11/12/2010 6:50PM

Letters to the Editor: Fans sing Zenyatta's praises

Tom Keyser
Zenyatta (8), Mike Smith up, loses the Breeders' Cup Classic to Blame.

In 1978, Exceller won six Grade 1 races on dirt and turf, proving to be not only talented but also versatile. He defeated 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which at that time was the decisive fall championship event. Seattle Slew was so game in defeat, however, that few who saw that race have yet forgotten it. The voters rewarded his courage and the horse who was obviously the best in that race with an Eclipse Award as top older male. They did not concede the award to the winner of the race. In fact, had Affirmed not won the Triple Crown that same year, there is little doubt Seattle Slew would have been named Horse of the Year.

Flash forward 32 years and I am baffled that everybody is ready to concede Horse of the Year to Blame without question. In a controversial decision last year, they weren't willing to concede it to Zenyatta when she won the Classic and made history. So why are they so willing to concede it to Blame this year?

Zenyatta was, unquestionably, the best horse in the Classic. She was gallant in a defeat of mere inches, and if she had gotten a hold of Blame's home track just a stride or two quicker, she would have won. Had she been confident on that track from the break, she might have beaten him by open lengths.

Zenyatta won more Grade 1 races, at more tracks, and on two different surfaces. In fact, she raced exclusively in Grade 1 company while Blame was winning a Grade 3 at Pimlico. Both Zenyatta and Blame had one loss in 2010, and there is no comparison between the Breeders' Cup Classic and Blame's four-length drubbing in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Blame couldn't close off a slow early pace that day, something Zenyatta has had to face many times in her near-perfect career, without excuse.

Zenyatta's most recent foe before the ¬Classic, Switch, came back to finish second in the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, whereas Gold Cup winner Haynesfield and Whitney runner-up Quality Road finished in the last two positions in the Classic, beaten more than 20 lengths by Blame and Zenyatta.

If the voters wanted to downgrade Zenyatta last year for winning the Classic because she had an advantage on her home track, why wouldn't the same apply to Blame this year? Give the title to Zenyatta, for she deserves it more and anything else would be a slap in the face to the Queen, her connections, her legion of fans, and in fact to the sport itself.

Bonnie L. Holder - Lexington, Ky.

Winner may as well remain nameless

Well, Man o' War (20 for 21) had his Upset, and now Zenyatta (19 for 20) has her Blame. That pretty well sums up the 2010 Horse of the Year vote.

Zenyatta will forever be associated with the legends of the sport, like Man o' War. Blame will forever be the answer to a trivia question, much like Upset. Which one sounds more like a Horse of the Year to you?

Gus Sanchez - San Diego

Emotional outpouring made great day

I had never gotten into the whole "Zenyatta, we love you" thing, but I went with my dad to the Breeders' Cup last Saturday at Churchill Downs, and in my 41 years of following horse racing I had never sensed such a feeling in the air, such an electricity at the track, such a zest for a horse.

After seeing what Zenyatta did Saturday evening, the way she overcame the smash at the break, the strange ride of dropping 25 lengths out of it as she passed us on the first turn (I said at that point she can't win from there). She flew, and at the top of the stretch a roar let out across Churchill Downs like I had never heard in my life. The building shook, the people were screaming. Then in a blink it was silent. I had never experienced that before in my life.

So the question for this Midwestern guy is: Is she Horse of the Year? Well, I can tell you this: She is horse of the decade. What she has done for racing in the last three years, what she has done for California fans, and now for Churchill fans, has never been challenged.

I have been to several Kentucky Derbies. Not even there has a horse ever gotten the ovation Zenyatta got. People were crying all over the track. People were consoling each other walking to the cars like someone just died.

I have to say this, her loss last Saturday only makes me believe even more that she is the top mare of all time and among the top five horses of all time.

The Moss family, trainer John Shirreffs, and jockey Mike Smith, along with Zenyatta -- for what they have done for horse racing over the last three years -- deserve racing's top honor. Period.

Dan Cronin - Cincinnati

Battle lines drawn for Eclipse voters

Turf writers have a unique opportunity this year when considering Horse of the Year honors, an award that is and always has been more of a symbolic gesture than anything rooted in facts or logic.

On one side, you have the Zenyatta connections, great ambassadors of the sport who gave the entire industry a gigantic boost by deciding to race Zenyatta as a 6-year-old and bringing her back to defend her Breeders' Cup title. The attention to horse racing that she generated is immeasurable, not to mention that she competed in six races this year, all Grade 1's, winning five.

On the other side, you have a homebred who represents the "race to breed" mentality that continually takes all of racing's stars (save for geldings and mares) off the track and into the breeding shed just when their careers are taking off and the public is getting to know them. The result is a once-popular sport turning into something that now takes a backseat in the media to skateboarding competitions, if it gets mentioned at all. Besides, Blame ran in only five races this year, of which only four were Grade 1, and won four.

And I don't buy that it's about the head-to-head competition that just took place. Last year, Rachel Alexandra's connections didn't even bother to run her in the Classic, yet she got the award anyway. If I had a vote, it would go to Zenyatta, if only to reward everyone involved in her camp for doing something very special and positive for the sport we all love.

Steve Murphy - Topanga, Calif.

Big mare transcends mere racing

Last Saturday afternoon many were awakened from a dream that lasted very close to three years. By the margin of three to six inches, the unthinkable, the perfection of Zenyatta, was slightly blemished.

The effort was spectacular and courageous, and the result should not take away or diminish her accomplishments and the tremendous love and respect that we have for the big mare.

From the beginning to now, the admiration continues to swell, and Saturday's effort, even in defeat, has silenced most all of her critics.

Man o' War met his Upset, Native Dancer his Dark Star, and now Zenyatta has her Blame.
I have read almost all of the comments in regards to who deserves the recognition for the 2010 Horse of the Year. I have read many who say that Blame's victory entitles him to the award, that the Breeders' Cup Classic is the defining moment.

How short is our memory?

In 2008 the honor went to Curlin, who after his Dubai victory was beaten in two of his five starts in North America, including a subpar fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Zenyatta was 7 for 7 culminating in arguably and visually the most impressive win in the BC Ladies' Classic.

In 2009, Horse of the Year went to Rachel Alexandra, who purportedly was able but the ownership unwilling to run in the BC Ladies' Classic or Classic.

All Zenyatta did in 2009 was go 5 for 5, culminating in being the first female to beat the males in the Breeders' Cup Classic. This stretched her undefeated streak to 14. Somehow still not worthy of Horse of the Year?

Now in 2010 she comes back to win five more in a row to become 19-0. In doing so, she breaks all-time female earnings record and surpasses the 18 consecutive wins without a defeat of the immortal Eclipse.

The conclusion: Zenyatta is Horse of the Year, and the powers that be should strongly consider renaming the Eclipse Awards the Zenyattas. She is more than deserving.

Michael Wellman - Beverly Hills, Calif.

Champ joins ranks of all-time greats

I have been a horse racing fan for more than half a century. I rank Native Dancer as the greatest ever, followed by Secretariat and Citation. Before Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic, I had Zenyatta ranked in the top 20. After the race I now have her in my top 10.

If she doesn't win Horse of the Year it will be a crime.

Chris Brown - Allen, Texas

Foreign conqueror should wear crown

In her unprecedented third straight Breeders' Cup win, after traveling thousands of miles, the best horse to run at Churchill Downs on either Nov. 5 or 6 was Goldikova. She and her sportsmen connections should be recognized with racing's top award.

Never has an American-based horse won the Arc de Triomphe, and few have tried. Can you imagine either Blame or Zenyatta having a chance against Goldikova on her track in France? How much longer can the Breeders' Cup depend on getting top horses from all over the world when they are ignored for their record-breaking achievements? The best horse in the world is Goldikova, and she earned Horse of the Year honors on the racetrack.

Richard Murray - North Hills, Calif.

Borel's outburst shamed the sport

I can't begin to tell you how shocked I was when I read on drf.com that only Javier Castellano was suspended for the incident that occurred by the scales after the Breeders' Cup Marathon ("Castellano suspended, Borel fined for incidents at Churchill") and that Calvin Borel was simply fined.

After winning three of the last four runnings of the Kentucky Derby, Borel became, inexplicably if you ask me, the darling of the horse racing world and seemed to help racing cross over a bit into mainstream America. That all changed with a simple blow that fateful Friday.

Not only did Borel embarrass himself, but he attempted to give the sport, and not just Castellano (who, by the way, is one of the nicest people you could ever meet), a black eye that could be tough to recover from.

I can understand Borel was upset with Castellano and his actions, but being a fan of the sport for my entire 33 years on the planet I myself have seen Borel shut off another foe or take a path away countless times. If Borel felt Castellano needed to be dealt with, he should have done so in the jocks' room out of the public eye. Instead, he decided to make a scene on one of racing's biggest days and took a World Wrestling Entertainment-like turn from hero to villain in the blink of an eye. And, if it hadn't happened in Kentucky, he might have gotten suspended, but Borel apparently can do no wrong in the eyes of the Kentucky stewards. Maybe they'll pay the fine for him as well.

Calvin Borel should be ashamed of himself and owes the entire horse racing world, especially Javier Castellano, a sincere apology.

Anthony J. Stabile - Howard Beach, N.Y.

Life At Ten matter left bad taste

I have noted in years past the unusually high number of fatalities that have occurred during the Breeders' Cup. I have speculated on several reasons for this, and the event that took place during the running of the 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic puts a punctuation mark on these speculations.

During a televised interview with Jerry Bailey on ESPN, John Velazquez, the jockey on Life At Ten, noted that the horse was not moving properly during the warm-up. Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed this, saying that the horse appeared very lethargic in the saddling area and he didn't know why.

Despite these observations, the track veterinarians were not alerted and the horse was allowed to race. The horse did not compete and trailed the field throughout by many lengths. Bettors at the track were not aware of that prerace conversation, but millions at home watching on television heard the discussion and knew that their bets on Life At Ten were in jeopardy.

It is my contention that both trainer and rider should receive stiff suspensions for allowing an unfit horse to race in such a demanding event that may have further injured the animal. Not to mention the fact that huge amounts of money were wagered on a horse who both men suspected had no chance of winning.

Vincent Grabinsky - North Babylon, N.Y.

No fault lies in Classic ride

To Mike Smith: There is no reason to fault yourself for Zenyatta's loss. She put herself at a disadvantage with her running style. You have maneuvered her to perfection in each and every race you have ridden her. This time she gave herself just a little too much to overcome. No need to re-ride the race in your head, as you did a great job. The whole Zenyatta crew, from the Mosses to John Shirreffs, the barn crew, and you, Mr. Smith, have been a class act and have nothing to hang your heads about.

Larry Anderson - Whittier, Calif.

Cup camerawork left viewers blinking

As a longtime race fan, I was extremely disappointed in the ESPN coverage of this year's Breeders' Cup races. The network's use of odd camera angles and overhead views made it near-impossible to track the progress of the races.

Worse than that, though, was the fact that they showed virtually no replays or broke down any of the stretch runs of the races. There were races where favored horses did not fire, and we saw no stretch-run breakdowns or replays to examine their trips or trouble, which was mind-boggling.
Also, the use of the jockey cam was great, but how could they not think to put it on Mike Smith aboard Zenyatta in the Classic? How great would it have been to watch her quest for perfection from a jockey cam?

Here's hoping ABC/ESPN gets its act together. If not, I say give the Breeders' Cup back to NBC.

Jeff Richardson - Lincoln, Neb.