Zenyatta, who just missed stretching her career win streak to a perfect 20 for 20 in the Breeders' Cup Classic by the slimmest of margins to Blame, has been retired and will be at Lane's End Farm starting in December. Zenyatta was very nearly a perfect racehorse. She joins Man O'War and Native Dancer and the great ones that have just that one blemish on their otherwise sterling records. Ironically enough, Zenyatta and Native Dancer both lost in the shadow of the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.
So, now comes the deliberation. Where does Zenyatta rank on the list of all-time greats? Should she be Horse Of The Year for 2010? What was her impact on the sport? I am not sure about either of the first two questions, but allow me a shot at answering the third one. Her impact on Thoroughbred racing was such that we may never see the likes of it again. CBS's "60 Minutes" dedicated many of those minutes to Zenyatta and her team the week before the Classic. ESPN's ratings for the Breeders' Cup were driven to all-time levels for horse racing on that network due to her presence. Oprah named her one of the most influential ladies of the year. OPRAH!!! When Oprah is on your side, you have most definitely arrived. Some of her fans might have taken their love of this lady way too far, but you can most certainly say that Zenyatta's fans are among the most dedicated this sport has ever seen.
That, of course, is the hope that comes with any great horse that comes down the pike. Those fans that love them to the deepest degree, will that affection translate either to the sport as a whole or to the next superstar that comes along (maybe Uncle Mo in about five or six months)? Will those people carry that zealotry and help bring racing away from the brink? Maybe or maybe not, whatever the ultimate impact of Zenyatta is and whatever her place in history is, she took not only the Mosses, John Shirreffs, and Mike Smith for quite a ride, she took every last one of us for quite a ride. Enjoy your retirement, Zenyatta!!! Honestly, I don't know if anyone ever did it better.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!