Daily Racing Form’s Andy Beyer wrote a granite column that Blame is Horse of the Year over the much-beloved Zenyatta. He is right.
Voting for Zenyatta for Horse of the Year amounts to a moral victory, a pity vote. She deserves it because she lost a year ago! She only lost by a nose to Blame! Should we award the 2007 Patriots the Super Bowl and a 19-0 record because they almost beat the Giants? This is the same idea.
Zenyatta’s undefeated record ended up being her biggest curse. What if she had lost one inconsequential race, say her maiden race or her a-other-than? This undoubtedly would have prompted her connections to try her in riskier spots. The result? Perhaps she beats Blame in the Stephen Foster or Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Maybe she beats Quality Road in the Woodward. But instead she beat nondescript mares by necks and noses to preserve that undefeated record, impressive as it was.
What the Eclipse Awards can do is honor her the way the Academy awards recognize long-standing prolific actors: Give her a lifetime achievement award. Because people voting for her for Horse of the Year vote for her not because of 2010, but because of 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. What more criteria is needed for a Lifetime Achievement Award?
Zenyatta ran into a buzz saw in 2009 since Rachel Alexandra completed the most grueling campaign by a three-year-old filly ever. Rachel Alexandra would’ve beaten Joey Chestnut in a Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest.
This year who could have predicted that a horse named Blame could stymie the picture. After all, when Rachel Alexandra proved to be flatter than a chess board, all Zenyatta had to do was look good for the cameras, prance a little bit, and collect her award that her owners thought she deserved a year ago.
But you know what? She’s going to win Horse of the Year. Because, as Beyer put it, “In 40 years of voting I cannot recall ever hearing horses' popularity or lifetime achievements mentioned as qualifications for year-end honors.”
That’s why she’ll win even though she lost. To the victor go not the spoils.
Zenyatta captivated her audience. She danced for the cameras. She paraded with that inexplicable show she only performs for the cameras on race day. There’s not a soul that wanted her to lose (maybe Seth Hancock and Al Stall, Jr.). But lose she did in the biggest race on the biggest stage to a horse who had the better year.
When you lose, you lose.
When you win, you win.
Blame won. End of story.
Vote cast. Um, kind of.
Brendan O'Meara is the author of the forthcoming book Six Weeks in Saratoga: How Three-Year-Old Filly Rachel Alexandra Beat the Boys and Became Horse of the Year. You can read more about it at his nonfiction blog The Blog Itself. It will be published by SUNY Press. His website is http://www.brendanomeara.com.