Zenyatta Deserved HOY
ZENYATTA DESERVED HORSE OF THE YEAR
by John Piesen
Even in defeat, Zenyatta made history.
When Rachel Alexandra was announced as Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Award party Monday evening in Beverly Hills, Zenyatta thus became the first horse in the history of thoroughbred racing to be jobbed in two consecutive years.
As suggested in this space last week, the racing public, which overwhelmingly voted for Zenyatta in the HOY polling, knows a lot more about this game than the so-called professionals, specifically the media. The vote wasn't even that close. Rachel received 130 votes; Zenyatta 99, with two abstentions, bless their cold, cold hearts.
I found it interesting that Jess Jackson, the wine merchant who paid $16 million combined for the ready-made Curlin and Rachel, said upon getting to the microphone amid polite applause: "My congratulations to the Mosses. It was a close vote, although I don't know the count."
That was the second faux pas of the evening for Jackson. Earlier, he introduced his lovely wife Barbara as his mother as the audience snickered.
There was no snickering in the audience at the largest OTB venue in New Jersey where I watched the proceedings...simply because I was the only one watching. I would say there were 200 citizens watching simulcasts from such venues as Pompano, Woodbine, Northfields and Yonkers. All had the option of turning their TV sets to TVG for the Eclipse ceremonies, but none did.
That's right. Of the 200 racing "fans" in the room, I was the only one watching the Eclipse program up to and including the Horse of the Year announcement. On the way out, I turned back for one more look in utter disbelief.
Was this is the reaction everywhere...or just in my little corner of the world?
If anyone was actually watching the proceedings, they would have seen several racing and non-racing celebrities make absolute fools of themselves. Several attempts at humor, including a "text" from Tiger about fighting girls, fell on deaf ears.
The only "humor" that got even a trickle of laughter came from the Handicapper of the Year, who recycled the material he has been using for years. To wit: "I'm a graduate of NYU, New York Unemployment. My friends went to Penn State; I went to State Penn." If there had been a crater to fall into at that point, red-faced presenter Steve Crist would have done so on the spot.
As for the other awards, I can safely say there were no surprises. Fact is I handicapped the awards in this venue two weeks back, and got 12 of the 13 right. The only miss was Zenzational over Kodiak Kowboy for sprinter. And I found it alarming that the owner of Kodiak Kowboy, in his acceptance speech, rightfully gave Steve Asmussen props, but made no mention of Larry Jones. Likewise, Jackson, who had 20 minutes of stage time, never mentioned Hal Wiggins, the trainer who made Rachel a superstar, although he did give Calvin Borel a mention.
Speaking of Borel, Calvin couldn't make it to the party. He stayed at Oaklawn Park, where he was busy winning two races, including the stake.
Good for Calvin.
Oh, yes. Although Calvin didn't make the cut for Eclipse jockey, he did get 13 write-in votes.
If there had been such things as public polls for jockey, you can be assured that they would have resulted in Borel blowouts.
You had to feel bad for jockey Gomez. He went to all that trouble to win the money title, but still lost the hardware to jockey Leparoux. Guess a lot of folks submitted their ballots before Dec. 31, when Gomez replaced a "sick" jock in the last race at Santa Anita, and won the race to pass Leparoux in the final money standings.
But, again, that was so academic. Borel should have been top jock...but, to do so, he first would have had to make the cut.
Back to Rachel and Zenyatta.
There may or may not be some credence to a conspiracy theory. Personally, I wouldn't know.
All I can tell you is that a very reputable racing person called me Monday to ask me my opinion of the Moss's Saturday afternoon decision to race Zenyatta at 6 this year.
The conversation went like this:
RP: "So, John whaddya think?"
JP: "Honestly haven't given it much thought, but I guess the Mosses are getting on, and would like to get another year."
RP: "That's true. But I have to wonder if the Mosses got the word Zenyatta lost Horse of the Year, and beat 'em to the punch. After all, if they waited 'til the announcement, they would have been accused of looking for revenge."
The RP has a point, but I'm thinking that the Mosses could have just assumed Rachel would be HOY, and took a preemptory strike.
That said, it will be interesting to see if these two great mares actually to get to face off on the racetrack. How red-faced will the Eclipse electorate be if Zenyatta blows away Rachel?
The logical place would be the $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 3 at Oaklawn Park, the only venue at which both mares have raced. Of course, owner Cella would have to spike the 500K purse 10-fold.
Certainly, the weights would be interesting.
No doubt the distance (1 1/16 miles) and the speed-favoring nature of OP would favor Rachel, but I wouldn't want to bet against Zenyatta no matter the distance.
On the other hand, would it not be a hoot if Jackson spends more millions on something else to job Zenyatta of Horse of the Year for a third straight time?
In he meantime, back to more pressing issues. There is the matter of a 111K Pick Six carryover at Aqueduct on Wednesday afternoon...so let's take a look:
Elusive Fantasies (Cohen) cost 75K at Keeneland; running for 10K.
Original trainer was Larry Jones.
Anna's Unreal (Dominguez) won for 25K three-back.
Goodgollymissdolly gets blinkers for return for Jimmy Iselin, who trained Crafty
Prospector and Crafty Starlet.
Unbridled's Ghost (Cohen) got a check all seven times for Breen. Will outrun his 12-1 morning line.
Rereadthefootnotes (Dominguez) is the speed and class from the one-hole; will be a popular single.
Frenchonionsoup had rough trip off the Schwartz claim. Regal Prince missed the break from the one-hole. First-time Saez.
Laylaben (Cohen) right there every time.
Second start off the layoff for Heavenly Pursuit (Dominguez).
All Sew Smooth has beaten most of these; the chalk with Rosie.
Get the feeling that Cohen and Dominguez will have much to say about this Pick Six?
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