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.