Unbeaten Zenyatta deserves better

Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, was asked by the media at Keeneland last Friday how he would feel if his remarkable mare lost in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was not named the 2010 Horse of the Year.

“It would be almost too much,” he said. “It would be a real slap in the face. I think she deserves it on what she has done on the track and as for the industry as a whole.”

I couldn’t agree more with Shirreffs.

Number one, Zenyatta should have been named Horse of the Year in 2008 over a colt, Curlin, who lost twice. When Curlin finished off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, that should have marked the end of his candidacy.

Secondly, Zenyatta should have shared Horse of the Year honors a year ago with Rachel Alexandra. Neither horse did a thing wrong in 2009 and they both deserved to be honored with the award.

You can argue all you want about whether Zenyatta is the best or even one of the best race horses of our time, but one thing is crystal clear — she’s the most amazing horse I’ve ever seen.

I’m a big baseball fan and I always make this distinction when asked to name the best pitcher I’ve ever seen — Sandy Koufax was the best, but Nolan Ryan was the most amazing because of how he continued to perform as a power pitcher well into his mid-40s.

While none of us knows for sure if Zenyatta is the best race horse we’ve seen, you can’t discount the fact that she continues to defy the odds by winning 19 consecutive races with a style that invites failure.

I venture to guess that Zenyatta is the only horse in the country who would have run down St Trinians, a VERY talented mare who was getting nine pounds from the winner, in the stretch of the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 13.

I also don’t think there’s another horse in the country who would have caught Switch when the John Sadler-trained filly opened a three-length lead in the stretch of the Lady’s Secret Stakes during the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meet on Oct. 2.

Yes, John Shirreffs is right. If Zenyatta’s career ends without a Horse of the Year trophy, it will be one of the greatest injustices in the history of the sport.

Makes me recall what Mike Smith said after last fall’s Breeders’ Cup, when Zenyatta became the first female to win the Classic and the veteran jockey was asked if she was Horse of the Year.

“She’s my Horse of the Decade,” Smith said.

Amen.

46 thoughts on “Unbeaten Zenyatta deserves better

  1. East Coast Bias – there always has been one and maybe always will be one. I am sorry that they did not take Zenyatta back to New York a couple of times – win at Belmont/Saratoga and you would have suddenly become one of them. Unless they see you in person, they will vote against you. And Kentucky is not east enough for the voters.

  2. If she wins the Classic shell get trashed because one of other horses had a bad stumble or whatever and who knows what would have happened if such-and-such had a good trip, and that other horse had that thing with the thing so he never showed up and boy if he had he would have given Zenyatta such a beating.

    Even if she wins, theyll trash her. She could win clear and theyll suddenly say WHO DID SHE BEAT? Isnt Churchill a poopy almost poly surface???? Closers ruled all day at Churchill, is what well hear.

    She will come home in 21:00, running the 1 miles in 1:59. 1, clear by eight and Andy Beyers will give her a 99. But, Ragozin will give her a -4 and she will blow up the Equibase computer.

    This has all the trappings of a rigged vote, AGAIN.

    Face it, she can’t win, even if she wins. With a victory, she will win their votes, but not their hearts.

    Anyway, we know she trancends a simple popularity vote. She is way beyond what her contemporaries think of her. She’s Zenyatta and we’ll NEVER see another one like her as long as we live.

  3. She’s not won the award because of the conservative nature of her owners. She should have run in the Classic two years ago and last year she stayed in California beating the same foes over that fake stuff. This year if she wins the Classic she will deserve it but if she loses to Blame or Quality Road she doesn’t deserve it. They would. I’m sorry if I offended anyone but I’m just stating the facts

  4. Would you believe I’ve already seen one “expert” say that UNCLE MO should win HOY if he wins the Juvenile? On three races. There is a distinct “anybody but Zenyatta” camp out there who would diss her if she wins the Classic by 8 in 1:56…they’ll blame the lights, poor trips for their “beasts” the heat, the cold, or say she “ducked” the “tougher race” in the Distaff. 20-0 should speak for itself.

  5. While she’s a great horse; one of the best ever, she needs to win a race outside of California against quality horses. Her win at Oaklawn this spring was against a very weak field and all of her races this summer have been against very poor fields. she is a parochial champion and has certainly suffered form her owner’s and trainer’s unwillingness to race outside of California and on dirt (one race at Oaklawn doesn’t count as far as I’m concerned). To be a true champ, she needs to win at Churchill Downs. Anything less than a victory and I’m afraid the conservative campaign plotted by her connections will be a disservice to her legacy and only have us wonder what if she had been tested by quality horses outside her comfort zone.

  6. If you go all in on one race, then you have the live with the consequences. Win and she’s likely HOY. Lose, and another horse wins HOY. The overly conservative campaign for the last two years has not helped her chances at all. The win streak means nothing because of this. If Zenyatta retires without ever winning HOY, Shirreffs will know the reason why when he looks in the mirror every day.

  7. If she wins, it will be very welcome and ridiculously overdue. If not, then it is of no matter. Remember, Nolan Ryan never won a Cy Young Award, and his legacy outshines most of the those who did win. Same with Zenyatta. She’s already bigger than the award, and indeed it will be diminished by her absence from its rolls.

  8. If you can run against mostly allowance types for the whole year and be awarded Horse of the Year because you supposedly deserved it some other year . . . that is a slap in the face to Blame, Quality Road, and Lookin’ at Lucky along with 2008 HOY Curlin and 2009 HOY Rachel Alexandra.

    Horse of the Year embodies excellence. While Zenyatta is impressive, her competition, campaign, and connections have left her in this poor position. There should be no rewards for “playing it safe”. Even if she wins the Classic and then HOY, she would be lucky to get it. It is no different than a Euro coming here, winning the Mile or Turf and not being Champion Turf horse. One good competitive race does not make a champion (look at Super Saver).

    This is 2010 HOY, not 2008 or 2009, and 2010 has not been about being the best and facing the best, it has been about trying to win 20 overall races. There are consequences for actions and the result may be no HOY title for Zenyatta, not because of voter bias, but because her connections could not stand to see her lose. Does that embody HOY for you? It doesn’t for me.

  9. I think Z deserved Horse of the year in 2008, but in 2009 Rachel’s Body of work was superior. The only decent horse Z has beaten theis year was St Trinians and rumor is she threw a shoe. If Z wins the Classic give it to her but if she loses she does not deserve to win the award. It is Horse of the Year not a lifetime acheivement award. Going 20-0 has nothing to do with it you have to base the award on what she accomplished THIS Year. And running a conservative campaign all year is not good enough unless she wins the Classic.

  10. I’m not a great fan of these awards, in any sport – too much idolatry, too little fun, and almost always comparing unlike realities.

    Having said that, this is a classic demo of speaking out of both sides of your mouth.
    Curlin had a brilliant year in 2008, save for his defeat on a surface he might not have liked (and which Z loves). But because of that defeat in a single race, you want to discount the rest of his brilliance that testing campaign.
    Zenyatta has had a nice year, again conservatively managed (unlike the real star of our times, Goldikova), continuing an extraordinary, if less-than-competitively- challenging streak.

    But if she loses the
    so-called “Big One,” it’s not supposed to matter, and her handful of wins against company the majority of race fans the world over outside her irrational home base recognize as soft is supposed to propel her to the title anyway.
    Curlin loses the Classic, 2008, he is not worthy to be champ – Zenyatta is. Zenyatta loses the Classic, 2010, the winner of that race is not worthy to be champ – Zenyatta is.

    Kudos to those Zenyatta fans who play by the rules of logic and history and fair play, and there are millions.
    A pox on the rest of you making silly, self-contradictory noise.

    Finally, Zenyatta may deserve a special award more that any single year’s trophy, because while no one of her yearly campaigns is marked by the kind of take-on-all-comers- and-prosper that characterized Goldikova each year, and Rachel last, and most HOTY winners, her lifetime record is genuinely
    special, and of the highest rank.

  11. Wow. We now have posters writing she doesn’t deserve HOY even if she wins. That’s a new low.
    Whatever…and what is with that POX stuff? What are you, some kind of nut? Howz about i wish that you don’t win a photofinish for a year or two. Howz about i wish that you NEVER win an inquiry again, that you never get put up and always get taken down? do you like that?
    Well, all i can say is i hope those of you who doubt her greatness are not allowed by the Racing Gods to celebrate her greatness after the fact. The rest of us will be…

  12. Zenyatta is a great race horse–one of the best ever–and anybody arguing otherwise is certifiable. But despite 19-for-19 she has never had the best year, which is what Horse of the Year is all about. The lack of a HOY Award thus far really speaks to the ultra-cautious race selection mapped out by her connections, not any East Coast bias or any other bias. It is not a career achievement award and sentimentality should not play a factor. If she wins on Nov. 6, of course, she’s horse of the Year. I would say if none of the other contenders (Blame, Quality Road or Lookin’ at Lucky) win as long as she finishes in the money or is close then I would give it to her this year. But if one of those other three win how can you not give it to them?

  13. If Zenyatta runs a bad third or fourth in Classic. It would all be for not. Means she could not compete with top dirt horses. Lets just hope it doesn’t happen.

  14. Zenyatta won the 2008 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn against the then-current Breeder’s Cup Distaff and Eclipse Award Older Mare Ginger Punch and a couple of other G1 winners by four going away with her ears pricked in only her FOURTH career start. She handles the dirt just fine. BTW, it’s been raining in SoCal the last few days, so Zenyatta’s gallops on the Hollywood DIRT training track have been in the mud. Her exercise rider said he had a very hard time controlling her Monday she’s raring to go.

    As to her competition, there’s a good analysis over on NTRA by a blog poster which shows that except for the Whitney, Blame and Quality Road’s competition has actually been of a lower overall quality than Zenyatta’s this year. Since Zenyatta has won 50% of the Grade I’s for older females the last three years, the potential pool is pretty small in her division. Blind Luck’s trainer said flat out that he would rather travel cross-country and give up ten pounds than race her. That says a lot.

    Speaking of weight, how many handicap horses have carried more than 126 lbs. in the last two years? Only one. Zenyatta. Most of the GI male “top” weights have been 122. Zenyatta has carried 129 twice. And still she wins.

    I urge everyone to read this blog on Blood Horse called “Missed Opportunities”. It says so much of what needs to be said. http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/wgoh/archive/2010/10/19/lost-opportunities-by-eric-mitchell.aspx

  15. I’ve already looked at the horses that Blame and Quality Road has beaten this year – nothing but East Coast tomato cans. They’re about as overrated as Rachel Alexandra was last year. Rachel Alexandra beat just eight winners of Grade 1 races all year long while Zenyatta beat the winners of 26 Grade 1 races. Do the math. Matter of fact, those horses that Zenyatta beat in the Classic last year has come back and won an incredible 9 Grade 1 races already this year.
    Don’t worry Art, more and more turf writers are coming forward with the same sentiment that you are saying such as Paul Moran of ESPN.com, Vic Zast of Horseracinginsider.com, and Jay Hoydey of the Daily Racing Form. Zenyatta along with Secretariat are the greatest racehorses in the history of horseracing.

  16. I’ve already looked at the horses that Blame and Quality Road has beaten this year – nothing but East Coast tomato cans. They’re about as overrated as Rachel Alexandra was last year. Rachel Alexandra beat just eight winners of Grade 1 races all year long while Zenyatta beat the winners of 26 Grade 1 races. Do the math. Matter of fact, those horses that Zenyatta beat in the Classic last year has come back and won an incredible 9 Grade 1 races already this year.
    Don’t worry Art, more and more turf writers are coming forward with the same sentiment that you are saying such as Paul Moran of ESPN.com, Vic Zast of Horseracinginsider.com, and Jay Hoydey of the Daily Racing Form. Zenyatta along with Secretariat are the greatest racehorses in the history of horseracing.

  17. That “East Coast Bias” that those pathetic people keep crying about is called INTELLIGENCE. Of course, putting things in context is beyond the ken of most East Coast bashers who have nothing substantial to support their arguments, so they just cry about a conspiratorial ECB.
    Zenyatta is great; just look at her races for the evidence.
    However, as was the case with other past greats, she raced during a time when other horses ran better campaigns in a given YEAR, as in Horse of the YEAR.
    Wilson’s disqualification of Curlin based on two losses shows his ignorance of racing history and the former tradition of consistent competition.

    Zenyatta has her place in history. That’s all that matters.
    She needs to win her mere 6th race of the year, which she will, to win HOTY. If she anti-miraculously does not, she probably still deserves HOTY, because the campaigns of the other “top” horses have been way more pathetic.

  18. Folks,

    Stop taking the bait. They only just a few Zenyatta detractors out there that bother enough to blog using several different names and e-mail addresses. And they’re the ones you see post the same things on all the same blogs such as Bloodhorse, NTRA, Thoroughbred Times, etc… They shuffle different names and e-mail addresses around to make it sound like there’s an army of Zenyatta haters out there. I know, because I know some of them.
    And they sit back and laugh when they get you all riled up.

  19. Folks,

    Stop taking the bait. They only just a few Zenyatta detractors out there that bother enough to blog using several different names and e-mail addresses. And they’re the ones you see post the same things on all the same blogs such as Bloodhorse, NTRA, Thoroughbred Times, etc… They shuffle different names and e-mail addresses around to make it sound like there’s an army of Zenyatta haters out there. I know, because I know some of them.
    And they sit back and laugh when they get you all riled up.

  20. Alydar never won HOY, neither did Silver Charm, Medaglia D’oro, Bernardini, Barbaro, etc…

    Giving away a Horse of the Year honor to a horse that doesn’t deserve it, dilutes the value of the award.

    Zenyatta is the best horse never to win the award and if she doesn’t win the BC Classic, she doesn’t deserve it. If the connections won the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic, she would have locked the award up by now, bur they were too cowardly to enter her. Why?

    The connections have been in the prevent defense for three years and all that does is prevent her from winning the Horse of the Year.

    They ruined her chance at greatness, they should be shunned.

  21. BS—she has done nothing this year, except run with the same low class horses—she will get beat in the BC—IF SHE RUNS—I do not believe she will run, they know inside that she will get beat—–I look for her to end up 3rd or 4th place if she does run—-
    to much PR on this one—choke time—-

  22. This is all a moot point because she is not going to win the Breeders Cup Classic anyway. Do you think proven Grade 1 Horses like Quality Road, Lookin at Lucky, and Blame are going to fall apart in the stretch like she needs them to? If it rains are they going to scratch Zenyatta again or send her out there to handle something she never has?? When she gets beat,her record isnt going to stand up to the winner of the Classic,most likely one of the previously mentioned. They have have left no margain for error here due to their somewhat conservative race schedule.What a shame. She is magnificent and deserved a more ambitious schedule.

  23. QR doesn’t truly want 10f for his best, she’s significantly faster in the stretch than Blame is, and she’s proven in far more G1s than either of them. LAL is the real threat to her, as far as I can see. Beward the improving 3 year old. He’s sharp and there’s just no quit in him. Can any of them stop her at a distance she relishes and giving her weight? I can’t see it happening, although it’s certainly possible. The only thing stopping her is perhaps, as you point out, the weather. Fingers crossed for a decent track on the big day.

  24. It’s very unfortunate that Zenyatta hasn’t been allowed to run against the boys more, just a few tougher races with better competition would’ve been enough to shut up her critics, or so one would think. Perhaps Zenyattas’ critics will never see the mare for what she is. I’m completely confident that Zenyatta will win the BCC and retire 20-0, although I’d rather see her shoot for Dubai and end her career on an international stage. She is one of the greatest thoroughbreds to ever grace the track. I hope after Nov. 6th more people will realize what a gift Zenyatta was to racing. Her fans tend to be a bit over the top, but they know how special this grand mare is. A horse like Zenyatta only comes around once in a lifetime. When someone tells me “Zenyattas’ no Secretariat” I reply “ofcoarse not, Secretariat lost 5 races, the queen has never lost to any horse.

  25. SECRETARIAT WAS THE KING,,,,ITS HARD TO BELEIVE HE DID GET BEAT WHEN HE DID HE WAS NOT RIGHT,,,HOWEVER WHEN HE WAS ON IF YOU WHERE AT THE RACETRACK OR EVEN WATCHING ON TELEVISION THE WAS A SUPERNATURAL PRESENCE IN THE ATMOSPHERE HE DID THINGS ON HIS BEST DAYS THAT WERE NOT ONLY UNBELEIVABLE BUT THINGS THAT WERE NOT EVEN LOGICAL,,,,HE WAS THAT SPECIAL,,IF YOU WOULD OBSERVE HIM ,,HIS WAYS JUST OUT IN A FIELD OR ON THE WALKING RING OR EVEN STANDING QUIET IN HIS STALL YOU SENSED THAT YOU WERE IN THE PRESENCE OF SOMETHING VERY VERY SPECIAL,,,YOU WILL NEVER EVER AGAIN SEE A HORSE DO WHAT HE DID IN HIS 3 TRIPLE CROWN RACES,,,IMPOSSIBLE,,IT WILL NOT BE REPEATED,,,I PRAY THAT HORSERACEING CAN MAKE A COMEBACE ,,,NOT ONLY DO WE NEED ANOTHER GREAT HORSE AND YES ZENTATTA WAS ALL THAT,,,SHE COULD REALLY CATCH YOUR ATTENTION I BELEIVE SHE WAS A FREAK AND A ONE IN A MILLION ONCE EVERT TWENTY OR SO YEARS SUPERSTAR THE SPORT NEEDS,,,,,WHAT RACEING REALLY NEEDS IS PUBLICITY IN THE MEDIA THE SPORTSPAGES AS WELL AS THE NETWORKS THAT COVER THE SPORT,,,,GOD BLESS ET

  26. I LOVE A COMMENT THAT PAT LYNCH MADE ABOUT SECRETARIATS BELMONT STAKES,,WIN IN 1973,,,HE SAID THAT IT WAS TRULY A SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE,,,IT WASAS IF THE LORD HIMSELF WAS HOLDING THE REINS THAT DAY,,,SETH HANCOCK OF CLAIBORN FARM WHO HAS CERTAINLY SEEN SOME GREAT HORSES SAID OF SECRETARIAT,,THAT WE HE WAS ON HIS GAME THERE WAS NEVER A HORSE SET FOOT ON THE RACETRACK IN THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT THAT COULD EVEN WARM HIM UP,,,I MISS HIM HE WAS MY ALL TIME FAVORITE ATHLETE,,,GOD BLESS ET

  27. I PRAY FOR THE DEVINE PROTECTION AND SAFETY OF ALL THE HORSES TRAINING AND RACEING AT EVERY FARM AND RACETRACK AS WELL AS EVERY RIDER THAT GETS A LEG UP ON THEM EVERYDAY EVERYWHERE,,LORD PUT A COVERING OVER THEM KEEP THEM SAFE IN THERE JOBS,,,GOD BLESS ET

  28. ZENYATTA AND HER WAYS AND ABILITY REMINDED ME OF THAT VERY SPECIAL PRESENCE IN A HORSE THAT THE SPORT AND SPORTS AND THE NATION ITSELF NEEDS THESE DARK DAYS,,,SHE HAD IT,,,SECRETARIAT HAD IT RUFFIAN HAD IT,,YOU SENSE SOMETHING STILL GOOD ON THE EARTH,,,I MISS THE FEELING,,,TRULY A VERY WONDERFUL,,PRESENCE,,,LET EVERYTHING THAT HAS BREATH PRAISE THE LORD,,,ET

  29. LETS SAY HAY AND THANK YOU MIKE SMITH FOR THE WAY YOU REPRESENTED THIS WONDERFULL ANIMAL,,,AND THE SPORT ITSELF,,,YOU ARE NOT ONLY A HALL OF FAME RIDER BUT,,A GENTELMAN,,,,YES REAL MEN CAN HAVE HEARTFELT EMOTIONS,,,AND REAL MEN LOVE GOD,,RACEING NEEDS MORE STORYBOOK HORSES AND HORSEMAN LIKE MIKE SMITH,,GOD BLESS ET

  30. AGAIN I MUST SAY,,,,SECRETARIAT WAS A SPECIAL CREATURE,,AND I HAVE WITNESSED SOME GREAT HORSES,,,,BUT WHEN BIG RED WAS ON HIS BEST GAME ,,,HE WAS ABSOLUTLY POSITIVLY JAWDROPPING,,,,,I DONT BELIEVE WE WILL SEE ANOTHER,,OF HIS LIKE,,,HE WAS A HEAVENLY HORSE,,,WHEN HE CAME DOWN THE STRETCH IN THE BELMONT ,,HE WAS THE BIG BIRD FLYING,,,,GOD BLESS ET

  31. THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING MY INPUT ON THIS SITE,,,,,I LOVE THE SPORT OF HORSERACEING,,,BUT EVEN MORE THEN THAT I LOVE THE HORSES AND UNTIL NOW LATER IN LIFE I NEVER REALIZED HOW SPECIAL THEY ARE AND HOW IMPORTANT THERE WELL BEING AND SAFETY,,,YES RACEHORSES ARE ATHLETES THEY LOVE TO RUN THEY ARE BRED TO RUN,,,HOWEVER THEY ARE CREATURES OD ALLMIGHTY GOD THAT WERE NOT BORN TO BE DRUGGED UP TO RACE AND THEN THROWN AWAY TO BE MURDERED BY UNGODLY MEN WHO HAVE NO HEART OR CARE OF LIFE,,FOR A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY,,,THE REASON THE SPORT HAS GOTTEN SUCH A BLACK EYE IS THE LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING,,,,THE BLOOD OF HORSES WHO WERE ONCE CARED FOR AN ABLE TO RACE AND THEN WERE THROWN AWAY FOR SLAUGHTER IS CRYING OUT FROM THE GROUND,,,,THE HORSES ARE GODS CREATURES AND ALWAYS MUST BE TREATED A SUCH,,HORSERACEING IS DYING AND WILL CONTINUE TO UNTIL THE GAME IS CHANGED IN A BIG WAY,,THE SPORT THE HORSES AND THE JOCKEYS NEED TO BE PROMOTED MORE IN THE MEDIA FOR THE GREAT ATHLETES THAT THEY ARE AND THE BEAUTY OF A HORSE AND RIDER IN PERFECT UNISON,,,POETRY IN MOTION,,,,,,,I PRAY THAT ALL THE HORSES THAT TRAIN AND RACE EVERYDAY AS WELL AS ALL THE UNWANTED AND LOST ANIMALS WILL HAVE A BETTER ENDING FROM NOW ON,,,,I PRAY,,THANK YOU FOR LISTENING

  32. It would have been one thing if you’d known about it all along, inetsad of the competition aspect being dumped on her like that. I know I wouldn’t have performed well, either. Poor girl.

  33. You have to look at Barbaro,,,this horse was just scratching the surface,,,he may even have been better on the turf,,,He was on his way to Awsome,,,Had he not broken down,,it would have been one of the most trilling Preaknesses with him and the speedy Bernardini,,dukeing it out down the stretch,,,both of those colts looked exeptional,,,,Smarty Jones was another one of the very best I have seen,,,,Another 2 that you do not here about as much are Point Givin who whould have been a triple crown winner had he run his race on derby day,,,,he had a Damascus like Kentucky Derby,,,Remember Damascus,,,they were in the race but did not really show up on the day,,there may be others I have missed,,,But lets not forget Skip Away,,,,When Skippy was on ,,No Horse in the country could touch him,,,he reall did not like running at Churchill Downs for some reason,,and also did not run his race in the derby,,Interesting topic,,,GOD BLESS ET

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