The Daily Racing Form’s Steve Crist, one of two living horse racing writers with a plaque in the Hall of Fame, has chipped in with his take after reading that HRI’s John Pricci and Joe Drape of the New York Times, as well as trainer John Shirreffs, had opinions on this matter also. The vote in the court of supremes was 3 to 1 that the unbeaten mare is assured of the Eclipse Award no matter what happens next Saturday.
Crist identified Quality Road, Blame and Lookin at Lucky as potential winners of the Breeders’ Cup Classic that would deny Zenyatta his vote. Suffice it to say, not one of these horses is a horse that anyone outside the sport has ever heard of, and, despite the anticipated national TV audience, will not have heard of next Sunday. Here, then, comes the interesting part. What exactly does Horse of the Year mean? And what good does it bring to the sport’s promotion?
To the gamblers who come to this site, it means nothing. To the horse racing fans, it’s a milepost. But to voters, it can mean getting your back up straight and expressing a truth you believe in. Note the emphasis on “truth you believe in.” The truth is that Zenyatta was dismissed from Horse of the Year consideration in 2008 after going unbeaten and winning the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and Curlin, the twice-beaten winner that year, won despite the excuse that he couldn’t run on grass and rubber bands.
What Crist, Pricci, Drape, Shirreffs or Zast, for that matter, think is marginally relevant. When decisions like this call for wide-ranging ballots, it’s the voices of the many that register. The upcoming midterm elections will prove that when something is put into people’s minds, no amount of logic will ever change it. So, too, Zenyatta’s fate as Horse of the Year is pre-determined.
As my column concluded on October 3 after the Lady’s Secret Stakes, “Win or lose at the Breeders’ Cup, Zenyatta became Horse of the Year by a neck at the wire with a quarter of the year yet to go. As for the long-awaited fate at stake in horse racing’s premium attraction, you can engrave the Horse of the Year title on Zenyatta’s vita.”
That’s the truth, as I wrote it, and I’m sticking to it.
Vote early and often on Tuesday.