Monday, December 27, 2010

Horse Of The Year

I have stated numerous times on this blog that I do not have a vote for Horse Of The Year. However, that fact does not prevent me from offering my opinion on who should be Horse Of The Year. Firstly, I think there are only three legitimate candidates for the award: Blame, Goldikova, and Zenyatta. Oddly enough, each of these three candidates have something in common: they each lost once in 2010. Blame finished behind Haynesfield in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Goldikova finishes behind Makfi in the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois, and Zenyatta finished behind Blame in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic.

To begin with, I will address the candidacy of Goldikova since I think she might have the most working against her. She did something no other horse has ever done in 2010, she completed a three-peat of victories in the same race in the Breeders' Cup, turning the trick in the Mile once again at Churchill Downs. Her closing kick in the Mile was one of the more tantalizing sights of the Saturday card of racing in the Cup, as she ate up the ground and drove past Gio Ponti, The Usual Q.T., and everyone else to win under a perfect ride from Olivier Peslier. However, that was her only start in America, and while she did win at three different distances in 2010 (seven furlongs, one mile, and one mile and one eighth), I just don't think she is in the same class as the other two candidates for Horse Of The Year this year.

Next is Blame, who most observers seem to think will win the award. He started in five races this year and is the only one of the three candidates to run with less than Grade or Group 1 company, winning the Grade 3 Schaefer at Pimlico on Preakness day to kickstart his season. From there, Blame was a force in every race he ran in sans one. He ran down Battle Plan to win the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, he ran down Quality Road to win the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, he won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Classic by holding off the best horse we might have seen in the last ten years to score by a scant nose. However, he was absolutely trounced by Haynesfield in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. Haynesfield was able to set the pace and win by a convincing margin that day and while it is true that Haynesfield was among those beaten by Blame in the Classic, it is also true that the Classic just did not set up for Haynesfield's style and his bid was doomed from the start.

Finally, we have Zenyatta. She ran six times in 2010 and won five them, all with Grade 1 company. I know that the competition didn't always merit Grade 1 consideration, but those are the facts. She ran over five different racetracks in 2010 and several different types of surface (Pro-ride, Cushion, Polytrack, and conventional dirt). She tackled all comers until the last race and she lost by the narrowest and bitterest of margins. Her other conventional dirt race resulted in her tremendous win in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, a race her connections still sent her to even after the defection of the horse we all wanted her to face, Rachel Alexandra. She provided us with heart-wrenching excitement in nearly every other race she ran in, whether it was running down a gritty St. Trinians in the Grade 1 Vanity at Hollywood or doing the same to Switch in the Grade 1 Lady's Secret during the Oak Tree meeting at the same racetrack.

I think we also need to evaluate what Zenyatta has done for the entire sport of racing over the past year. She was profiled on "60 Minutes", she was featured by Oprah Winfrey as one of the "Women Of The Year", she created an atmosphere around her every time she went to the track that no horse has been able to replicate since the days of Secretariat. I think it might be true that even if you didn't bet a nickel on Zenyatta, you inevitably found yourself rooting for her.

In the final analysis, does her losing by a nose to Blame devalue all those other accomplishments she blessed us with in 2010? Does Blame getting drilled by Haynesfield outweigh the fact that he managed to defeat Zenyatta on the biggest stage the game has to offer? As I said earlier, I don't have a vote for Horse Of The Year, but if I had one I would give it to Zenyatta. She was clearly the Horse Of The Year in everyone's heart and she also was the Horse Of The Year at the racetrack. The devoted fans she has proved it every time she went out to do what she did and I think that even in defeat, she gave us her greatest performance of all twenty of her starts.

Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!

7 comments:

AfleetAlexForever said...

Its great to hear that you don’t have a vote, due to the fact that you seem to be caught up in the same unprofessional cult like following of a horse that was asked to prove herself against the best there was to offer 3 times winning two, and never winning a route race against males on dirt. That seems very unaccomplished to me, comparing her to Ruffian or Personal Ensign she pales to these two, one known for setting track records and never being behind a horse at any call, and the other finishing her career undefeated never ever tasting defeat (do you remember that theme, for 2 years that is all Zenyatta’s fans touted her for is being undefeated and in 2009 her only claim to fame was winning the BCClassic on a third surface. Now in 2010 you have less ammunition and you still feel somehow she should receive a pity award. Everyone wants to give the connections an award that they are not deserving of, what they deserve instead of Horse of the year is Coward horse of the year owners.

AfleetAlexForever said...

If she gets the award, and I highly doubt she will, that will set a very ugly precedent. If one horse is rewarded the industries highest honor for an ultra conservative campaign of restricted races just to post win after win, or take on zero competitive or ambitious races, never traveling and coming up with excuse after excuse to turn down invitations to run in nationally significant races from January to October, I'm sure others (probably also owned by Jerry Moss) will follow. We are all counting on the turf writers not to be so gullible, as in the past HOY winners were put to the test numerous times during the year, and if you feel she was tested by 3 year old switch and allowance quality Reinterval and Grade 2 St. Trinians then she certainly does not deserve any award, and these writers getting it right this year like they did last year will be quite important. Zenyatta would have gained a lot more respect and a almost Automatic HOY vote if she'd won the Ruffian, Whitney, Personal Ensign or hell even the Pacific Classic or Goodwood. But she didn't. Her cowardly connections kept her right in her fluffy little comfort zone and I'm guessing that they're going to see their foolish plan blow up in their faces AGAIN. (Do we all remember the look on Jerry moss’s face after the 2009 announcement, and the classless act of toasting during the middle of another man’s speech? When she doesn't win HOY again in 2010, blame Zenyatta's connections only for not letting her show the versatility of a true champion and not the writers who (hopefully) know a con job when they see one. Remember Jerry moss saw the same thing happen in 2008 and 2009, either you have to be very naïve and ignorant or just stubborn to not know that the same exact campaign that didn’t win HOY in years in which she won a Breeders Cup race and that was really all of the talk could not win you HOY in a year in which your horse was beaten in the biggest race by a much better horse.

AfleetAlexForever said...

. Her cowardly connections kept her right in her fluffy little comfort zone and I'm guessing that they're going to see their foolish plan blow up in their faces AGAIN. (Do we all remember the look on Jerry moss’s face after the 2009 announcement, and the classless act of toasting during the middle of another man’s speech? When she doesn't win HOY again in 2010, blame Zenyatta's connections only for not letting her show the versatility of a true champion and not the writers who (hopefully) know a con job when they see one. Remember Jerry moss saw the same thing happen in 2008 and 2009, either you have to be very naïve and ignorant or just stubborn to not know that the same exact campaign that didn’t win HOY in years in which she won a Breeders Cup race and that was really all of the talk could not win you HOY in a year in which your horse was beaten in the biggest race by a much better horse.

Michael Chamberlain said...

Sorry you feel that way, but much as you do here, I merely offered my opinion on what should be a very close vote.

Jimble said...

Well, you're right about one thing:


Goldikova truly isn't in the same class as Blame or Zenyatta, but that's their problem.

Aside from that, Goldikova sports four Gr. I wins over males in 2010 in addition to another over females. That clearly tops either of the other candidates.


In terms of competition, Goldikova has this year topped the winners of what I believe were 35 Gr. I races.

Add Blame and Zenyatta together and they have topped the winners of just 37 graded stakes of any grade in 2010.

As the only clearly stated qualification to be eligible is "one North American start", it is indisputable that Goldikova qualifies that way too.

This year's HOY question really is a no-brainer... but considering the cluelessness of those who vote, last year's choice should have been a no-brainer as well (yet they still dished out another black eye to Thoroughbred racing).

Jack Straw/ Zenyatta John said...

For AfleetAlexForever -

Wow do you have some frustrations as experienced with you extremely long winded comments to a blogger's opinion.

You have no credibility whatsoever. It is complete ignorance to say Zenyatta lost to a 'much better horse' - Blame in the BC Classic. Put the crack pipe down and wipe the fog from your eyes.

You bash the blogger - yet your opinion is just bashing from the Blames side.

Zenyatta is one of the 10 Best thoroughbreds ever to step on any race track anywhere at anytime. She deserved Horse of the Year in 2009, and deserves it once again in 2010.

procol said...

I'd like to see Z get the vote, if only to induce agita in her detractors.


If she had not 'dwelt' early in the BC (something not mentioned often , to my surprise) she might well have won. In that case, what hysterical arguments would we have heard against her?

As it is, if the few INCHES of defeat is justifying all the venom, it's a flimsy footing.