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.
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