Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
For those of you most familiar with my writing, you know me to be a Rachel man. To some, that would mean that I therefore could not be a Zenyatta backer. There may have been some truth to that back in the day, but as a true fan and student of the game, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Queen Z. Perhaps the highest compliment I can bestow on her is the honest belief that there's never been another one quite like the big mare. Yesterday, I went back into the archives for some classic ZATT to celebrate the legend of Rachel. The 2009 Woodward spiked the crowd into a fever pitch. Not to be outdone, the electricity in the air for Zenyatta's final race, in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, was equally intoxicating. Today, it is equal time for Zenyatta. Without further adieu, I give you In Defeat, Zenyatta’s Legend Grows ...
There are times in life when a loss is not a loss. The 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic was such a moment.
Tonight in front of legions of devoted fans, and millions of more admirers watching from home, Zenyatta accomplished as much in defeat as she had in any of her previous wins. In a thrilling display of talent and courage, she did what some doubted she could, by storming home in the 27th edition of America’s richest race, the Breeders‘ Cup Classic. As Zenyatta and her newest rival hit the wire in unison, It was Blame, an excellent four-year-old son of Arch, who desperately held the slimmest of possible margins over the fan favorite. For many in the crowd it was a devastating and heartbreaking loss for their hero. Grown men were brought to tears when it was apparent that her furious stretch run had fallen agonizingly short. Her racing partner for the past three seasons, Mike Smith fought back the emotions to say this after the race.
“I feel like I let her down. I left her too much to do. I had to put on the brakes at the quarter pole when Quality Road started backing up. I think that cost me the race'" said Smith. "In the beginning, she struggled with the track. She didn’t like all that dirt flying at her. I needed a little better position for her early. I just know she was the best horse in the race. It was another gallant effort for her.”
Gallant to say the least, Mike. Zenyatta is no longer undefeated, but her reputation grew leaps and bounds tonight. In Blame, she faced the best horse she had ever faced. With all due respect to the Classic winner, he was simply not the best horse in the race. As someone who selected Blame to win the race, I say without a shred of doubt that Zenyatta was the best horse in the Classic. That is how good she was, she is, and she always has been.
To no one’s surprise Zenyatta fell back to the rear of the pack immediately out of the gate, but how far behind she fell, was surprising. She was 15 lengths behind after the field was four furlongs into the Classic. Any worries about seeing the real Zenyatta were short lived as the big mare began to roll. Her rally was poetry in motion, as the crowd reached fever pitch. With every ground gobbling stride she gained on the leaders rapidly, but alas on this night there would be one horse who was resolute. Blame had burst through a small opening early in the stretch and spurted clear to take a commanding lead at the eighth pole. As Zenyatta began to reel him in, Blame gave it everything he had to the wire. The crowd was aghast and stunned. Zenyatta was one stride short of catching him and winning her 20th race in a style never before seen in Breeders’ Cup Classic history.
Zenyatta is a champion through and through, even a blind man could see that. She blew away any doubts about her greatness with the cold Louisville winds with power and grace. In the end, I feel for all her connections and true fans, but I would like to pass this one thought to them … there is nothing for anyone to hang their heads over. Zenyatta is more of a champion tonight, in defeat, than she has ever been.