A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I had tired of the Zenyatta team's hesitation in committing to the Classic, as they seemed to be surveying the potential competition to make sure it did not come up too tough. I then opined that the waffling had diminished her rightful claim to Horse of the Year should she win the Classic, a concept which I had previously strongly defended. A reader responded:
Alan, so let me get this straight. Because Zenyatta's connections are uncertain whether they want to try the classic, she is no longer eligible for HOY, regardless of if she runs in the classic and wins by 10 lengths. Whereas, if her connections were more decisive about the classic, she'd still be in the discussion for HOY? That makes no sense, pal.Well, it made sense at the time, at least to me. But now, after the fact, I'd have to say that the reader was right. In the aftermath of her incredible rally, it makes no sense at all. The race was what it was, and, in retrospect, it matters not what came before.
Nonetheless, I feel as if I've therefore dq'd myself from the debate, so I'll step away, at least for now. But I think it's clear that the keen anticipation for the race once Zenyatta was finally committed, the high drama of the race itself, and the delirious adulation of the fans at the track leaves Jess Jackson looking petty, and his filly's accomplishments at least partially diminished. Hanging on for dear life against Macho Again at a mile and an eighth just doesn't measure up to this, I don't care what they're running on. But I'll let you guys discuss the HOTY issue, and move on to a few other points.
The Classic was the first race of such epic historic proportion to be run on a synthetic track. I imagine that, further down the road, it will be remembered simply as a classic horse race, one just as epically dramatic and historic as any other such event, and not as a classic horse race run on an artificial surface. I'd like to ask those of you who say that you "hate" synthetic tracks to tell us what you hated about this race? Or about the day in general? What, because Summer Bird and Mine That Bird didn't take to the track? So? Progeny of Birdstone apparently don't take to the track - I'd think that's an angle you should be seeking ways to take advantage of instead of bitching about. Synthetics are another angle for your handicapping; a little more juice to spice up the game and make it interesting. That's always been a good thing as far as I'm concerned, another twist with the potential to lead to that magic key which leads you to a winner. Perhaps, instead of complaining, you should have been betting the top-synth figure horses at 24-1 or at 25-1. Dirt horses don't like the stuff? That's awesome to know when Summer Bird is 6-1, or the overrated Music Note 2-1.
- "Let's see," Trevor Denman noted at some point as they rounded the turn (don't know for sure exactly where they were due to the ridiculous camera angles that ESPN insists on employing), "Zenyatta has a lot...a lot of ground to make up. If she wins this, she'll be a super horse." He can say that again. By the time those words came out of Denman's mouth, Mike Smith and his super horse had already gained several lengths while taking the short way home on the bend. As far back as she was, Smith must have sensed he had no other choice but to stay inside. Don't know if she would have gotten there had she circled around horses. She surely saved more than her winning margin by doing so (though you can never say for sure that a champion racehorse such as she wouldn't have done what she had to in order to prevail anyway).
From there, it was a remarkably smooth journey outside towards her winning path home, testament to the skills of the rider and horse alike. She flew home the last quarter in 23.30, according to Formulator; and that came after three quarters she ran in under 24 seconds - 23.36, 23.32, and 23.89 - just to get into contention after her disastrous start. Zenyatta earned a Beyer of 112, a nice number, but surely as meaningless as the 97 and 99 she was given in the races prior.
And Denman nailed this race too. As track announcers' careers stretch on over the years, I find that what was once genuine youthful enthusiasm often turns into canned phrases that can make the euphoria sound forced. As a matter of fact, before the race, I saw this proposition bet offered:
Which call will Trevor Denman use to describe Zenyatta's move?No payoff here....Trevor Denman was as enthralled as the rest of us, and instead, in what could very well turn out to be the signature call of his career, exclaimed exactly what we were all thinking:
"Jumps in at the quarter pole" 5/2
"Moving like a winner" 11/4
"They'd have to sprout wings" 4/1
" Poetry in Motion" 3/2
(If none of these phrases are used then all wagers will be no action.)
"THIS....IS....UN-BEE-LIEVABLE!"And what else was there to say?