11/19/2010 6:33PM

Letters to the Editor: Nov. 21


The recipient of this year's Eclipse Horse of the Year Award will tell whether the industry is looking inward or outward.

If the award is all about races won, consider: With the Classic, Blame has a total of three Grade 1 stakes victories this year. Zenyatta has five Grade 1 wins in 2010. After the Breeders' Cup Classic, Blame's lifetime earnings are $4.3 million. Zenyatta's total earnings are $7.3 million.

In his blog entry, "Reporting from Churchill Downs on Breeders' Cup Saturday," Mike Watchmaker stated that Zenyatta "did more for racing this year than any other horse," but he seems to ignore the pertinence of that criterion. With horse racing at low ebb, why?

There are two additional, troublesome issues in this debate: (1) track surface and (2) gender inequity.
Since Barbaro's breakdown, the question of how track surface relates to horse safety has gained attention. California racetracks replaced dirt tracks with synthetic surfaces. Which is safer for horses remains undetermined, but some view performance on dirt a better indicator of racing talent. Why? Tradition? East Coast bias? Zenyatta has raced successfully on both.

Are sires valued over dams? When a colt and mare are in contention for Horse of the Year, is breeding-shed value a hidden influence?

Zenyatta typifies the better side of Thoroughbred racing. Every appearance she makes on the racetrack is magical. Her prancing and dancing and come-from-behind racing style delight even those who are not horse racing fans.

Zenyatta won 19 consecutive races and, in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic, she beat 10 males sufficiently distinguished to have berths in that race. Despite questions about her ability to race on dirt, she made an electrifying stretch run to place closely behind Blame. She demonstrated the quality treasured in Thoroughbred racers: heart. And she walked off the track sound. When, in recent years, have we seen anything like her?
Zenyatta has helped to elevate horse racing from the small print on the back pages of local newspapers to headlines. She has attracted the national media. She has brought back to the sport young people and the non-wealthy. Her performance has breathed new life into Thoroughbred horse racing.

Zenyatta has earned the 2010 Eclipse Award as Horse of the Year for accomplishments on and beyond the racetrack. She should be the recipient -- provided money, elitism, and gender inequity don't hold sway.

Marci Blatt, Carol Lynn Duganne, Carolyn Lowery, Marian L. Martinello, Roberta McGregor, Juliet Ray,
Angela Sensenig - San Antonio, Boerne, and Helotes, Texas

Big mare's sole flaw lies underfoot

I have always been a huge Zenyatta fan and still am, but in the Classic she proved she is not the best of all time.
Let's take look at her body of work: The only time she faced males on dirt she was beaten. I equate synthetic surfaces to turf, so she has beaten males only on turf, so to speak. Rachel Alexandra, on the other hand, beat males on the dirt several times. Yes, she tailed off, but I'm trying to be impartial now.

Zenyatta raced valiantly, but take a step back and realize that on dirt, she really hasn't conquered much.

Herb Mirzaie - Forest Hill, Md.

Fan can't let go of a racing hero

So, so many Thoroughbred fans are thrilled of the accomplishments of Zenyatta. We know she is owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, but America feels like she is ours. She has opened many hearts and grown an amazing fan club, forming a kinship with the ordinary and not-so-ordinary Thoroughbred fan.

Zenyatta has made many people smile and brought out thousands to a struggling game that is trying to find an identity since the likes of such greats as Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. We haven't had an icon in this sport in decades.

As I read the Nov. 19 article "Zenyatta headed to Lane's End," I realized that we as fans are not ready for her to retire, and based on her last race, I don't believe she is either. The heart of a champion she showed in the Breeders' Cup was incredible. She has given the sport a bolt of energy that it so needed.

I am asking as a die-hard fan of the game for her connections to please let her tell us if she is done. Racing needs to have this extraordinary athlete showcased at racetracks all around the country. Let us all appreciate her up close. The crowds will be enormous wherever she gets to display her talents.

And if Zenyatta after, let's say two races, does not show her old ability or appears as if her heart is not in the game anymore, then let her be retired. But let's have Zenyatta tells us she is tired and done with the game. I urge that she be given the chance to speak. (As amazing as she is, Zenyatta probably can talk, too.)

Mark Faden - Boynton Beach, Fla.

With big event over, back to business

Now that the dust has settled on another splendid Breeders' Cup and the heroine, Zenyatta, heads off for pastures anew, the fact remains that the event, despite all of the hype about one horse, is still too esoteric and obscure for all but a few.

Some years ago, at a time when the handle on eight races on one day was circa $120 million, then-Breeders' Cup CEO, D.G. Van Clief, mused about a target of $200 million.

Fast-forward to 2010, when there are now 14 races spread over two days, with increased simulcasting, the combining of online, off-shore pools plus exchange betting, and the announced total handle this year of $157.5 million doesn't look half as good.

Now, with the one and only star of the show retired, it's back to reality. And, as much as optimists will hope that the BC Juvenile winner, Uncle Mo, will turn out to be the next Secretariat, it should not be forgotten that this year we have seen an appalling rate of attrition amongst North America's crop of potential Triple Crown contenders.

So the industry's focus must continue to be upon (a) formulating a national medication policy that puts the best interests of the Thoroughbred first, and (b) a completely new way of presenting horse racing, on a daily basis, as prime-time entertainment, that will reintroduce "the track" to America.

They manage to do this in countries like Japan, Australia, and certain parts of Europe. So there is no reason why it can't be done here, too.
Robin Dawson - Toronto