Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Zenyatta Wins!

The lyric in the picture is a translation of a song Mike Smith sings to Zenyatta before every race. It's a little prettier in Spanish, the way Smith sings it. Zenyatta's sisters have had temperment issues, and they wanted to keep Zenyatta calm before she raced. She would step in time to the lyrics after post parade and then mill around by herself as the other horses were jogged to get ready.

Once Again
Before you go
Allow me to look
Once more
Into the face
I will never forget.

It's been a sensational year for horseracing. How can anyone not be a fan? The storylines and the performances were riveting. Now we wait and see what the electorate comes up with for Horse of the Year.

Rachel Alexandra has the dubious distinction of being kept out of the two biggest races of the year and not on account of her individual talents or abilities. No Derby because she's a girl, and no BC because it's on a synthetic surface that Curlin didn't win on.

Zenyatta's connections took a lot of gruff for scratching on Derby day. Not wanting to bring her back on a sealed track. The decision had nothing to do with whether or not she could win. Sealed tracks are tough on a horse that's coming off a layoff.

I don't have a vote, but if I did it would be for Zenyatta. There's no doubt Jess Jackson has done a lot for horse racing, but his decision to avoid the Breeders' Cup should exact a price. Many people have waged campaigns against the Breeders Cup this year because it's on a synthetic surface, nevermind that just about every major stakes on the east coast this year has gotten rained on.

Unlike many other sports, horse racing needs its history, and its events are scattered; it needs the big players to confer the importance of certain races like the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup. And, yet it needs from everyone an open-mindedness to reform and improvement with the main goal being the health of the horse and breed. Synthetics need to be given a chance. Not only do the numbers show an improvement in breakdown rate, but there are long-term gains on breeding away from speed.

And the internationalization of American horse racing should not be seen as a threat, but as an opportunity for growth in a sport whose denizens are dwindling. If the Brits had won at the Breeders' Cup this year, there'd be calls to rip up the surface. Zenyatta didn't let this happen. This was an outrageously successful Breeders Cup, and I'm content it has crowned this year's queen.

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