Women might be included in this, too, of course.
Among the arguments made here several weeks ago about voting for Zenyatta as 2010 Horse of the Year regardless of what happened in the Breeders’ Cup Classic; that transcendent horses need to be recognized.
Recall that there is no Horse of the Year guidebook to consult.
There will be no expounding further on what a Horse of the Year resume is; voters need to settle that question within their own conscience and let the heavens fall.
I’ve surfed the Internet for Thoroughbred storylines in the wake of Zenyatta’s “Quest for Perfection,” and it’s been heartening to see all the positive reaction following such heartfelt disappointment.
Because of Zenyatta‘s hulking presence, the lead-up to this year’s Classic was unprecedented.
Photo spreads in two national magazines plus a “60 Minutes” love-in does something for your image. Even in the best of times, presenting racing in a favorable light to the masses is a challenge.
And these are far from the best of times.
All this preamble led to 6:45 pm last Saturday. The latch was sprung and in less than an eighth of a mile most feared that this time it might end differently.
Even the Hall of Famer on her back was having doubts. The Classic wasn’t a quarter-mile old before Mike Smith briefly considered easing her, protect her. She was traveling uncharacteristically poorly, clearly uncomfortable with the going under foot.
But out of loss came not despair but adulation, the kind of feelings that Churchill understood enough to try to describe. And it came from everywhere.
“As the horses were about to be loaded into the gate Saturday for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, three light blue and reddish bands of light took shape in the sky directly overhead.
“It didn’t require much imagination to associate these bands with Zenyatta’s salmon and teal colors, and to see them as a sign that perhaps the hopes riding on her extended further than people knew…” --Jeff Scott, for The Saratogian
“My interest was piqued and I tuned in to watch the chance for history to be made. As I watched Zenyatta "dance" on her way to the track, weaving her way through the massive crowd in the paddock area, I was mesmerized…” --Blogger Al Stephenson
“Her most important success probably came off the track, as she single-handedly revived the flagging interest in U.S. racing...” --Sam Walker, for The Racing Post.
“If horse racing had a Mount Rushmore, [Zenyatta’s] image would be there, alongside Secretariat’s and Man o’ War’s and Citation’s...” --Gary West, for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Zenyatta was a gift from heaven and God further blessed us by giving her to John Shirreffs…” --Art Wilson, for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune
“Zenyatta endeared herself to millions of Americans and helped raise the profile of racing in the same way that Seabiscuit and Secretariat did before her.” --Reuters
“She’s the greatest filly I’ve ever seen. She may be the greatest of all time…” --Steve Haskin, for The Bloodhorse
“She is a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, not merely a superb racehorse… It is hard to imagine that a [Horse of the Year] vote could go any other way. Zenyatta hasn’t just won lots of races and attracted lots of interest to a sport whose piece of the general fan pie is a sliver, she has created a buzz that made its way to mainstream America…” --Bill Dwyre, for the Los Angeles Times
“So ends a truly great career for the most talented older race mare I have ever seen…” --Steve Davidowitz, for GradeOneRacing.com
“Rarely, if ever, has a thoroughbred so thoroughly exuded greatness while enduring such a monumental defeat…” Ed Gray, for the Boston Herald, retired
“Zenyatta demonstrated in a clear, unequivocal manner she is the best Thoroughbred in America…” --Nick Kling, for the Troy Record
“Her legend was enhanced in defeat…” --author Bill Nack, for ESPN.com
“Zenyatta’s first defeat served to complete the legend rather than diminish it...” --The Independent [United Kingdom]
“…The weight of the loss was on us… I heard turf writers whom I would have sworn didn’t have a sentimental bone in their bodies say in bewilderment, ‘I can’t believe how bad I feel…” --Blogger Teresa Genaro, Brooklyn Backstretch
“She was--and is--far bigger than her one defeat…” --Tim Layden, for Sports Illustrated
“I saw people crying at Churchill Downs Saturday evening, I saw middle-aged women wiping tears from their faces. I saw college-aged girls doing the same… --Tim Wilkin, for the Albany Times-Union
“I didn’t cry until Sunday morning… It wasn’t because Zenyatta lost; it was because an era was at an end…” --Blogger Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2
“I’ll say that I saw Zenyatta…” --Chapel