Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2009 Horse of the Year: Not that difficult

It's interesting to me that the debate over Horse of the Year is actually considered that difficult this year. True the sport has never seen two female racehorses as talented as these in the same year and they both have some talking points of note, but the decision as to who should get the award is quite basic in my estimation.

Rachel Alexandra 8, Zenyatta 5

Rachel Alexandra 8, Zenyatta 5

G1 Wins:
Rachel Alexandra 5, Zenyatta 4

Races Against Males:
Rachel Alexandra 3, Zenyatta 1

Tracks Raced Over:
Rachel Alexandra 7, Zenyatta 3

Peak Speed Figure:
Rachel Alexandra 116, Zenyatta 112

Largest Margin of Victory (Males):
Rachel Alexandra 20 (6), Zenyatta 2 (1)

Rachel Alexandra is without a doubt the most deserving horse for the award.

Horse of the Year is not a lifetime achievement award, but those that continue to look at it this way fail to grasp that as a 3yo, Zenyatta had yet to make a single start until late November. Rachel to this point has already equaled Zenyatta's career lifetime starts and defeated males on three separate occasions. So even that crowd fails to grasp the significance of Rachel's entire body of work.

But, Horse of the Year is defined by their 2009 campaigns and Zenyatta, despite her effort in the Classic, was not as routinely challenged by her connections. Zenyatta's campaign was entirely underwhelming in its ambition and scope, until they decided to roll the dice in the Classic, which was made possible by it being on synthetics and in her backyard. Rachel Alexandra was rigorously challenged all year and campaigned as difficultly as any filly in the modern era of racing. The same cannot be said for Zenyatta, even taking the Classic into account.

That is the distinction and ultimately the only thing that should matter in this discussion. They both are brilliant in their own ways, but Zenyatta's schedule in no way compares to that thrust upon Rachel and for that reason Rachel clearly deserves the award.


Anonymous said...

I disagree with your assessment that Rachel Alexandra ought to win the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. There have been many arguments for one horse or the other, and I've heard and read all of them. The Eclipse people should declare both horses deserving of the award and split it, or give it to neither.

Otherwise the award really goes to the connections that outmaneuver the other connections, and frankly that stinks. Both horses are great, and we've been lucky to enjoy them all year. Most unusual.

If Rachel Alexandra is given the award because she lived up to her schedule, Jess Jackson can rub his hands together for three years in a row. I didn't like it that Curlin was given the award last year, either. Zenyatta deserved it then.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly explained explanation as to why Rachel is the only horse that can be considered a absolute landslide winner for 2009 Horse of the Year. The sentiments of Zenyatta's fans are wonderful and her overall career will be view with a sense of pride that she was undefeated throughout. Unfortunately being undefeated when you race predominately on 1 circuit, on fast tracks, on synthetic tracks and against the most mediocre of competition that can be found is ridiculous. I say to the Moss's for bringing this horse out of her element twice (Apple Blossom - BCC) shame on you for doing Zenyatta such a disservice. For the Zenyatta fans that try to make light of such a strong campaign for Horse of the Year- Shame on you for trying to degrade what Rachel has done. She stepped out of her element 3 times facing males and even as a three year old faced and defeated the top male handicap horses in the U.S. Yes that includes Macho Again who as a grade 1 winner defeated a nice bunch of colts and horses in the Stephen Foster that included Einstein. As for the industry and the fans who were unable to see the true depth of Zenyatta's character and heart due to not being challenged each time she stepped onto the race track, it is very sad. And to the Eclipse award voters please realize that you cannot back into the HOY award you have to go earn it, race in and race out as Rachel Alexandra's connections allowed her to do. Not race in insignificant races all year long and then show up on B.C. day and win 1 race and feel your horse deserves HOY. Because she doesnt she didnt earn it, she deserves California State Champ, or Synthetic Champ and when that * goes up when the synthetics are gone in California what will we say then. 2009-2010 Horse of the Year, Rachel Alexandra.

LDP said...

Fantastic job. I agree with every word you said. I don't belive in splits, unless there is a true dead heat, otherwise man-up and make a decision. RA has done nothing wrong, and everthing right then some. Zenyatta did only what was needed to make an attempt at the award, that should not be rewarded. Great job.

The_Knight_Sky said...

Just popping in here to wish you Happy Thankgiving !

Anonymous said...

What a travesty of such a momentous award if voters count lifetime performances and pending retirement to sway towards the fine mare Zenyatta. The award is for horse of the Year. Destroying level playing fields, by counting old victories, is not fair to the future candidates. Let future owners and trainers know that what they strive for starts on January 1 of That Year. Fair for all.

The Zedheads are particularly unreasonable because many of them are left coasters and women. Be you offended or not, that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

All's Fair In Love and Horse Of The Year ADVERTISING?
+ Zenyatta get's a race named after her, further invoking furor and publicity by ripping off Lady's Secret's special race. The gentleman at the honors ceremony campaigned for Zenyatta like she was running for president. Not cool.
+ Bloodhorse lists the two girls profiles side by side. Zenyatta is listed as "most viewed profile". Rachel just get's profile.
+Bloodhorse has a Zenyatta tapestry advertised big and bold on their pages.
+Vegas favors Zenyatta for horse of the year.
+ Zenyatta's owner trainer has come out and said that she should be horse of the Year, thereby riling up her fans. Mr. Moss has made more subtle remarks in the same vein. Rachel's organization has stayed classy by extolling the merits of both girls, staying out of the fray.
+Zedheads are louder. A charismatic and famous leader (not Obama) once said "people in crowds stop thinking and start feeling" Well thought out arguments in favor of Rachel seem to fall on the Zedheads deaf ears. They can't hear you over their own screaming.

I have never followed the politics of this award. If Zenyatta swipes it, I'm campaigning for a some kind of a Eclipse Evaluation Reform for the future. And I would be angry that such a undertaking would be necessary. Fans and voters should realize that favoritism over fairness taints the whole process.

The point has been made that neither mare will feel personal slight if she loses. While that is true, it would be nothing short of theft if the man who sunk $10 million dollars into his filly, took her into the big leagues and executed her campaign for her own well being (no BC Pro Ride) AND for maximum benefit to the sport he loves was unfairly cut down. The Mosses are also great for the sport, but they are not out there pushing for excellence in exposure like Mr. Jackson. Finally, if Rachel is denied her due for 2009, Mr. Jackson may not feel so free to running her adventurously next year. Winning the 2009 horse of the year would provide a cushion for her to try Dubai, turf, the Classic or maybe even the Arc. And knowing Mr. Jackson, Rachel could race with us as a 5 year old too. Eclipse voters should not spit in the face of this patron saint of horse racing. Lightweight media with no sense for professionally managed public relations has already done that.

railrunner said...

In complete agreement, well said!

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Anonymous said...

After Zenyatta's Apple Blossom victory, is there ANY doubt as to WHO is the better horse? Zenyatta is on her way to becoming the GREATEST HORSE IN HISTORY. And Rachel, is fading away. Rachel was 2009's Joke of the Year.