rachel alexandra and zenyatta
rachel alexandra and zenyatta

The Rachel Alexandra vs Zenyatta Debate

(Photo : Beat/Sporting Life/Dopacetic)


It must be decades since the judges were faced with such a dilemma. The remarkable sweep-it-all-before-you 3-year-old filly, Rachel Alexandra, or the unbeaten (14 from 14) giant-killing Zenyatta. Who said the fillies are at a disadvantage? Here are a few views :

Barry Weisbord on Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra:

The sport of Thoroughbred racing takes a lot of criticism, much of it justified. While other sports crown their champions in a year-ending, on-the-field contest that is above debate, or announces their weekly rankings through an easy-to-follow and inarguable points system, racing relies upon a controversial and antiquated system of opinion polling among certain segments of the industry and routinely draws fire from both inside and outside the sport for doing so. I am talking, of course, about the annual vote for divisional champions and Horse of the Year. The controversy started before Zenyatta had even returned to the winner’s enclosure, with ESPN commentators giving their own opinions on who the winner should be, and polling the winning connections as to what they thought.

We do so many things wrong in racing. Wouldn’t it be great if we finally got this one right? Racing should give both of this year’s female stars “Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra” the lasting honor they each deserve by naming them each Horse of the Year.

Who was better? It is unfair to make people inside and outside of the industry make that choice. An ontrack meeting could have settled the issue. But without that meeting, it’s impossible to say.

Didn’t they both do everything they were asked to do every time they stepped onto the track? Are we really doing this filly, this mare - and their connections - justice by entering into a debate as to who was more successful, and choosing just one of them? The issue, really, is: where would our sport have been this year without either one of them?

Let’s stage a meaningful Eclipse Award night that honors them both.

This time, racing needs to get it right. They have called this the Year of the Girl in horse racing. Let’s do the right thing and make it the Year of the Girls.

Bob Baffert on Zenyatta :

“Amazing. Amazing. She’s as good as it gets. And the way the grandstand erupted, I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was cheering. Nobody wanted to leave. She made us feel good. She made us all feel good. It’s got to be the greatest moment in Breeders’ Cup history.”

Chip Woolley on Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra :

“They are both great, great, great individuals. Both of them have done things that are pretty much unprecedented in racing. It’s tough to separate them in a way, but Zenyatta’s race? The fans were truly blessed to be here to see the effort she put out and to see a race like that. At the same time, the fans have been blessed all year watching Rachel Alexandra perform, with running with the boys, traveling all over the country and running huge. She’s 8 for 8… she beat the boys three times. She’s done it all - run in the slop and on good racetracks. She did whatever was asked of her. She showed up, she beat the fillies by unprecedented margins; she beat the boys handily most of the time. It’s been a great year to watch the both of them.”

Richard Mandella on Zenyatta :

“How about Zenyatta? Isn’t she something? What a wonderful, wonderful thing she is for racing. We had a very good day of racing here before her, but her big finish took it from very good to great. She is so special. And I want to salute John Shirreffs for the training he did. We might have seen one of the great training jobs of all time there. I take off my cap to him. John and I have our differences over the politics of synthetic tracks [Mandella in favor, Shirreffs against], but when it comes to horsemanship, I’m with him all the way. He is very, very good at what he does, and he did an exceptional job with that mare. She’s a good thing for racing, and he is to be saluted for what he did.”

Paco Gonzalez on Zenyatta’s Classic win :

“I hope this will be a big shot in the arm for racing, what we need for the sport. That mare is a real racehorse. It was a wonderful thing the owners did. The people were so happy. It was a very big crowd, like the old days. People will always come to see good horses.”

Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News