10/04/2010 12:11PM

Zenyatta on the Brain


Zenyatta's legacy cannot be measured by speed figures.  Her greatness cannot be defined by come-home times, pace ratings, money earned, and championships won or denied by mere mortals.  Even the amazing race record she has accumulated cannot adequately describe what she means to the Sport to Kings. 

When the history books are written, and all is said and done, it is the incalcuable qualities that will distinguish Zenyatta from the majority.  It is the goosebumps and the smiles.  It is pure emotional energy.  It is charisma. 

Olivia Katherine Duckworth, 3, already a racing fan and aspiring handicapper, couldn't have been more excited about Super Saturday.  And who could blame her?  The Jockey Club Gold Cup headlined a card of five Grade 1 races at Belmont.  Preakness and Haskell winner Lookin At Lucky would make his final prep before the Breeders' Cup in the Indiana Derby.  Two-year-olds would get their main two-turn tests in Southern California. 

But when her Uncle walked through the door on Saturday afternoon, he was met with only one greeting.

"Zenyatta!" cried the Dutchess of Duckworth.

Out of the mouths of babes.  Who said there was an East Coast bias?

The child has a serious case of Zenyatta on the brain.  The questions came in staccato fashion. 

"How big is Zenyatta?"

"Why does she have cotton in her ears?"

"She can beat Quality Road, right?"

"Uncle Danny, how come you never pick her?"

"Will you do the Zenyatta dance with me?"

I patted the sweet tot on the head as I answered in order:

"17.2 hands."

"Because people make loads of noise when she runs."

"I would think so."

"It's not that I never pick her on top.  I have picked her on top plenty of times.  It's just that I...well, I can't really answer that question."

"Only if you share your cookies with me."

The queries stopped suddenly as Zenyatta appeared on television.  The child was mesmerized, bewitched by each and every move the great mare made.  You see, Zenyatta is not just a racehorse.  She is a Svengali, a magician, an entertainer, and a role model.  When Zenyatta did her patented pre-race strut, Olivia laughed, then mimicked the maneuver.  When Zenyatta made her way to the track for the post parade, Olivia applauded along with the rest of the Oak Tree at Hollywood crowd.  When Zenyatta crammed herself into the starting stall, Olivia leaned forward, intently studying the scene.  You could tell the little girl was nervous, like Cindy Lou Who wondering if the Grinch would steal the Christmas tree, gar-dinkers, and blue-toopers. 

The uneasiness grew as Switch, a quality three-year-old filly from the John Sadler barn, opened up a solid lead as the Lady's Secret field turned for home.  Zenyatta was rallying from the back of the pack as she always does, but for a brief second, things looked somewhat bleak. 

"Go, Zenyatta!  Run!" cried Olivia Katherine Duckworth.

"It doesn't look good," said Grandpa from the couch. 

"Oh grandpa, she'll win," scolded Olivia.

And she did.

After the kid whooped and hollered and did her special Zenyatta dance, it was back to analyzing Zenyatta.  As the big mare posed for her winner's circle photo, she pawed the ground over and over.

"She's counting," noticed Olivia.

Nineteen down.

One to go.


Back tomorrow with your questions and comments as well as the past performances for Thursday's HandiGambling exercise.