Californians have always loved their thoroughbred stars, but no horse
in many years has excited them as Zenyatta has. They will roar for her
at Hollywood Park on Saturday, when she makes her final appearance in
her home state and tries to win her 19th consecutive race.
Zenyatta inspires fierce passions. When she defeated males in the
Breeders' Cup Classic last fall, her fans hailed the performance as one
of the best in the history of the event - and maybe in the history of
the sport. When the mare subsequently lost the horse of the year title to Rachel Alexandra,
her partisans reacted with white-hot anger. The blogosphere is
regularly filled with sharp rebukes for anybody who demeans Zenyatta or
even suggests she is not one of the greatest racehorses of all time.
Compiling an 18-for-18 career record is an extraordinary feat. Horse
races contain so many potential pitfalls that no high-class U. S. horse
has put together such a streak since Hindoo in 1881. Nevertheless (at
the risk of inflaming the blogosphere), I could not put Zenyatta on a
list of all-time great racehorses.