But no matter how sour the year, there are always the memories of the races. You can't take that away from me, and I'll even hum a few bars. But Mr. Bandleader, color me eclectic. No Triple Crown races on this list. For a sick joke, I thought about listing all the important races in which a Nick Zito horse finished second, but then I thought, Nick's never done anything to me. And besides, in 2010, the tough beats for Zito would fill up the whole list.
10. Tell a Kelly's Del Mar Debutante. An extremely personal choice. I'm a sucker for anything Kelly. I was watching that sleeper of a movie the other night, "Reuben, Reuben," and who was in it but Kelly McGillis, making her debut. Tell a Kelly won at Del Mar in a gallop, and looked like the genuine article. But alas, then the trainer John Sadler introduced her to two turns. She just missed in the Oak Leaf, but at Churchill Downs, and on real dirt, even Calvin Borel couldn't help her in the Breeders' Cup. A race with a Fall From Favor epilogue should be on everybody's list.
8. Franny Freud's Prioress at Belmont Park. What's not to like about a ginzi? A ginzi is an eponymous reference to a horse with two or more names, all of them starting with the same letter (after a Baltimore woman, named Ginsberg, who named all her horses that way). Spiro Agnew, whose speechwriters trafficked in alliteration, would have had nothing but ginzis had he had a racing stable.
Franny Freud gets extra credit because she's also a New York-bred, retired because of injury after eight wins and two seconds in 11 starts.
7. Eclair de Lune's Beverly D. at Arlington Park. Eclair de Lune's Beverly D. at Arlington Park. "I'd rather win this race than the Kentucky Derby," said Dick Duchossois, the Arlington chairman, after his German-bred won the race named after his late wife. Eclair de Lune's win was also a much-needed shot in the arm for his trainer, Ron McAnally, the Hall of Famer whose decimated stable won only
nine races in 2010.
6. Rachel Alexandra's Personal Ensign at Saratoga. No, the 2009 Horse of the Year didn't win, a 21-1 shot named Persistently did, but this was the final race of her remarkable 19-race career. At four, Rachel Alexandra was only a shell of her championship self. All those tough races the year before against the boys had come home to roost.
5. Blind Luck's Alabama at Saratoga. Blind Luck never met a track she didn't like, or a distance. She ran from Santa Anita to Saratoga, at distances from a mile to 1 1/4 miles, over synthetic and dirt, and once in the slop. The Alabama, her longest race, resulted in a win by a neck over Havre de Grace, on a day when the odds-on favorite, Devil May Care, ran fourth.
4. Eskendereya's Wood Memorial. "He is a once-in-a-lifetime horse," said Ahmed Zayat, who raced Eskendereya, and later formed a partnership that included Rachel Alexandra's owner, Jess Jackson. Unfortunately, Eskendereya's career consisted of only six races. He was undefeated as a 3-year-old and the Wood, his last race, was a 9 3/4-length blowout. Three weeks later, he was forced to be
retired, less than a week before the Kentucky Derby.
3. Uncle Mo's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Vitaminwater made Mike Repole a billionaire, Uncle Mo, if his 2-year-old form transfers, could make him the owner of a Kentucky Derby winner. But getting from the Breeders' Cup in the fall to Churchill Downs the next May has never been a given--in fact it's been more of an Everest. Uncle Mo, undefeated, won the Juvenile by 4 1/4 lengths, his two races before that by even wider margins. The future is his.
2. Goldikova's Breeders' Cup Mile. This French-based mare keeps crossing the drink to mop up on our best, and the good news is that she'll stay in training at six and try to do it again, at the same Churchill Downs she conquered in 2010. In the stretch, it looked like this might not be Goldikova's day, but that was before she found that familiar extra gear.
1. Blame and Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup Classic. Zenyatta gets equal billing, no boost from her fan club needed. Garrett Gomez, Blame's jockey, said he could have held her off, not matter how many steps beyond the wire, but that's an argument never to be decided. This was not only my favorite race of 2010, it was the best. One of the best of all-time, if you please.