Race of the Week 2017

In Defeat, Zenyatta’s Legend Grows Revisited

Blame Zenyatta 615 X 400
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. 


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Older Comments about In Defeat, Zenyatta’s Legend Grows Revisited...

EP taylor, I don't think so. There is no way you can compare a super mare like Zenyatta to a very good male like Blame. In any other race against her, he would have been toast and I think you know that. He had a great, easy trip and she had problem after problem. A few more strides and she would have won. I think you know that. If you don't, you should. This race enhanced her reputation and there was a reason for that. No great female horse has had her running style and the ability to out stride the males, ever. She is the first one to do that and Blame was no exception.
  • EP Taylor · Sorry Paula, but I can and I did. I stand by what I said. Now if you want to say that Zenyatta should have won the 2009 HOTY....I will agree with that. But let's agree to disagree. · 1414 days ago
  • EP Taylor · I very much enjoyed watching the mare run, she is an all time great. · 1414 days ago
I do think Zenyatta is great, but she also greatly benefitted from coming along at the perfect time. She faced much easier competition than many of the top females in the past, she travelled lses, and she was manageed to perfection. Even her running style gave her a huge advantage on the West Coast during that time frame. Of the best older mares that have come along during my life I would rank her in the top 10 for sure and most likely top 5 (American based, turf or dirt), but her legacy isn't necessarily in whether she was the second coming of Pegasus or if she could've beaten Secretariat (both negative), but the impact she had on fans.
  • Show All 4 Comments
  • boxersdaddy · z is the only horse that came within half a head of winning 2 successive breeders cup classics, and the only female to compete and win. only the great cali horse, tiznow, who inspired bill belichick and the ne patriots to the super bowl, has won 2 bc classics. · 1415 days ago
  • EP Taylor · Boxer- Mucho Macho Man?. he was a kneck from winning two straight also. · 1414 days ago
Then IMO, your opinion just diminished further in value… cheers.
JCGC Gomez not JV...
I did. Thanks for asking.
By far??? >> Did you see the BCC?
Blame was the BEST horse in that race, never ran one bad lick in 2010 and was robbed of HOTY award. aside from Blame, the two dominant horses running that year Zenyatta and quality Road and he beat them both. His one blemish was JV getting beat tactically in the JCGC, or else he would have added that to his Donald Schaefer, Stephan Foster, Whitney and Classic wins. Blame will continue to be underrated by most. But IMO he was THE best older horse that year by far.
Thanks Brian love reading and love the walk down memory lane..oh the joy of watching Zenyatta will never leave my brain nor my heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed this article, Brian..Thank you for bringing back the memories of this special race horse. Also for Zenyatta Mondatta, what, do you think this is Brian's last article? Dang!
we had several years where the girl horses were dominating the sport and bringing in outsiders. z, rachel, blind luck, hdg, royal delta. will be some time before we see the phenomenon again.
@AnnEastman, NO, I don't think this will be his last article. Like I said, he apparently is on a "Retired Racemare Roll". Lets see, He's went through Rachel , Zenyatta, I expect he isn't through yet.....I'll keep checking back to see when he's through with his countdown. lol. Like your blog , Brian. Keep up the good work.
  • yukichan · I am looking forward to future articles from Brian on Royal Delta and Havre de Grace :) · 1415 days ago
I was at CD for her BC Classic effort. I have never heard a louder crowd reaction to a stretch drive in 40 years of horseracing. No one at CD thought that her narrow loss took anything from her legend & greatness. One of my top five all time races.
I have long been of the opinion that it is not the horse's fault who they do or do not face, and in the cases of Zenyatta and Wise Dan, it's really not their connections' fault either. Everyone and their brother knew where both would race because they stuck to the same schedule year after year. The reason Zenyatta and Wise Dan did not face "better" horses is because no one wanted to face them, especially since they knew ahead of time which races to avoid.
Good point Sullivan! And Rachael was no "okay" horse. She was great. Just nobody wanted to face her. Now who's fault is that? Certainly not Zenyatta's, or her connections.
Easier competition? like when she scared Ginger Punch and Blind Luck to the other side of the country while keeping Rachel Alexandra out of Arkansas?
Unfortunate accidents unfortunately happen despite everyone's best intentions. What happened to Caixa Electronica could have occured at any track or training facility or even in a paddock. Those types of accidents, while tragic are really of much less concern than the issue of medication overuse and basic unsoundness in the breed.
You're on a "Retired Race Mare Roll" aren't you , Brian??? geez...can't we keep it with the one's running. We ought to be talking about those poor unfortunate accidents like what happened with Caixa Eletronica??? they shouldn't be happening.. these broodmare retirees are doing what they're supposed to be doing! making million dollar babies!!!
  • Junebug719 · I think we should talk about all those "million dollar babies" that can't run a lick and what happens to them? and to the mothers once they have outlived their uterus'? · 1416 days ago
  • https://www.facebook.com/cal.macdonald.76 · And I think it's perfectly fine to talk about the legacies of past Champions! Nothing wrong with that! It's these memories that keep those legacies alive. · 1416 days ago
No doubt Queen Z is and will always be a Champion, even now only in a different way. But as I have said more than once, Blame doesn't get the respect or credit that he deserves for that victory. Many have said that his win was a fluke or just plain luck but the fact remains that he did win that race and he deserves credit for that win. Blame, like Queen Z, is a Champion as well!
Today, I can look back and agree she lost nothing in defeat. However, that night, sitting in some random hotel room in Pennsylvania, it felt like the heaviest loss ever. Still remember the emotions....
One of my 2 favorites races--the other being her 2009 BC win. Friends, as I mentioned I hit the HRN equivilent of the lottery and leave Wednesday for meet and greet with my heroine, the Queen Z. Pictures and summary will be coming.... Thank Brian, your timing with this tribute is perfect!

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