As much as I like Blame, and I have followed, bet and won on Blame, I honestly don’t think he comes close to Zenyatta for Horse of the Year consideration. And it really surprises me that so many people think otherwise.
Blame is a very talented horse. He got good this year, especially on his home track. In his first race of the year, in mid May, he won the Gr.III Schaeffer at Pimlico, beating No Advantage and Timber Reserve (huh?). Bullsbay was also in the field of 7. He then beat Battle Plan (who unfortunately came out of the race with an injury) and General Quarters (gotta love the old guy) in the Gr.I Steven Foster. The Whitney was another 6 horse field and he JUST GOT UP to beat the brilliant miler Quality Road ( I said “miler”), while giving weight, and Musket Man. Mine That Bird and Haynesfield were “also rans” Believe me, I would love to own ANY one of the above mentioned horses, but are any of them great? Are any of them mile-and- a-quarter- Breeder’s Cup Classic horses???
What does it say about a horse that could not close any ground to a loose-on-the-lead Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold Cup? Sure, we see it happen a lot. But we are talking about a horse that some people think should be a Horse of the Year. You’re kidding me, right? Haynesfield “crushed” his short field of opponents; Ramon was “like a statue”, never moving in an absolute romp. Just where were the challengers? Blame was hard ridden from the ½ mile pole to the wire and never made up any ground. Did he have a bad day? Did he not like the track? Did the speed get away? Did his jock misjudge the pace? Was that a race we expected from a Horse of the Year candidate?
Now people spot their horses where they think they can win. Not all graded stakes are created equal but you run against who shows up. I just look at the races that Blame has run, and honestly, they weren’t that tough. I’m not really seeing any “super star” quality here. Yes, he was first at the wire in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. But he had the perfect trip. There was not a straw in his path. He was life and death to hold off Zenyatta. For Blame, the wire came up just in time. And for Zenyatta, she needed one more stride to get there.
You could make part of the same argument for Zenyatta’s campaign this year. She raced in short fields, with opponents of questionable class. But for a different reason. Several owners and trainers were on record as saying they wanted no part of facing Zenyatta. I don’t recall anyone saying they didn’t want to run against Blame. His opponents were just the best of a very average group of males.
Let’s get back to the Classic. Coming from a long way back, struggling with the track, having a horse back up into you… any one of those excuses could prevent a good horse from getting to the wire first. And though she fell short by mere inches, what Zenyatta did in defeat, only cemented her greatness in my mind. Zenyatta has never failed to fire in 20 starts in 3 years. Biases, loose-on-the-lead speed, traffic trouble, different surfaces ( yes, Oaklawn dirt, Churchill dirt and several synthetic surfaces) pilot error, you name it… Zenyatta runs her race. A few inches short of perfection, and while it may have tarnished her perfect record, her star shines even more brightly on what she has accomplished. No matter what, she has been brilliant every time. Her consistant, explosive rallies show a tenacity, an intensity, and her resolute will to win. This is the hallmark of greatness. This is what makes her a Super Star.
The Horse of the Year should be all about the BEST HORSE of the Year. It’s not really that complicated. The Horse of the Year should be a Super Star. And there should be no question, that Super Star is Zenyatta.