Sunday, November 7, 2010

Even In Defeat Zenyatta Answers the Questions

So ends one of the most contentious and often silly debates in thoroughbred racing history. Zenyatta, called by some public handicappers "slow", and a "synthetic specialist" closed from the clouds, only to fall a scant head short in the Breeders Cup Classic, on dirt, against the best males on that surface.

With the showing, she threw a giant hole into the speed figure handicapping dogma that has permeated the sport since the 1970's.

The big mare only runs big numbers when she has to. She is not Quality Road, where she can run like a scared cat on a rock hard three path and run a 120. She is too smart for that. She runs to her target, and then coasts, taking care of herself and showing brains that few racehorses have. If Blame was stopped up early in the lane and she made the lead early, she probably would have run a second slower, winning by a tiny margin; and earning a "slow" figure.

That's what she does, and that is why speed figure gurus had a difficult time assessing her.

Speed figures are the bomb. They make you money, especially when you sprinkle some handicapping logic and sound gambling strategy into the mix. But with her they are nothing short of worthless.

As for the surface debate, some watchers pointed to a sub-par figure in the Apple Blossom to explain her disdain for dirt. How does a mare run a 12 second eighth around the turn at Oaklawn with her ears pricked, win by four in a canter and not like dirt?

Zenyatta gave us great joy and great debate. She's one of the best mares ever to walk the earth - two Breeders Cup Classics on two different surfaces against the best males the sport had to offer, where she came a foot away from sweeping the entire two fields, assures that. We will be remembering her fondly for being a wonderful racehorse and a wonderfully fast racemare for generations.

And we do not need a Beyer figure or a handicapping guru to tell us so.


St.Paddy said...

Nice story, You are probably correct about the dirt angle. I do note that her female line is totally European which may have influenced this idea of running all weather. Turf & AW really are blood brothers so Zenyatta probably would be good on turf as well.

Now that would pose a question. Who to send her to and looking at her lines i think a turf champion is better suited. Over to you.

Anonymous said...

Poly to Dirt!!! That's the problem here. HorseS generally don't break as "sharp" going from poly to dirt. Her usual slow start was simplY exagerrated because of her previous effort being on poly. I guarantee that if she was coming off a dirt race she would have won. I HATE THE POLYTRACK. THIS IS THE ONLY REASON ZENYATTA GOT BEAT.

Anonymous said...

Good column... Beyer, Serling, Crist and the rest of the east coast handicapping clique should be embarrassed.

A handicapping neophyte could have written Beyer's last two columns, and they were beneath him. I lost a ton of respect for him during the Zenyatta years. I do not think I will ever read him in the same way I once did ever again.

PS: You understood what you were watching from day one and you did not care who disagreed. I respect that.

Pull the Pocket said...


Not me. I was not sold on her as an all time type filly until last year.

But yes; like you I have had a laugh at the surface debate with it. Somehow HOL is like running on marbles to Belmont and a horse doing the former must be taken with a grain of salt to some. We are stuck on numbers far too much in racing.


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