Did Zenyatta Do enough to Garner H.O.Y.
This is the question, did she do enough? In the last year the super filly Zenyatta has impressed all of those that have been able to witness her domination of the Older filly and mare division. The first thing that I want to say with regards to Horse of the Year voting with regards to Zenyatta's record is that (in my opinion) I do not feel that at any point in time during a filly or mare's schedule she would need to run against and beat a field of colts to be in consideration for Horse of the Year honors.
With that being said, I do believe that the Horse of the Year award should go to the horse that has raced against the highest level of competition all year long and has in no way ducked anyone at any time and proven him or herself consistent at the Grade 1 level. Did the connections of Zenyatta do that, to respectfully put it in a word, -NO-!!! I have the utmost respect for Mr. Moss and Mr. Sheriffs, and I believe that they did the best they could to have their mare ready to give her best efforts in the few Grade 1 races that she ran in and that includes the Ladies Classic. Please for a moment, indulge me with regards to how the connections of the other top mares in the country planned out their schedules. It would be quite easy to assume that the highest level of racing would be where you want to race your filly or mare to prove that she is the best in her division and still have a fresh and ready horse that would run huge in at the Breeders Cup. Where though would you run your horse to be able to prove herself against the best of the best. The debate will run its course when trying to define which coast has the highest quality or runners, the east or the West, but there is not much debate as to which races are traditionally considered the most prestigious.
East - Ogden Phipps - June 14th @ Belmont Park, a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
West - Milady H. - May 31, 2008 @ Hollywood Park a Grade 2 race for older f&m.
East - Go for Wand - July 26, 2008 @ Saratoga a Grade 1 race for older f&m.West - Vanity H - July 5, 2008 @ Hollywood Park a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
East - Personal Ensign - August 22, 2008 @ Saratoga a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
West - Clement L. Hirsch - August 2, 2008 @ Del Mar a Grade 2 race for older f&m.
East - Beldame S. - Sept 27, 2008 @ Belmont Park a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
West - Lady's Secret S. - Sept 27, 2008 @ Oak Tree a Grade 1 race for older f&m.
Looking at these two schedules and comparing where Ginger Punch and Zenyatta prepared for the Breeders Cup gives an indication that 1 horse's connections went out and wanted to win the best races and travelled to the places where the highest level of racing in the older filly and mare division took place, that would be Ginger Punch, now if Ginger Punch runs the table that would have been 8 for 8 in 6 grade 1's, 1 grade 2, and 1 non graded race in the Sunshine Millions. No doubt she didn't win out but in comparison Zenyatta ran in 7 races this year, 4 Grade 1's and 3 grade 2's. From the view of the information presented even though Ginger Punch didn't win out her record of 3 Grade 1 wins 1 second and 1 third and 1 ungraded win would mean that if u calculated using the point system of 5 pts for grade 1 wins and 3 points for grade 1 runner up and 1 point for grade 1 3rd place up would give her, 19 points. Zenyatta would score 20 points.
Only 1 point more why, the answer is because her connections didnt or maybe wouldnt ship out to run in the highest class of racing, they were not ambitous nor did they go all out to possibly win H.O.Y. votes. The issue at hand is that the ease of the Grade 2 races would lead to her or honestly most horses being able to come back and continue to win the few grade 1 races that she won. A horse that didn't win a lot of races but who ran at the top level of competition all year long and who's connections didn't mind shipping her to these locations is Hystericalady, she ran at Santa Anita, Oaklawn, Churchill, Delaware, Monmouth, and Oak Tree. Had Hystericalady won all of her races except for the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic, she would in all likelihood get a number of votes for older f&m and possibly Horse of the Year. A horse though like Zenyatta, that is running in a number of Grade 2 races and at the horse's home track does not give an indication that the connections are looking to garner Horse of the Year votes, it seems to those of us that follow horse racing closely, that the connections were picking and choosing the easiest possible spots for the horse to run in (Grade 2 races) and this proves what exactly, well it proves that at the Grade 2 level Zenyatta can beat allowance horses, thats not saying alot about the horse and for those people that think that this is deserving of HOY honors it says alot about the state of horse racing, or even the ability of some people to understand the sport of Kings.
This is no knock on Zenyatta, as she did all she was asked, but this would tend to lead to a knock on the connections who now realize she can get Horse of the Year votes, for a undefeated record running in Grade 2 events against some of the weakest competition in recent memory. The only Grade 1 horse that Zenyatta beat out west was Tough Tiz's Sis, who ended up winning that Grade 1 race on dirt not the synthetics. The connections therefore understand that honestly, they didn't allow Zenyatta to go out and take the Horse of the Year award, but they feel, I would assume that they can back into the award, and it just doesn't work that way. This is an issue that will be debated from this point up until the award is announced in January, and will likely be debated for a long time afterward. Why, because the 1 time that she did face a full field of Graded horses she won a race that in many people's opinion really holds no merit. Again why u might ask, well the synthetics worked out very well for Zenyatta, but if you look at the race that Ginger Punch ran that would easily give u indication that the surfact had a great deal to do with the way that many of the better horses performed that day, again that includes champions like Ginger Punch and Curlin, so please dont act as if the Ladies Classic ran on a synthetic rubber and carpet blended surface is a true measure of these horses form, as Ginger punch and Curlin finished off the board for the first time in their careers, im sure that you would have an excuse for this profound occurance that took place 2 days apart for both of these champions.
But there is no excuse that can be used like they were off form or just got beat, these horses dont get beat like that, if you put the ladies classic on traditional dirt this year at Belmont your order of finish would be quite different. With all due respect to Zenyatta she may have actually lost a race. Someone mentioned her race at the Oaklawn Park meet, she ran against a nice field in the Apple Blossom. What I would ask that you keep in mind is that in early April there arent going to be many horses in tip top condition at this time of the year, but see things as you may.
So for those out there whose standards basically state that you can become Horse of the Year if you run at your home track all year long and win Grade 2 races against mostly small allowance fields of 3 and 4 horses, then more power to you, but please go back and see the standard set by other HOY candidates. A Grade 2 resume of races doesnt even come close to qualifying for being under consideration to be considered the best horse in your own division, less known garnering Horse of the Year votes. But it will come down to the voters who will give Curlin his second Horse of the Year award.
Good Luck to the connections of Zenyatta. Next year actually be a bit more ambitious and really look to go after and win the award, please dont try to win the award because the competiton loses a race or two. Thats not very good sportsmanship and takes away from true champions!