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HRN Original Blog:
View From The Bluegrass

A Breeders' Cup Classic Upset: Blame edges Zenyatta

Zenyatta!
 
Going into the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 and 6, you would have thought Zenyatta was the only horse participating in the races. Not just the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but all the races.
 
That was the power of her name, her fan base and her reputation. That was all the press was – print and television – were talking about.
 
Zenyatta the Queen! People just could not get enough of her.
 
Coming into Churchill for the race, the six-year old daughter of Street Cry- Vertigineux, by Kris S, had won all 19 races in her career – a perfect 19-19 – including the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic. She also won and almost all of her races in her “edge-of-the-seat” style, coming from last place to win at the last second at the wire.
 
Now, as she prepared for the final race of her career, hardly anyone thought there was a chance she’d lose the race. Everyone, thought she’d win the race, finish her career 20-20 and then head for a nice, quiet life as a mom.
 
Well, everyone thought that except for the owners, connections and fans of the other horses in the race. And, it was a strong field to be sure, and included such top horses of the race season such as Blame, Fly Down, Lookin At Lucky, Paddy O'Prado, Etched, Musket Man, First Dude, Pleasant Prince, Espoir City (Jpn), Haynesfield and Quality Road.
 
Blame, in particular, had been gathering more interest as the race got closer. In fact, he ended up going off as the second betting favorite.
 
Owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dildchneider, and ridden in the race by Garrett Gomez, the four-year-old son of Arch-Liable, by Seeking the Gold, came into the race off a stellar 2010 race season, which included wins in the Stephen Foster Handicap (G1), Whitney Invitational Handicap (G1) and William Donald Schaefer Stakes (G3), as well as a second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup Invitational Stakes (G1). There was no question, Blame had the credentials and would be a formidable opponent for Zenyatta.
 
Well, as for the race itself, everyone knows what happened. But, just in case (and because I want to write about it again), here’s how it unfolded.
 
The race began as expected, with Zenyatta in her favorite spot at the back of the pack, while the rest of the field fought it out in front of her.
 
But, something seemed different. While Zenyatta had always raced at the back of the pack, this time she had fallen further back than normal. At one point, 15 lengths separated her from the leader.
 
Coming around the final turn, Blame began working his way from midpack towards the lead, while Zenyatta began her usual charge towards the front. Then, coming down the stretch, with Blame finally taking the lead, Zenyatta put her head down and extended her stride as she had always done before. She passed all of the other horses and then hooked up with Blame for a duel to the finish.
 
Closer and closer she came, but for the first time in her career, the finish line arrived before she could get her nose in front and Blame took home the victory, while Zenyatta, in what might have been her final race, tasted defeat for the first time in her career.
 
Now, according to Merriam-Webster, among its definitions for the word “upset,” is this one: “To defeat unexpectedly.” That is a very simple, easy to understand, definition.
 
However, in some sports, people have found different ways to consider an upset an upset. You see, many don’t consider an upset to include a team ranked, say, No. 2 or No. 3 defeating a team ranked No. 1. They consider an upset to need a wider spread, such as having a team ranked No. 15 defeat a team ranked No. 3, for example.
 
So, with Blame going off as the second-betting favorite behind Zenyatta, some didn’t consider it an upset.
 
But, when a horse, any horse, defeats a horse of Zenyatta’s caliber – a horse that came into the race 19-19, with 17-graded stakes races victories, 13 of them Grade 1s and nine of her last Grade 1s coming in a row – then any horse that can beat her should make the result an upset. Simple as that.
 
Interestingly, while Zenyatta ended her career with that one loss, that one loss most probably helped her finally achieve the one thing missing from her resume – the Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year.
 
Almost immediately after the race, east coast horse racing columnists and writers, who had been skeptical of her abilities because they had not seen her race before because she was based in California, began talking about her amazing stretch run, and how she had come from so far behind the leaders and came oh-so-close to winning the race. They talked about her strength, her beauty, and, most importantly, her heart.
 
Yes, in that lone loss of her career, she had won over her critics, gained a whole new set of fans and believers, and captured the hearts and votes of the folks that would be deciding the horse of the year for 2010.
 
Sweetly, the magic of that race did not end the evening of that race though. The next day, Zenyatta’s owners, Jerry and Ann Moss, and her trainer, John Shirreffs, opened their barn to visitors on Sunday morning, and all morning long, her fans got to stop by and visit with their favorite horse. It was an amazing to watch and one that all of those that were present will never forget.
 
Just a month later, on a very cold, evening with snow gently falling around the Keeneland Sales Barn, people started lining up to see Zenyatta one more time. You see, news got out that Zenyatta would be making one final appearance that evening and, despite the extremely cold weather (it was in the teens), people lined up and waited – waited long after she was due to appear because of airplane delays – and then finally got to see her one last time.
 
It was even more fun to watch the reactions of the Moss’s and Shirreffs’, as they seemed overwhelmed with the number of people that were there waiting to see Zenyatta at Keeneland one last time before she headed to Lane’s End and retirement. If the day after the Classic was considered amazing, the evening at Keeneland and her final appearance as the snow was falling, was almost magical.
 
Today, Zenyatta is at Lane’s End, where she will give birth to her first foal, out of Bernardini, next April. Then, the next part of her career will begin: Zenyatta, the mom.
 
Until then, the memory of Zenyatta will remain with all of her fans. She was, definitely, the epitome of a Queen and she helped lift her sport to heights unseen in the last few years.
 
Zenyatta Photo by Rick Capone; Churchill Downs 2010.
 
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What the Nation is saying about A Breeders' Cup Classic Upset: Blame edges Zenyatta...

Just proved there is more myth to the supposed Legend than actual Legend.
Then you must have understood or been told wrong. While she did draw a fairly large crowd, they were far from lined up 4 deep. Anyone who wanted to walk up and see her had plenty of room.
Then you add the people who try to consider her grade 1 record like it really means beans. Of her 13 grade 1's, 7 did not feature another grade 1 winner in them. So where was the accomplishment there? Of her 10 grade 1 wins over F/M on synthetics, she faced 2 whole horses who ever won a Grade 1 on synthetics, again where is the major accomplishment there?
Ohh and Even tho I could care less about Peter Ellis, if you sent him, Haskin, or any other turf writer my direction Ill tell thim exactly how I fell about it. And show them the facts. Something they can't show for her. The only facts that standout are that she ran one good race on dirt in her career, beating Brownie Points, and GingerPunch. Then she beat dirt and turf horses on synthetics. Or else she beat milers and sprinters going 9 furlongs. Her breeders cup synthetic classic win. Was also over overmatched horses, who were nowhere near the synthetic talent she was. Most of whom needed upwards of 8 - 10 attempts to win on the surface just once. Then you couple that with the fact she carried the least weight, was most experienced at SA, and probably the lightest raced of the field. That makes that win irrelevant and laughable. The fact that some of you come on here and try to act as if it was some real accomplisment I find utterly hilarious and somewhat appauling.
Thats sadley what most of the Media overhype is. An attempt to help patch a struggeling industry. And to keep interest flowing. However, In the long run they are doing far more damage. People are realizing how low of a standard we hold our so called "champions" .
Yes you are right Vinnie, it was Denman. I got use to saying Durkin for long its still a habit. You do get Steve Haskins job is to sell books and magazines dont you. Of course he is going to write glorious things about Zenyatta as he wouldn't sell much if he didn't
facts - it was Jerry and Ann Moss along with John Shirreffs that brought out Zenyatta to the public on Sunday morning for one last viewing. But what I understand cars were lined up four deep along the four lane thoroughfare trying to get a glimpse of her. Members of the media were astonishing by the grace handled by her connections.
facts - Durkin didn't call the race. Trevor Denman did.
excuse me, take your comments to Peter Ellis. I'm sure he would love to hear from you. And also Steve Haskin.
facts - take your comments to Peter
I wasn't really sure anyone conforted (I think you meant comforted) after the race as he was wailing to hard. lolol. That image, coupled with the Moss's expressions and Shireff walking off trying to avoid cameras and people, was like Christmas for me.
ohh and before you try and say Blame ran 6th, no that Was LAL, who by the way was called by Durkin as being 10 back from the leaders, then you have Blame who sat about 2 more off of him. You may be right about Zenyatta sitting 5 off of Blame being total bullshit. After watching it appears she sat even closer around like 4 - 5 lengths, so thanks for clearing that up. And just for you I will say again over her career she did a lot of nothing. The horses she did beat were mostley dirt/turf horses who had to come face her on synthetics. Or sprinters who had to face her at longer distances. The few grade 1 synthetic runners she actually did defeat, were a joke, and proved to need multiple, multiple attempts over the surface to score a single win on it. She raced twice in open company, losing once to an absolute joke field when she had a weight advantage, while being the reigning Classic Champion, and supposed "best router" in the field. So ya that makes me think shes about as good as a MULE. HEE HAW HEE HAW
Maybe you can asnwer this for me, if you feel my comments are so horrible, false, comical, juvenille, and ridiculous as you said. Then why do you read and post on them?
You must have seen a different Classic, I think you may be the first person who has actually been crazy enough to say Blame ran 4th and 5th for most of the race. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Etched sat in 5th until the turn and Haynesfield ran 4th but nice try. LOLOLOLOL As far as QR, thats just another hiliariously ridiculous excuse her loyalist try to make people believe happen to justify why she lost, instead of just saying she met a horse who was better at the time. She raced in graded stakes and company, really? What grade 1 horse did she defeat or compete against in 2010 until the classic? Maybe you know some the rest of us don't? As far as HDG goes, I don't really care much either way. I think shes a fine horse, better than Zenyatta on dirt. But far from a favorite or what I would consider great. I hope you and your finace did get a good rouse out of this, I know I a sure am so I hope others can feel half of the enjoyment I am getting from it.
I am sorry, I need to correct something in ym previous post, I said that SMith had to stop Zenyatta, I meant he almost had to, I know he didn't actually stop her. Thank you for understanding ;)
So, I have just read through some of these comments, the praises and the bashes. Every word. And I would just like to tell anyone who is trying to agrue with getthefacts, give it a rest. These Zenyatta bashers come up with lies apon lies just to prove us wrong. To them, it doesn't matter that Zenyatta won HoY or became the first female to win the BCC, it just matters that she was better than their favorite horse. getthefacts, the way that you find it is necessary to insult all of us, as well as the magnificent animal that is Zenyatta, is juvenile and ridiculous. Writing 'ha' in capitals over twenty-five times really isn't fazing any of us. Yes, we understand you find NYV's cold-hard facts hilarious, we could have udnerstand that from two or three 'ha's. Truly, most of the people that read your comments will think of them an immature. And if they dropped her back 50 lengths in a movie, it would be inaccurate and horse racing fans would chew the directors out for it, let alone Zenyatta's hard core fans, who would murder them if they got her blaze shape wrong. And if you are trynig to claim that Zenyatta was within 5 lengths of Blame through out the classic, that is one of the biggest pieces of bull shit I have ever read. First off, Blame was steadily in 4th-5th place during the race. Second, Through out almost half of the race, Zenyatta was at least 5-10 lengths off the LAST HORSE. She was uncomfortable with the track conditions and the lights, as well as the amount of kickback in her face. It also didn't help that Quality Road's jockey allowed QR to drop back so fast Smith almost had to stop Zenyatta. That was uncalled for and could have injured her and her jockey. I will never underestimate Zenyatta's haters. You people are dispicable. How can you say that she did nothing? She raced in graded/stakes company in almost every single race. getthefacts, you took it to a new low, calling such a magnificent animal an overrated mule. How dare you? You seem to lvoe Havre de Grace, well how would you feel if I called her an overrated mule? I belive that you would come back with multiple curses and try to tear me down. But I know that Havre de Grace is a classy mare with an wicked ability to run and she is not overrated by most. Majority of the people I have seen have said that she is a great mare, but not the greatest. That is true. I do not believe that she could have ever beaten Zenyatta. And I don't give a shit about whether you do. Zenyatta will be remeber for more than 5 years, you ignoramus. She will be remebered just as much as Cigar, Seattle Slew, Secretariat, or Rachel Alexandra. And if you try to counter that they won't, then I would like to ask why people will remeber Blame? They will remember him because of one race, one nose, because of one horse. Zenyatta. I used to have a particular hate coarsing through my veins for Garret Gomez, part of me still does, but when he saluted Zenyatta and it was said that he conforted Smith after the race, some of it left me. But the Hancocks, I would like to agree with whoever said this before me, they disgraced themselves by the way they spoke of Zenyatta. They acted as if she was nothing. I will never look at them the same way again. Anyway, off topic. getthefatcs, I would like to say that you gave me quite the laugh today as I read your ridiculous comments. My fiance did as well when I showed him, so for that, I thank you. And when you respond to this, using my username as a bash against me, pointing out all of me 'false' information, and using obnoxious juvenile 'insults', I'm sure we will laugh just as hard, if not harder, than we did this morning. So with ym first and last comment on this thread, I would like to thank the author of the piece for writing such a beautiful piece on one of the greatest racemares on Earth. Good-day to all, and enjoy the races.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, and the Fable grows and grows and grows. I bet in the movie she gets behind about 50 lengths. Which I am still not sure how they will make it the slightist bit relevant as to how she did it. Seeing as how everyhorse that was on the lead fell back on it's own. Everyhorse who was behind them finished ahead of them. Then you say Zenyatta was farther bac than normal, well so was Blame. Usualy in his races Blame stalked much closer than he did in the Classic. If your going to go with the lie that Zenyatta fell back about 20 then you would have to say Blame was back about 15, as she never sat more than 5 lengths from him at any point. And he was the only horse she really had to be concerned with catching as he was the winner. I love they Claim she was squeezed out of the gate now too. She could have stepped over those horses had she chosen she was a beast compared to them, come on you can do better than that BS.
Ellis also said he was struck by the way Zenyatta captured the hearts of racing fans and non-racing fans not only in the U.S. but all over the world. 'I have never seen a horse that touched people and brought them together like this one,' he said. 'She seems to connect with people unlike any horse I have ever seen; even people who don't follow racing at all. I rang a friend in Queensland after the races and he told me that his wife was extremely upset that Zenyatta had lost. These people do not follow American racing a lick, but they tuned in to see Zenyatta. Racing in America is not always seen in such a positive light in others parts of the world, but here is a champion and a story that people around the world are captivated and touched by. I don't think people are going to realize just how special she is until she's gone because there will not be another one like her.' When the radio interview was over, I told Ellis that I doubted that Zenyatta would be named Horse of the Year based upon many of the pre-Classic writings by some of the sport's most well-known Turf writers. He smiled. 'That's the thing,' he said. 'It doesn't matter if she's Horse of the Year or not. She's THE horse of the last 40 years. Which one do you think people are going to remember?' http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/racing-zenyatta-horse-of-the-year-debate.aspx.
This is taken from Steve Bailey of the Thoroughbred Times..."I had the unique opportunity on Sunday (the day after the Classic) to get a glimpse of how Zenyatta and the Breeders' Cup Classic were viewed and digested by someone who, as they say, does not have a dog in the fight. For more than four decades, Australian form analyst Peter Ellis has traveled the globe breaking down meetings, walking courses, and witnessing some of the greatest horses and races around the world. Ellis was at Churchill Downs Friday and Saturday for the Breeders' Cup World Championships and, on Sunday, spoke to a radio audience of hundreds of thousands back home in Australia about what he had seen. I was completely taken off guard by what came out of his mouth. 'I've been doing this for more than 40 years, and I can tell you that (Zenyatta's) performance was the greatest that I've ever seen by a horse that did not win the race,' he told the host. 'Some people will say that she shouldn't be named Horse of the Year because she didn't win. I would argue that her performance in defeat was much better than her winning effort a year earlier and should guarantee that she is named Horse of the Year. She was sqeezed out of the gate, forcing the jockey to check up a bit, then spent several hundred meters in a storm of kickback; that's why she dropped back so far', Ellis said. 'On the backstretch, she got behind 20 to 25 lengths and I'm not sure anyone thought she had any business even catching up to that field much less getting back in the race. The fact that she was able to make up that much ground on a track that deep and cuppy and give herself a chance to get up and win it in the last strides is one of the most impressive efforts I have seen on a racetrack. Blame ran a great race; you can't take anything away from him. He is a fantastic horse. But would he have been able to do the same? Zenyatta was the best horse on that racetrack, as she was in all of her previous 19 starts. By definition, isn't that what Horse of the Year is? Some people are going to argue that the horse that wins the Breeders' Cup Classic against the toughest field of the year should get the Horse of the Year, right? It didn't work out that way last year, did it?'
Rick, I'll add a couple more comments from experts that were floored by Zenyatta performance in the 2010 Classic..."For her to do what she did, I put her on a higher plateau than before," says Steve Haskin, senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse who's covered the sport for four decades. "She's (Zenyatta) the greatest filly I've ever seen. She may be the greatest of all time." http://www.usatoday.com/sports/horses/breeders/2010-11-07-zenyatta-impresses_N.htm

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Meet Rick Capone
                                  
Rick Capone has been a horse racing fan since the Saturday afternoon when he saw Riva Ridge, his all-time favorite horse, win the Kentucky Derby on television.
 
Today, he is the sports editor for The Woodford Sun, a weekly newspaper in Versailles, Ky., a town just outside of Lexington and only 15 minutes away from Keeneland.
 
In addition to his duties at the Sun, Rick is a volunteer at Old Friends, the thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown that is owned by Michael Blowen. He even is part owner of one of the retirees there, Miss Hooligan, the grand daughter of 1988 Eclipse Award – Champion Turf Horse, Sunshine Forever, who is also on the farm.
 
Rick grew up in Havertown, Pa., just outside of West Philadelphia. At 20, he moved to South Florida with his family and lived a stones throw from Gulfstream. After some stops in North Carolina, Georgia and California, he currently lives in Georgetown, Ky., where he gets to drive by some of the greatest horse farms in the world on his way to work every morning.
 

(Photo: Miss Hooligan and Rick at Old Friends this past December. (Photo by Steve Blake)