Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zenyatta News Buzzes Racing; Einstein Retires

Zenyatta's Back!

What an announcement! What many folks had suspected for a month was confirmed yesterday when Zenyatta's connections announced she would race again in 2010 setting everyone a flutter. The Blood-Horse report on the story said that trainer John Sherreffs was keeping her busy working her every week while they waited for the weather in Kentucky to warm up before sending her there to be bred. The works were impressive enough and the inner fan in owners Jerry and Ann Moss was sufficiently stirred to want to see her race again.

This is wonderful news for racing. It wasn't as if Zenyatta was retired due to injury, she retired at her peak in both performance and condition. I can't say that I'm fully convinced that the dismal state of the breeding industry right now didn't play a part in the decision, though from what we've seen in the last 18 months quality still sells. I will take them at their word, mostly because I'm exciting to see a race mare of her caliber continue her career.

From my perspective, the way she energized fans last year was inspiring and that's what really excites me the most. Among the thousands that show up to watch her race are many casual fans that I hope we (the industry) can do a good job in capturing as permanent fans and not just one horse. After all, she will retire again, but racing will go on and we need new blood to do it. It would help a lot if the California Horse Racing Board doesn't proceed with it's plans to milk fans harder and make wagering on racing even less competitive than wager on slot machines, but I digress.

Now the talk will start about her 6-year old campaign and the pending return of Rachel Alexandra for her 4-year old season and where will the meet. IF they will meet. Will Zenyatta come back again and still only race in California? There is talk about the Dubai World Cup which will be held on synthetic for the first time in 2010. Winning that race, if my math is correct, will make her the richest horse in the history of racing. I don't believe the money itself matters to anyone connected with her, but the legacy must. Does she go to Churchill for the Breeder's Cup as it will be run on dirt this year? I think she almost has to. The party line for Zenyatta supporters has always been, "She should win horse of the year because she went to the 'World Thoroughbred Championships' and won and Rachel skipped it." How do you not run in this year?

The conspiracy theorists are probably already at work: retirement was a ploy to win horse of the year and get the votes of those who thought she could win this year and Rachel next; secret testing revealed that she will not be able to get in foal; she was kept in training until the results from Keeneland's January sale started coming in; blah, blah, blah.

She's a wonderful competitor and a champion coming back to her fans for a 6-year old season and should electrify racing again with her long distance (and hopefully head to head) rivalry with Rachel Alexandra. Whatever the motivation - and in my opinion it's a pure one - this is good for racing. Thanks for bringing her back!

Einstein Retired

One of the most flexible and hard working horses ever had his retirement thunder stolen from the Zenyatta news yesterday when it was announced that Einstein will retire and stand at Adena Springs. Eleven wins in thirty starts including seven graded stakes wins over all surfaces made him a threat every time he took to the racetrack. He had grit, drive and determination and managed to win two Grade I stakes in his 7-year old season. There is a lot to love about Einstein and I know I'll miss him on the track but look forward to seeing what his off-spring can accomplish.

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