Monday, November 8, 2010

Zenyatta - The Aftermath

I know that the last 36 hours were an emotional time for all of Zenyatta’s supports and a lot of talk comes out of your mouth in times of stress and great emotion. Here are some random thoughts on the gnashing of teeth by some of Zenyatta’s strongest supporters the last 24 hours.

“She’ll always be my champion” – Damn right she will. She spotted one the best race fields in decades about a mile and managed to only lose by a nose. It was a stellar performance by a remarkable mare. She SHOULD always be your champion – as well as one for everyone else!

“Mike Smith screwed her” – Hardly. She got pinched at the break and wasn’t thrilled about the surface early on. Even to those of us watching her on TV could tell that she just wasn’t moving the same way early in the race. Contrary to the vilification, he didn’t ‘weave her through traffic’ but he made one move up the inside and then angled out and had a straight shot to the finish. He worked hard to get her in gear and once she did she ran like she always did in the style that she always utilized. Give some credit to Blame – that’s NOT a bad horse folks.

Secretariat lost 5 times!” – Now we’re starting to slide into sour grapes territory here. Though there was no Breeder’s Cup back in the day, there was a Triple Crown. There was a complete devastation of a field in the final leg of a Triple Crown. The final time of the mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs yesterday was 2:02.1, almost 3 seconds slower than Secretariat’s track record time in his Derby. Secretariat beat the best horses of his time all over the map. While stirring, Zenyatta’s wins were not on par with record shattering performances. Is she in the discussion as one of the best all time? Of course she is, she is absolutely amazing, but her conservative “regular season” schedule over the past two seasons will haunt her in the greatest of all time discussions.

“She lost once, by a nose, she’s still Horse of the Year” – This is a debate I’m not getting involved in yet. Zenyatta finished the season 5-1. Blame finished his season at 4-1. They raced once head to head. He won, she didn’t. If Switch or Rinterval had picked up a win on Friday, it would have flattered Zenyatta immensely. In her defense, if they ran the Classic five more times, she may win them all. Also, I don’t think another horse in training could have left that much to do and come that close to overcoming it. Does Zenyatta win horse of the decade? By a landslide. Does she beat Blame over a two year period? Absolutely. I’m not convinced yet that she doesn’t deserve it this year anyhow, but stop the talk like Blame was a huge upset winner that shouldn’t even be in the conversation.

“She just got beat. She’s still amazing.” Amen. Yes she is.

If she returned next year I think she would still be one of the best horses in training but, eventually, she will lose a step. It has to happen, it happens to all of us! I would rather she retire now, as one of the greatest ever. She was a shining star when we needed one the most. She drew attention to a noble and classic sport that was in dire need of positive attention. She stirred emotions and made people care about racing again, or at least about a racehorse, giving the sport something to try and build off of for the future. Whether the ‘powers that be’ can capitalize on that remains to be seen, but that is a long and sordid argument for another time.

Let’s just enjoy the celebration that was Thoroughbred racing this weekend and the great champions that competed before we start trashing each other again.

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