November 8, 2010

Farewell to My Heroes

by Scott Dick  (special guest piece)

It's a few days removed from one of the most exciting finishes in Breeders Cup history and only one thought has entered my mind. What happens now? Initially, in the moment, in the excitement and the thrill of seeing Blame, the horse I picked and a lot of us picked cross the finish line a desperate nose in front of the mighty Zenyatta, I was happy I picked the winner in one of the toughest races to handicap and maybe in my ignorance a little to "proud" of myself for this feat.

Now that all the excitement has worn off and we're a few days removed from one of the most exciting Breeders Cup weekends in the history of the event, I find myself with a little remorse and a twinge in my heart. It hit me hard as soon as I watched Mike Smith's press conference. This man has given his life to this sport and he's done it with dignity and class. And when Smith uttered the words " it hurts more than I can explain just cause it was my fault she should of won it ain't hers" I literally broke down and wept and even now writing this piece tears are rolling down my face.

I have not been one of the strongest voices in Zenyatta's corner. I've had my doubts about her class and the horses she's beaten. She proved me wrong and in her only defeat she stole my heart. It's really not supposed to end like this. She's supposed to get her nose down in time.

I've been an admirer of Rachel Alexandra since the beginning of her career and I'm taking nothing away from Rachel, who will always be number #1 in my eyes. I feel guilty, maybe, I missed it? Maybe some of us missed it? Yes, I've more than enjoyed Zenyatta over the past three years and her dancing and pawing and just sure brilliance. But in the back of my mind, in my selfishness, I didn't want to accept what I was seeing. I was blessed to see Zenyatta five feet away from me with a dear horse racing friend of mine, Tim Reynolds. Friday morning we rushed to Longfield Avenue to see if the great Zenyatta would be out grazing and in a sure act of fate, she was. I was over whelmed with what I saw, she was the most amazing creature I've ever seen in person.

But now after the Classic, I'm hit with the realization I'll never see these two incredible mares run again. This is an incredibly hard fact to face. Anyone that knows me knows I'm an intense person. I take things hard and I experience this game with my heart and in quoting Mike Smith and using a little bit of my own verbiage, "It hurts more than you know, just cause it ain't her fault it's mine she deserved everyone to love her for who she is and now that it's over. I do love more now than ever and can say without a doubt the greatest race mare I've ever seen."

So back to my question, what do we do now? This sport can be a cruel and heartless mistress and just at the height of our love for a horse, they're taken away from us, never to be seen again in the same spot light they were. 2010 has been so hard for me. Financially speaking, one of the best years I've had in the game, but emotionally speaking it's been "too hard". I'm tired of goodbyes. It hurt me more than anything when Jess Jackson took Rachel away from us in the darkness of the night, with no explanation, no goodbye, no last chance to see her again. And now we have to do it again. I can't bear to say goodbye to Zenyatta, not after my new found love for her. It's just too hard! Not only that, we also have to say goodbye to Blame who was a deserving victor in the biggest race in the world and probably won't get the credit as a horse he deserves. I do not want to say goodbye.

Where does this sport go from here? What do we do if and when Gio Ponti is retired and then what if Goldikova doesn't come back to run in 2011? I'm really having a hard time with this, but maybe just maybe the future is bright. Maybe the light will be shown on this sport in the future because of a bay colt named Mo. Or maybe just maybe we'll see an Oaks win by a horse who runs light as a feather, An Awesome Feather at that. Maybe the future of our sport is being born today on a cold Monday morning some where around Lexington.

Saying goodbye is always hard, but this year has been un-bearable. So I'll leave Zenyatta, the Mosses, Mike Smith, Steve Willard, Mario with a simple apology. I'm sorry for not seeing "it" until now. But I will smile and look to the future knowing that soon, we'll have another one of these amazing creatures grab our hearts and tug and never let go.


Courtney Cunniff said...

I couldn't have written it more perfectly myself. Rachel stole my heart and will ALWAYS be my girl,and while I was always saying "We can love them both", I didn't truly love Zenyatta until as of late. And on Saturday, I finally "got it" too. It is with so much sadness in my heart, that we must say goodbye to these two great mares, that I have decided to take a hiatus from the sport myself. Nothing will compare to these two ladies for a VERY long time, and I just want to take some "me" time to reflect and mourn and smile. Keep writing the beautiful blogs..

Your faithful reader/follower,

ps. your twitter updates kept us entertained and updated from the grandstand all weekend.

Brian Zipse said...

Thank you for the kind words Courtney, but ... I take no credit for this wonderful piece. Scott Dick wrote this one and deserves all the credit!

Sharon M said...

Good grief Scott! Literally! This article really packs a punch! Unfortunately, we always have to say goodbye to our heroes at some point. I wish it wasn't so, but it is. It's one of life's hardest lessens. Children grow up, friends move on, pets pass from our lives and our heroes always retire. Just enjoy them while they are there, that's all anyone can do. I've had a change of heart about Zenyatta myself. I couldn't help but love her showmanship and personality, but now I realize that she represents true greatness come to life before our very eyes. I've also come to the realization that she has done so much more for this sport we love than most of us know because we see things through our own life experiences, and not through others. I don't know if that even makes any sense! LOL! I just know she has brought a lot of positive publicity and new young fans to our sport. Something we need desperately! None of us know for sure if they will really retire her. We may be able to enjoy and appreciate her for a while longer. I hope so, for our beloved sport's sake.

Jennifer Cook said...

I was a Zenyatta fan awhile back, but I almost love her more after seeing her in the vulnerability of defeat. She was so close! I am truly moved by this heartfelt piece, Scott, as I said the first time I read it. On the one hand, it's a sad thing that the horses we love will leave us. But on the other hand, the hope and possibility is what keeps us coming back. Nice work! Thank you for putting into words what so many fans are feeling right now.

Sherry said...

Brian....thank you for letting Scott be your guest writer was an article that touched my heart.

Scott..with tears running down my cheeks now and with a heavy heart I can tell you I understand how you feel. I remember the day when I "got it" and she stole my heart 3 years ago....and since then I have followed Zenyatta with more enthusiasm and passion than I ever knew I was capable of...this one incredible mare has brought me more thrills and heart stopping to the wire racing....and she has done it with such class and grace and a love she herself has for the sport that is visible to any human eyes....just watch her.

I do not think I can say "goodbye" right now either.... the pain is just too great to deal I cannot imagine having to let go of this passion I have for her. After Breeder's Cup weekend fades away and I start looking forward to a new year of racing....the sadness will start all over again when I go to look for her next race and I will not find one.

She does not have to prove anything to me or the rest of the world....she is "Zenyatta" the one and only.. and that one name alone says it all.

One does not need to know her race record or who she beat or didn't beat or what coast she ran on or what coast she didn't...none of that matters...she is in a class so special that it does not have a category or title on it....and yes there are other horses in it with her...I do not even have to name names...they are the special ones..they have the "Look of Eagles" and strides to big to measure and hearts made of gold and when they ran they took our breathes so very fortunate we are to have lived in a time to witness such amazing athletes....I cherish them all...but Zenyatta has my heart and I am not ready to move on and let go.....

Anonymous said...

I have been reading many stories this week about writers crying in the press box and feeling something "spiritual" when near Zenyatta.

If you are Christian, you know that Jesus Christ is coming again to save us.

Could God have sent down Jesus Christ in the form of Zenyatta to save us?

markinsac said...

Brian, your words echoed all the words spoken to those I personally brought to see Zenyatta race live. From the paddock to dancing on the racetrack, she is soooooooooo amazing. I'm sure that she will still be on display at Hollywood Park for another month. Sherriffs has refused nobody, bring some carrots and she will be your friend for life. Plus Hollywood has a live meet and will probably have another Goodbye Zenyatta day. Her stretch run at Churchill was more impressive than at BC last year! Youtube has some videos filmed from the upper grandstand view at the top of the stretch. She blows, and I mean BLOWS by all but one and the grandstand collectively throws up their arms in disappointment. Just think what would have happened if she won? I agree with you it's too bad that the connections of Rachel and other great horses don't let their horses be more open to the public. J. Jackson put tape over Assmussen's mouth sometimes. Sad.

PS. Your words in this article were splendid, I also know it's hard to go on, but at least you got to see her in what was ironically her greatest race, the race she didn't win. But the race she won the hearts of America. I share your love of this game and i'll be checking in.

markinsac said...

I didnt realize Scott wrote those words. Scott thanks a ton, your words represent millions of those who fell in love on SaurdaY

RachelAlex said...

Beautiful and heartfelt article, Scott. I too am a huge Rachel fan, but have always admired Big Z, and was sad to see her lose.

I do feel that both of these magnificent creatures were "on stage" for too brief a time. Rachel made a racing fan of me (I have lived near Saratoga most of my life and up until two years ago hardly ever attended the track!)and Zenyatta reinforced that love for this sport.

Now that they are both done with their careers, I feel disconsolate and wonder if I will be able to recapture the excitement that I felt the past two summers.

I just hope our next stars are all fillies--they make racing special for me.

P.S.--Brian, have you written your farewell article about Rachel yet? I have been away and have not been following blogs for a while.

Thank you.

Miranda said...

Beautiful article, but one thing, and only because I'm a picky snot, I sure hope there are no foals being born in Lexington right now...they'll be yearlings in two months!!! There. But I get what you were saying!

Celeste said...

Scott, thank you. This is a beautiful piece and your words help define the feelings in my heart I've not been able to express. Brian, thank you for the guest blogger.

Ernie said...

Scott's words are always heartfelt. Thanks for sharing them, Brian.

Samantha said...

Oh scott, i think what you say speaks for everyone, how can we say goodbye to such a beautiful creature?

Samantha said...

Oh scott, i think what you say speaks for everyone, how can we say goodbye to such a beautiful creature?

Anonymous said...


markinsac said...


Silent Sunday said...


Beautiful man, just beautiful. The sport is lucky to count you as one of it's fans as I am lucky to count you as one of my friends. This past weekend was literally one of the best ever in my life thanks to you, Ernie,Jennifer and Zipse.

"Hey, that's Longfield right there, you want to go down there and see if she's out?" "Sure, why not!" in funny ways.

Debbie M said...

This was a beautiful article. It does explain just how Zenyatta lures you in and steals your heart. I was there alongside all of her fans and marveled at her beauty and grace. I will miss her dearly too. I am so glad that I was able to experience being around her and her great connections. What a fine group of people who all wanted the world to see exactly what Zenyatta is to them. What a kind and remarkable horse. She is truly amazing.