September 30, 2010

Of Zenyatta and Rants from the Peanut Gallery

I love Zenyatta, but yet I must admit there have been times in the last eleven months where I felt that some of her fans have a chip on their shoulder the size of the mighty mare that they adore. Over this period, I could not write anything positive about Rachel Alexandra without being chastised or lectured in the process. Now of course, this is not all Zen fans. Far from it. Most are wonderful admirers, gracious in victory, who do not seek to insult others, in order to build up their own rooting interest. I understand, I get it. Zenyatta was the victim of circumstance when it came time to decide Horse of the Year two years in a row. Zenyatta is a hero to millions. She has drawn in new fans in droves, and quite simply is a godsend for the sport. On the track, she is one in a million. I believe she is a fantastic race mare, hell, I think she is the best female athlete we have seen in the universe. Sorry. I did qualify that as female, seeing as I am a Chicagoan, and we had a guy a few years back named Michael.

On Saturday, the world has the privilege to witness Zenyatta racing again. The undefeated, and soon to be three-time champion, Zenyatta towers over the field like a skyscraper in the middle of a corn field, as she goes for lucky number 19 in the $250,000 Lady's Secret Stakes (formerly the Zenyatta Stakes [formerly the Lady’s Secret Stakes]).

Now for the bad news … Zenyatta’s 2010 campaign, including her race in two days, does not deserve to place her atop the current Horse of the Year polls. {Insert expletives here.} The only reason that she holds this spot, is because of what she has accomplished over her career. She simply has not beaten one horse of top quality this year. The only notable horse she has raced against in 2010 is St Trinians, and she was coming off a 6th place finish in her previous start.

Does this fact take anything away from Zenyatta as a racehorse? Absolutely not. Rather, it is only an assessment of the campaign her handlers have chosen for her to this point of the year.

Am I hear to announce that her owners have cheated the racing public? No. They are her owners, and they can choose to do whatever they want, which of course could have spelled retirement a long time ago.

If Zenyatta is not my current Horse of the Year, who is? This year there are no historic seasons to compete against. My current leader is Blame, because of the quality of the fields he has defeated in his undefeated season so far, but he is on schedule to run only five races the entire year for crying out loud. Ahhh, but that is a rant for another day

Do all these mismatches take anything away from her career as many have suggested? I honestly don’t think so. It seems like an apples or oranges situation. If she had been running in hard races against males regularly, like some other great mares of the past have done, we may have been treated to some great races along the way, but I doubt that she would still be undefeated, and I feel that it is very likely that she would have already been retired. There is a lot to be said for longevity and perfection.

Do I think she can still deserve to win Horse of the Year at the conclusion of 2010? That’s an easy one … Yes! If she wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic, her easy campaign leading up to it will just have been a perfect series of preps. If she wins the Classic, Zenyatta will be Horse of the Year, and the vote will be deservingly unanimous.

Love them, hate them, or somewhere in between, these are my opinions. Thank you for listening.


Jo said...

Great post and I agree. It all comes down to the BCC to decide this years HOTY.

Like you say, if Zenyatta repeats in the Classic, she more than deserves HOTY.

I love Zenyatta, I stay up until the small hours of the morning when she runs (European admirer) but I also think she could have done more this year.

I'm not saying she SHOULD have done more. I'm not part of her connections, nor do I know them or Zenyatta personally. For all we know Zenyatta doesn't travel well at all. Or there is another reason why she can't travel as much as other horses.
I also understand the connections want to support SoCal racing and I applaud them for it! And that they can't decide which horses run against their super star, of course this horse scares would-be opponents connections.

Fact remains though, her campaign this year has been soft. I just hope she's prepared enough for the onslaught of her Classic's opponents. At least Mike Smith seems confident, that's gotta count for something!

Sharon M said...

Brian, you are a brave man! ;-p I do agree with all your points in this article. I don't think we can even really be sure at this point just how good Zenyatta is this year based on her races up till now. It all comes down to the Classic and if she wins that, well there will be no doubt who the HOY should and will be.

Also,congratulations to you for the 1st race on the card for "Super Saturday" being named in honor of your blog! It's well deserved!

darlene said...

RA and Z how will we look forward to next year So far no horse has shown the capability of capturing the public as these 2 I have a "pen pal" in England that lives and breathes these 2 and their jocks far and above any from here home country Such is their star quality There may be better out there Blame may be one but right now he lacks in excitement to draw the love and the crowds I miss Rach already and win or lose i will be missing the Big Z Love the post as always Brian

Brian Zipse said...

Thanks for the kind words folks ... no bashing yet, but I am prepared!

Let It Ride Mike said...

Brian, its not quite cricket to say Zenyatta has been sheltered by her owners when they brought her out of retirement specifically to face Rachel and settle things. Zenyatta showed up. The connections to call out own a winery in CA.

Even in the Ladys Secret, isnt Blind Luck nominated? Did her connections choose to take on Zenyatta? Can Zenyatta. enter the race Blind Luck is in? Z has been right there for any of these top fillys and mares to enter against. They want no part of her

bedfont said...

Love Z but from this side of the Pond she's faced Colts once. It was also the only time she faced a double figure field. She's wonderful and I've made a bunch from backing her 2 years ago and in commission last year but she will prove far more winning what at this stage looks a good Classic.

Beating Twice Over 2.25L is good but his other run on synths he was mullared (Dubai not definitive given traffic issues) but recently Cape Blanco handed Twice his lunch say and so have most top class Euro Turfers and a few just shy.

I love her and backed her all days to Sunday for the race with Rachel that did not come off. However Rachel beating of colts last year has more resonance for me even if I believe she might be better at her best and more consistent over a longer timeframe.

Anonymous said...

Johnathan, to expand on the point you are making about Rachel beating colts, To me, the mile and a quarter distance is more important. The thing that will always have Z at the top of my list with Ruffian is that she is a true mile and a quarter horse, and has beaten top class males at that distance. I think she really is at quite a disadvantage in her many mile and a sixteenth races. Her move from the middle of the turn home in last years Classic seperates her from Rachel and everyone else in my mind. You just dont run by that many Grade 1 winners as if they were standing still.

Jennifer said...

Brian ~ I agree with Sharon. You are a brave man for posting this one! :) (I do agree with you in that we are focusing on her historical record right now. It would just be such a shame to let her slip through the cracks of history without being HOY.) I'm still hoping Big Z gets HOY.

NetworkEmpowerment said...

I agree completely. I respect Zenyatta, but as somebody else mentioned, based on what we have seen this year we can't tell if she's really lost a step, is the same, or better than she was last year.

People harping on the AB, Please remember the facts. Zenyatta was being pointed to that race officially, since the nights of the Eclipse Awards. Rachel Alexandra was not. Rachel Alexandra was nowhere near ready to race at that point, and should've never been rerouted to point at the AB.

Beating boys 3 times, and beating elders as a 3yr old filly would hold more importance with me. It hold even more weight because Zenyatta did it once, at a time when many were probably a little past their best, did it on her home track -a track only 3 horses had proven decent form over- and the rest were either unknows or had already proven their distaste.

IMO, the real champions this year are the 3yr old leaders. Just look at how both LAL and BL have been campaigned. By the end of this year you can forget a light 5 race campaign, but see hardened travelers who will have raced a total of 7 and 9 times, the 9 starts going to Blind Luck. If anybody wants a model of what a good campaign should look like, look at what those two have done.

William said...

great post can argue or discuss this till the end of zenyatta made her leap to greatness ginger spice was the queen of the mares. zenyatta made the trip to challenge and defeat her, now that the shoe is on th...e other foot why is it that she has to find the challengers...yeah i can hear all the answers, sport, show her off synthetic,whatever but she doesnt have to....blind luck can enter saturday, rachel could have before her retirement entered saturday and every horse in the world knows where she will be on nov 6...will blind luck be chastised if she chose to go in the bc female race?...naysayers knock the field of last years bc but they took a shot at her...i am not here to knock rachel, but maybe a little towards her owner...did they go to monmouth this year because of a financial incentive, did they go to the haskell last year cause of a financial incentive?...did they not take her to santa anita cause curlin couldnt win on it?...different paths are choosed for different reasons

Anonymous said...

All I can say is that Jerry Hollendorfer opted to run Blind Luck back east instead of facing the good. The competition is poor because she's scaring all of the good ones away.

Sami said...

Wonderfully said! Thank you for posting about her. I'm soooo nervous for this sat. :)

joani said...

Another well written and fair essay, Brian. It's nice hearing from the other side of the pond as well. I, for another, am eager to see Blame take on the rest.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry. I did qualify that as female, seeing as I am a Chicagoan, and we had a guy a few years back named Michael." **chills**

fro said...

Zen is special, no doubt. I agree that the added distance is to her advantage and what she did in the classic was breathtaking.

I just wish she didn't run on the plastic. Having seen it for the first time at Del Mar this summer, it was strange. Horses are not supposed to run on this stuff!

I guess we will never know, but Zen's affection for the plastic track, leaves a bit of doubt.

Let's see how she does on the dirt at CD. BTW - I will be rooting for her, we need superstars in this sport.

NJ said...

One of the comments found at

"The Art of Zen "

I would like to give a little insight to the bloggers of Steve Haskin's article and what was going on with Zenyatta and Churchill Downs last year.

Once this is posted, the cat will be out of the bag "so-to-speak".

Sherriffs already knows what he has when it comes to Zenyatta and the Churchill Downs racing surface.

Before the track was sealed (last year at Churchill Downs) Zenyatta was eating the track.

I feel its important to inform the public (a public that has an open ear and does not want to go through the school of hard knocks) regarding Zenyatta and the Churchill Down racing surface.

Her best surface to date "according to her connections" is Churchill Downs.

John is "very" conservative and did not want to race Zenyatta on a sealed hard surface, due to his main goal of the Breeders Cup later in the year.

I am telling you now (whether you choose to listen or not is up to you),this mare will absolutely destroy Quality Road and any filly/mare on the North American continent in regards to Churchill Downs racing surface.

Most people (meaning the public) do not realize "just how good" Zenyatta took to Churchill's racing surface.

They will soon find out.

Best Regards,

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson 19 Apr 2010 1:19 PM

Stacey said...

I agreed with you 100% until you said that Z deserves to win HOY if she wins the BCC.

As last year proved, the BCC does not a HOY make! My vote goes to either Blame or Quality Road - though I'd have to have a serious rethink if Z beats both of them in this year's BCC, especially if she does so in her usual lah-dee-dah, ears-pricked fashion.

But as you said, she's beaten nothing of quality this year except St Trinian and I'd be willing to bet that St Trinian would have gotten Z if she hadn't lost that shoe in the stretch.

And St T was body sore and subsequently done for the year due to taking on Big Z? Hmm, I think maybe it might have had more to do with that horrible egg beater action she has. She looked like she was scrambling on a sheet of ice!

markinsac said...

Alright Brian, I'm going to let you have it. First you say "Zenyatta does not deserve to be placed on top based on the campaign she's run this year." Yet, before Rachel retired, you placed her first in the BC Ladies Classic. So the campaign only counts with Zenyatta, not Rachel? Explain this glaring contridiction? I really don't care if she wins HOTY. Her connections raced her safely and with care. ON the other hand, J. Jackson and Steve Assmussen absolutely BURNED OUT RACHEL LAST YEAR. I'd much rather have Zen's connections than Rachel's, they actually care about their horse.

Brian Zipse said...

Zero contradiction. I think you are confusing an end of the year award, with a selection for a single race. Zenyatta has already clinched the older female award in unanimous fashion, Rachel is not even in the discussion.

Sarah Grice said...

"I think you are confusing an end of the year award, with a selection for a single race."

Does this surprise you? And why does this seem to happen so often? I'm not sure what people don't understand that HOY is an award for the top performing horse of that single year. It baffles me.