This is one of the most historic years that racing has seen in a very long time, this year will be forever remembered as the Year of the Filly. This was the year where fillies not only completely dominated there own division, but had the courage to step up and take on males, and win. Evita Argentina and Lethal Heat are only the minor players, at the forefront were the titans Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. Rachel Alexandra demolished all comers in her races against her own sex, so much that in her last two starts she recorded margins of up to 20 lengths. Against colts she showed her grit and determination, winning three grade ones against them, one by over six lengths. Zenyatta mostly dominated her own division all year long, but when the big, nearly black, five year old mare finally stepped up she bulldozed her competition, becoming the first mare to ever win the Breeders Cup Classic.
Since that race a heated discussion has arised, with the main question being who will become Horse of the Year. To me there is no contest, Zenyatta did win the Classic, but it was not her that we saw from mid February to September. It was not her that we saw race on seven tracks, six states, in eight races, never once tasting defeat, no, that was the brilliant Rachel Alexandra.
Before the Classic there was no competition of who would become Horse of the Year, there was such a striking difference by the historic campaign that Rachel Alexandra had waged when compare to the relatively light schedule that was displayed by Zenyatta. The five year old mare waited until mid May to make her first start after scratching from what was to be her season debut when the chance for a wet track arose. After her seasonal bow in the Milady she would race three more times, all against fillies, all in California, never leaving her comfort zone. The only thing of note that champion would do was shoulder 129lbs in the Vanity.
Meanwhile the brilliant 3 year old filly, Rachel Alexandra, was out waging a season unlike any other three year old filly. In her first four starts she would demolish rivals of the same sex, winning her debut by eight lengths, the Fair Ground Oaks geared down by 1 3/4, and the Fantasy by 12. Her climatic moment against her own sex was the Kentucky Oaks where she steamrolled her foes, romping by an unprecedented 20 1/4 lengths. After this she would only make one more start against fillies, which was again a romp, where she won eased in stakes record time, by 19 lengths.
Rachel Alexandra's starts against males would be mostly remembered for her determined and deeply moving win in the Woodward Stakes, where she would prevail by a head after running full tilt for the complete nine furlongs. She would endure two rabbits, sent specifically on suicide missions to tire her, then she withstood a challenge by the Whitney winner Bulls Bay, only to, again, hold off one more late surge by Macho Again, to become the first filly of any age to win the Woodward. Before her crowning moments she garnered wins in the Preakness, becoming only the fourth filly to win, and the first horse ever to win from post 13. Her most dominating performance came in the Haskell where she produced a Herculean effort to win over the Belmont winner Summer Bird, becoming only the second filly to win the race.
Before the Classic it would seem that Rachel Alexandra would have the honors of Horse of the Year wrapped up, but after being forced to put everything on the line in order to challenge Rachel for the award Jerry Moss entered his black monster into the Classic, where she would have to take her game to a whole new level. In the end Zenyatta answered her owners call, her response still echoing off the mountains across from the great Santa Anita racecourse.
I say however one win in one big race is not enough. Was it one of the largest and heavily weighted races, yes, but even a Classic cannot outweigh the historical significance of what Rachel has accomplished as a three year old filly. Zenyatta proved her greatness and only what she should have been doing all year long, facing the boys, leaving her comfort zone. I hear ludicrous claims like owner Jess Jackson "cherry picked" Rachel's season. Tell me how do all the races that were supposedly the "toughest fields" Rachel had faced and were supposed to were she met defeat, get demoted to nothing after she demolishes the field.
I hear that because Zenyatta is retiring and is five years old she should get the award, since Rachel will be racing next year. What these people don't realize is that racing is never for certain, Rachel could comeback to training, take a misstep that costs her the rest of her career. Will she still be crowned Horse of the Year then? Quit making excuses, take all the emotion out of the equation and look at the season on paper side by side. You will find Rachel wins, and in the end that is all that matters. If the connections of Zenyatta wanted the award they should have done more than just one thing. Rachel Alexandra had the best season and wins the award hands down.