01/13/2011 5:20PM

Two camps feel worthy of Horse of the Year title

Benoit Photo
Jerry Moss will be "very disappointed" if Zenyatta is not voted Horse of the Year.

With the highly anticipated announcement for Horse of the Year just days away, the co-owner of Zenyatta, and the trainer of Blame, both said they would be “disappointed” if their horse was not named Horse of the Year, but the difference in their level of discomfort was stark.

Jerry Moss, who owns Zenyatta with his wife, Ann, said it would be “very disappointing” if Zenyatta came up short for the third straight year in her quest for racing’s greatest year-end award. Horse of the Year will be announced Monday at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel.

“We’re going there to win Horse of the Year,” Moss said on a teleconference organized by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which sponsors the Eclipse Awards along with the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and Daily Racing Form. “If we don’t win the big prize, we will be very disappointed.”

Asked to elaborate on how he would feel, Moss added, “It would be bad. That’s all I can say. I don’t know what degree of bad.”

Al Stall Jr., the trainer of Blame, said there would be “some disappointment” if Blame was not named Horse of the Year. His camp has the benefit of not having the emotional baggage of finishing second the two previous years.

ECLIPSE AWARDS: Finalist profiles | Horse of the Year debate >>

“It’s out of our control,” Stall said. “We campaigned to win races all year long. That’s all we concentrated on all year long. If Zenyatta wins, we’ll be happy for Zenyatta and move on.

Although the French mare Goldikova, who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile for an unprecedented third straight year, is the third finalist for Horse of the Year, conventional wisdom holds that the title comes down to Blame vs. Zenyatta. In their only head-to-head meeting, Blame defeated Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, ending a remarkable run of 19 straight victories by the popular mare.

“I’m kind of a strength-of-schedule, and head-to-head kind of guy,” Stall said. “That’s why I believe Blame should be Horse of the Year.”

Unlike their passionate fans, the connections of Blame and Zenyatta always have lauded their main rival for Horse of the Year.

“We never denigrate another horse,” Moss said. “We just think that what Zenyatta did is substantial enough to win this award.

“We got beat by Blame, fair and square,” Moss added. “But she won five Grade 1’s, was great for racing, and carried 19 in a row, and 13 Grade  1’s, into that Breeders’ Cup race.”