Friday, December 4, 2009

Zenyatta, One In a Zillion

First I would like to start by saying that I know my last post about Zenyatta, when talking about her owner, may have been harsh, but I will not apologize for speculating and putting my opinion out there. This post however is about Zenyatta, and only Zenyatta, one of the best horses of the decade, and perhaps all time.

Last year I had only heard of Zenyatta and her dominance. I read of her victories, won with the ease of a well oiled machine. I heard of her unbeaten record and her win in the Apple Blossom, arguably her best victory, where she pummeled the defending Distaff champion Ginger Punch, by over eight lengths. She was said to be an amazon of a mare, standing a 17 hands high, weighing in at over 1200lbs. Her dark, nearly black coat only added to the presence and strength she exuded, seemingly intimidating her opponents.

This year was also the same year my equine racing love, Curlin, returned for his four year old season, where he had started off with three straight dominating easy wins. Had it not been for him I probably would have fallen in love with the big dark mare, who would soon become an unbeaten winner of the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. This was not to be, and that year, though I liked her, she was mainly a competitor and an obstacle standing in the way of my favorite horse.

After all I had heard about her, all the accolades she was receiving, some even saying she was Ruffian reincarnated, I had to watch her run. The race I would watch the rapidly rising star in was the Vanity, which turned out to be, at the time, her closest margin of victory ever. I remember watching Zenyatta, as normal, break dead last as Silver Swallow opened up a clear advantage on the lead. For the entire race Zenyatta remained at the back, unhurried to get into gear and begin her closing assault on the front runners.

On the far turn is when it happened, Zenyatta began to uncoil her massive strides, gobbling up ground, and closing in with every stride. By the stretch the big mare had gained the lead, and seemed to be on her way to an easy victory, that was until Tough Tiz's Sis re-fired and began to steadily eat into Zenyatta's lead. Zenyatta seemed to have shortened stride while Tough Tiz's Sis kept doggedly chasing for the victory. Zenyatta had built up to big a lead though and by the time they hit the wire Zenyatta was still in front, by half a length, to keep her unblemished record.

This race did not impress me all that much, but the Clement Hirsch was won with dominance and apparent ease, as was her final prep for the Ladies Classic, the Lady's Secret, but it was at the World Championships, that she completely stole the show. The part that sticks best within my memory was her stretch run, watching her fly around the far turn coming at least six wide, then with in only a couple jumps taking over to win with devastating ease. That race to me was her most beautiful and inspiring race, even over this year's Classic.

This year, Zenyatta failed to ever really move or inspire me, that was left to the brilliant three year old Rachel Alexandra. Still, Zenyatta did exactly what she needed, every time she raced, win. She would only race five times this season, four against her own sex, and one, the big one, against the males, in the Classic. No matter what they threw at her she won, and always did so with something left, never truly ever being asked.

Her farewell parade at Hollywood Park, may have been an attempt by her owner to get more votes, it may not have been, but one thing is for certain, Zenyatta looked less queen and more of a goddess. Her unearthly beauty stunned me, as she marched up and down the grandstand side of the track. Her neck was bowed, yet she still remained calm, jogging patiently, seeming to survey her loyal fans. She is incredible, beautiful, and perfect. She is Zenyatta, and she is one for the ages.


  1. It does seem that Zenyatta connects more with her audience than most horses. Or maybe that is the result of the press and her connections portraying her that way. No matter, the dances and the real or made up fan appreciation by her are very endearing. Not only does Zenyatta have the advantage of one more year of being glorified by the press before Rachel solidified her greatness in May, she has more of a personal connection with fans.

    Interesting note about these two mares, from someone who loves them both. Calvin Borel is in Japan or Hong Kong right now, Japan I think. His first time out of the states, can you believe it? Anyways, he was asked by the foriegn press what made Rachel Alexandra so great, he replied that her stride was enormous, maybe ONLY SECOND TO SECRETARIAT himself. Maybe one of the biomechanics fans could weigh in here on this. Rachel's stride might be bigger than Zenyatta's? Wow.

    Mr. Jackson made some recent comments about the Horse Of The Year race, I have yet to read them. This may put some more perspective on the dueling titans of the thoroughbred world. I also really like them both, regardless of their pimping tendencies (joking, joking, joking . . .)

    Zenyatta's so massive, I might forgive them for only running her 5 times. Harder to keep a big horse sound. Did not she wait some 7 months between the Ladies Classic and her next start? That bewildered me. But who am I to second guess patient and careful trainers?

    I, a staunch supporter of only one Horse Of The Year award, am starting to get some real empathy for the fans of whichever horse loses. Especially if it's Zenyatta. Two years in the public eye, hailed as special even in her debut. Do you remember how everyone was gaa gaa over her Breeder's Cup win last year? She's like family. There may be a grieving process with therapy and much Internet cathartic sharing of feelings. And that's putting it nicely.

    I'm getting a little bored of talking about Horse Of The Year. My final stance- Rachel earned the win in 2009. Zenyatta was probably the better horse overall, besting Rachel at Classic distances perhaps? Will never know. But they were both lovely.

    I hope they breed Zenyatta to a stallion who's foals have easy births. I worry about such a giantess delivering too big of babies. Hopefully I'm worried about nothing. It would be a crying shame to lose her in the retired life of leisure that many seem to think has less danger than the track.

  2. Zinger, Zillion? What's next Zuper Duper? LOL She deserves all the accolades and oohs and ahhs she gets. Zipse gives Zenyatta a big Zumbs up!