sliced bread! Good answer and the marketing companies could have a field day! We will never see the likes of Zenyatta ever again. Just like we will never see the likes of a Secretariat but there will be other stars who will and can have a profound effect on the general public and this can only be a positive thing for the industry. i work in it. i love it. i love the horses and I love the history. no reason this sort of journey can't be shared.

MMM Stuart Fla

31 Oct 2010 1:10 AM
Alex's Girl

It's pretty simple, to me anyway, why Zenyatta was not touted more widely as the Superstar she is.

To most people, this sport is only about the Kentucky Derby and, to a lesser extent, the Triple Crown.  No great attempt is made by ESPN, ESPN2 or any of the major networks to follow ANY OTHER HORSE RACE during the year, until the Breeders Cup...and even that is not advertised sufficiently...so Zenyatta's extraordinary win in the Classic last year went virtually unnoticed and vastly unappreciated by the sporting public at large.

All other sports have a "season".  According to most people, horseracing's "season" is six weeks long, between the first Saturday in May and the second Saturday in June. No one really knows, or cares, about the rest.

Zenyatta didn't win a Triple Crown race...and she's a mare.  So, basically, few people outside the sport will remember her name, no matter how unique and accomplished an athlete she is. And that's a true pity.

31 Oct 2010 11:03 AM

The end of the end came when NBC no longer carried the Breeders Cup.

I'll just have to wait for the results on the internet.  I never had cable because I don't watch much tv.

I guess I'm wondering who is the best stallion for Zenyetta. And not to race Rachel against her I think was a big mistake.

31 Oct 2010 12:47 PM

Rachel deserved HOY. No opportunity was missed. If they were co-HOY, it wouldn't have attracted new fans. Those who don't like racing still wouldn't like racing.

I detest TVG for its west coast-slanted coverage and non-stop Zenyatta talk. It's sickening.

If they wanted the award, they needed to adjust their strategy and enter her in traditional HOY races and given her a tougher schedule, like every other HOY before her, not some cupcake campaign.

Of course, some of you are reading this and saying, "but it's their safe handling of her that keeps her racing to this day."

And that's fine, but the safe, boring route doesn't earn you HOY. A tough campaign in tough races does, and her connections don't seem to understand that their "one tough meaningful race a year" doesn't cut the mustard!

I'm sick of the whining. Run her in meaningful GI's with tough opposition more than once a year. I'm sick of it.

The racing media is archaic. They don't understand that if the general public can't view racing on regular cable tv, they can kiss new fans goodbye. No one is going to pay extra for a sport they have no interest in. Plan to televise all the major races or accept the fact that no new fans will be attracted. The fact that Zenyatta was co-HOY has squat to do with what's wrong with racing. It's been wrong since before she came around and will continue to be unless they put races literally in front of the eyes of the general public.

31 Oct 2010 4:53 PM
Fran Loszynski

When the media does it-they do it good-  Great segment on 60 Minutes about Zenyatta! She was the star of the show- great pics of her and "THAT'S" what we need in horseracing. I was glued to the screen and wanted to see more of her and many people will realize the way "they can see more of her" is to go to the racetrack! Koodos to 60 Minutes.

01 Nov 2010 10:31 AM

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