12/27/2010 12:04PM

Zenyatta vs. Blame: Steve Klein's vote for Horse of the Year

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In last year’s Horse of the Year debate I argued enthusiastically for Rachel Alexandra over Zenyatta.

Many people had a difficult time making that decision, but I wasn’t particularly torn by the process. I discussed nine different significant comparisons in which Rachel Alexandra was clearly better than Zenyatta.

I had no misgivings about my vote for Rachel Alexandra, and I still don’t.

This year’s decision isn’t as obvious, but I don’t believe it is as gut-wrenching as some observers have suggested. Blame is a very good horse, but he wouldn’t be a particularly memorable Horse of the Year. Blame won on three different tracks, while Zenyatta won on four different tracks. He won four races vs. Zenyatta’a five. He earned three Grade 1 wins, vs. Zenyatta’s five. His largest margin of victory in a Grade 1 race was less than a length, vs. 4 1/4 lengths for Zenyatta. His four-length margin of defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup is larger than his combined margins of victory in his four other races, giving him a negative average margin, while Zenyatta won her races by an average of more than a length.

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These comparisons are particularly interesting to me because most of the categories listed above are the ones in which Zenyatta fell short last year vs. Rachel Alexandra. It isn’t that Zenyatta was much better or worse this year than she was last year. The difference is that Blame is a less imposing rival to be compared with.

The key to this decision is the gravitas of each horse. Zenyatta isn’t a historically important racehorse because of Blame. Zenyatta is historically important despite the fact that Blame edged her in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Due to her remarkable consistency, Zenyatta doesn’t need any help from any rival to be remembered as being significant decades from now. Blame, on the other hand, would not stand alone very well. His historic significance is owed mostly to Zenyatta. If Zenyatta had never been born, Blame would rank as a very ordinary, unmemorable Horse of the Year.

Zenyatta deserves to be Horse of the Year in 2010, and she will have my vote.

Next on Wednesday, Dec. 29: Ron Gierkink

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