Zenyatta finally got her end of the year award. Good for her. She deserved it. I can hear the supporters of Blame for Horse of the Year pecking away at the keyboard as I type. That’s OK, I understand, I get it. Like the past two years, this was a tough decision with two deserving horses. I’ve heard all the arguments. “A vote for Zenyatta is good for horse racing.” “Blame won the head-to-head meeting.” “Zenyatta came within inches of being undefeated for the year, and her career.” “Blame faced better horses this year.” “Zenyatta needed to win the award after not winning the past two years.” For me the decision, became pretty clear on the night of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
For months I had made my Classic selection known, I expected Blame to win the big race. I was right, but just barely. Blame and Zenyatta put on a fantastic show, one that will go down in the annals of racing. It was good to be alive that night. A race like that is exactly why I love the sport of racing so much. What I witnessed that night resonates. Fully expecting to support Blame for Horse of the Year, I simply could not after watching the race unfold in front of my eyes. Zenyatta was that good.
Blame was that good too, but the Horse of the Year title was Zenyatta’s to lose, and she did not. That is why Zenyatta was my choice for Horse of the Year in 2010. Despite thinking Blame would win, I knew Zenyatta was the clear leader going in. She won five grade 1 races in five tries, and Blame was coming off a clear defeat in one of his most important races. Maybe if Blame had raced more than four times before the Classic, or had won more than one race against topnotch horses before, I would have rated my pick closer to Zenyatta going into the Classic. He did not. I know what you are thinking … who did Zenyatta beat?
As usual Zenyatta did what she needed to do. She had two main objectives in 2010, to face Rachel Alexandra in Arkansas, and to defend her Classic victory. Those other races were merely grade 1 preps for her two main goals. You can not hold it against her that Rachel was not prepared for the Apple Blossom. Zenyatta showed up and she toyed with who was there. Did she beat much in California? No, but St Trinians and Switch are not exactly chicken feed either. Keep in mind that Blind Luck could have faced her in the Lady’s Secret, but her connections chose to avoid Zenyatta. Avoiding Zenyatta has been a common theme the past three years.
In the end, I believe Zenyatta deserved the Horse of the Year, not for the sake of popularity, or as a lifetime achievement award, or not even because it is good for the popularity of racing. I believe she was the finest horse over the entire year. Agree or disagree, this is my opinion.
Zenyatta, and also Rachel Alexandra (I will have more on her in the coming days) were two of the best female race horses in American history. They brought out great emotion in us all. I will appreciate them both for as long as I live. Take a deep breath racefans, it’s finally over. Three years of heated debates over who should be Horse of the Year can finally be put to bed. I stand and applaud Zenyatta, but now it is time to move on. That’s the great thing about racing, there is always something exciting just around the corner to capture our imagination.