Jan. 18, 2011
Louisville, Ky. (WHAS11) - Right after the photo finish of the Breeders' Cup Classic, I rushed to the WHAS live location at Churchill Downs and quickly reviewed the race with sports director Matt Hobbs.
And quite honestly, without much thought, I told the audience that Zenyatta would still be Horse of the Year, despite her first defeat, the race that saw Blame edge her by a nose.
But since November, I've been thinking about that statement and wondering if my enthusiasm for the great race mare was just me, not the people who were going to vote.
The turf writers and media people, who cast these votes, are known to be influenced by their regional bias and perhaps the races they saw in person.
I thought Zenyatta should have been Horse of the Year, the year before when she actually won the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Instead, Rachel Alexandra made her mark in races in the east, beating the boys three times, and taking home the HOY trophy.
I thought Zenyatta beat the best horses in the world, on the sport's biggest day, and therefore should have won.
And after my brave statement, moments after the Classic, I began to reconsider. I saw the voters thinking, "Blame beat her in the biggest race."
For the second year in a row, we had two deserving winners.
But this time, they got it right.
Zenyatta, the relentless prancing mare had ignited the imagination of horse racing fans of all ages. Little girls wore T-shirts and carried signs all pledging their allegiance to a racing lady for the ages.
Zenyatta was not chosen for one race, but for a career that rivals Secretariat and Citation. She was chosen for a radiant personality that brought cheers that hadn't been heard at race tracks for years. And she was chosen because she is the "star" that thoroughbred racing so desperately needed.
We might wish for a Zenyatta every year to bring excitement and joy to horse racing. But she is probably a once in a generation thoroughbred.
There hasn't been a horse that has combined her raw physical ability with the charisma to charm an audience and thrill a handicapper.
Yes, they finally got it right. Zenyatta, Horse of the Year, but a race horse who's impact will be remembered over many years to come.