Last year ended a spectacular decade for racing. We saw raw brilliance on display, outstanding power, blinding speed, and sometimes all of those qualities put together in one horse. Horses like Ghostzapper, Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, Curlin, Point Given, Smarty Jones, Rags to Riches, and many many others dazzled us with their complete dominance over the track, capturing our hearts with their magnificence.
Last year I found it hard to rank my top three of the decade. Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Curlin were my top three. Yes, they were the most recent, but they all were some of the most brilliant, most dominant, and most captivating horses the nation had seen. Two of those three had yet to retire from racing, and that fact makes it extremely hard to compare merits side by side. After this year, I find it much easier. The horse of last decade was Curlin. Next Zenyatta, then Rachel Alexandra.
Why Curlin over Zenyatta you may ask? For one he simply did more and faced better. Over the course of February of 2007 to November of 2008, Curlin race 16 times. That is only four times less than Zenyatta, who has raced 20 times from November of 2007 to November of 2010. He raced in seven states and two countries over that time period and nine different track. He was only a winner over dirt, but ran over turf and synthetics, registering a second place finish in his only start over turf. The only track he did not register a win over was Santa Anita.
After running in what was, at the time, the grade two Arkansas Derby, he race exclusively in grade ones. His most remembered for his gritty head win, after re-rallying to beat Street Sense, in the Preakness. His stirring stretch duel with Rags to Riches in the Belmont, where he came up a head short. The "stylish performance" in the '07 Classic, where he came "power housing home" by four and one half lengths. And lastly his near eight length romp in the Dubai World Cup, in 2008.
We got to see Curlin's best on many occasions, and when we did it left us breathless. While Zenyatta was brilliant, magnificent, and stole the hearts of many in America, there was only one time we saw her best, and that was this year's Classic. For me, it will be her most memorable race. However, I would ask my readers, who do you think was the better horse? Blame or Curlin? Blame is a monster, no doubt, but not Curlin. She was the best horse in the Classic, no doubt, but her running style would've left her at even more of a disadvantage against Curlin, who could close, run mid-pack, stalk, or even lead.
Zenyatta was great, but her light schedule, lack of travel, and light competition for the majority over her career, leaves her just short of Curlin. Rachel Alexandra was one of the most brilliant and stunning fillies we will ever see. Her '09 season was historic and will not be duplicate in my lifetime. However, her inability to return to that same form leaves her just shy of top honors.