Mike Smith awaits patiently, but anxiously, longing inside like a man awaiting his love after a brief separation, as Zenyatta arrives in Louisville. Well, not exactly (I hope), but something like that.
Zenyatta was then whisked away to Churchill like the queen that she is, with a police escort and hundreds lining the street to..... OK, I lied about that last bit. But, come race day, the fans will surely be crowding around her like she's the Mona Lisa or something.
(I've been waiting for a good excuse to post that photo.)
Zenyatta is a star, let's face it. She's officially spilled into the mainstream. Who's the last horse you remember getting an entire segment on 60 Minutes (followed by Andy Rooney talking wistfully about great horses of the past, about his days going to the races at Saratoga, and plugging the Secretariat movie). She was also profiled in W Magazine, and made it onto Oprah's Power List. (And I don't see no Rachel Alexandra on the 2009 list, that's right, girlfriend!)
It's too bad though that it took 19 races and three years for her to become this popular...and just before her final race too. No doubt part of the reason for that is because she rarely strayed east of California. But how could a horse break through to the mainstream press when the racing press has been so ambivalent about her itself? It's not the media's job to promote the sport. But I don't want to hear any of those naysayers complain that the sport lacks stars when it had one right under its snoot. It's not like I even totally disagreed with the main point that Beyer was making. I don't know if Zenyatta ranks among the all-time greats. I don't know that I could compare her campaign to those of horses like Forego, who conceded copious weight allowances to a legion of challengers, many of whom I feel could be champions if they raced today; or John Henry, who traveled all over the country and took on the best on any kind of surface. And the synthetic question is legitimate....though it will in my opinion become forever moot should she dominate on Saturday.
But why is there always this need in racing to place everything in historical context? Who cares? The game has changed. It will never be what it once was. There's very little, if anything, that stands the test of time nowadays. Zenyatta is a great horse of this time; should she win the Classic, quite arguably the best horse of the present century, the one in which we live. As time obscures the petty controversies around her, future generations will come to better appreciate her. It's too bad than some amongst us cannot (or will not) now.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Posted by Alan Mann at 9:32 PM