I never doubted Zenyatta's greatness, though I have in the past felt others were greater or had a greater season. This year, Zenyatta left me feeling that maybe she had lost a step. She was not finishing off her races with that killer kick that left daylight between her and her opposition. She barely beat St. Trinians, a good, hard trying little mare, but by no means great. She then barely finished in front of Rinteval, who was of even less caliber. Her last prep, in the Ladies Secret, she finished a short neck in front of Switch, who like St. Trinians is a good filly, but should not be able to give the mighty Zenyatta such a scare.
After watching those close calls I had my doubts about Zenyatta being able to run down horses like Quality Road, Lookin at Lucky, and Blame over conventional dirt. In an epic edition of the Breeders Cup Classic, Zenyatta charged down the stretch like a runaway express train, passing every horse as though they were tied to a post. As the wire approached, the mighty amazon zeroed in on Blame the final horse standing in her path.
It was the scenario we had seen so many times before in this season, with daylight still between Zenyatta and her nearest opponent, with time rapidly running out. Every time Zenyatta got to the wire just in the nick of time. This time, as the lights shined down on the two battling horses, Blame did not relent, denying Zenyatta her second consecutive Classic and the unbeaten status of 20-20 by a head.
I did not think Zenyatta would win, but as she came charging down the stretch I was willing her to get there, willing her to get by just one last time. In this loss she gain more respect from me than any of her previous 19 victories. She ran her heart out, and for the first time laid her body down showing us every bit of speed and heart she possessed. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
Alas, the champion mare who has fallen short of Horse of the Year twice before will have to settle to second once again. Blame, the victor of the Breeders Cup Classic deserves that honor. Is he as well know as Zenyatta? No. Is he as charismatic? No. Is he the better horse of the two? Probably not. But Blame had the better season, ducking nobody and finishing behind only one horse this year.
His victories in the Stephan Foster and Whitney Handicaps were nothing short of spectacular. First running down a very formidable, loose on the lead Battle Plan, while first flashing his brilliant turn of foot that saw him turn a four and a half length disadvantage to a 1 length victory in one furlong. In the Whitney he faced off with the brilliant Quality Road, the leading candidate for Horse of the Year, at the time. The son of Elusive Quality had things his own way early and still could not with stand the late charge of Blame.
Blame did have one hiccup this year, when finishing a surprising second to Haynesfield, who routed the field in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. With the pace so slow and the track playing to the favor Haynesfield speedy running style, Blame closed valiantly, but could mount a serious challenge to the winner.
With the Classic victory, Blame ran the race of his life and redeemed his status and clinched Horse of the Year. Does Zenyatta deserve to be honored? Yes, she does, but Blame settled things where they are supposed to be settled...On the track. He is your Horse of the Year.