5 reasons why HOTY vote is really simple

Well, I’ve waited over a week to articulate my thoughts on one of racing’s hottest topics, the debate surrounding the 2010 Horse of the Year.  There was a wave of emotions that continues to roll through the racing community regarding the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  Those emotions are driving some people, including those who actually have a vote, to abandon conventional thinking of how the Horse of the Year honor is awarded.  I’ll preface my upcoming remarks with pure honesty; some of you are going to disagree.

1.) It’s Horse of the YEAR.  What that means is that 2007, 2008, and 2009 campaigns don’t count.  Unfortunately, Zenyatta’s streak and her 14 wins prior to this calendar year are not in the conversation.  What voters are asked to judge is who had the best year in 2010.  Blame’s resume far exceeds Zenyatta’s for this calendar year.  I don’t care if she won more Grade I races.  Zenyatta didn’t face a Grade I caliber horse until she entered the gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  With all due respect to St. Trinian’s, she was beaten handily in her only foray into Grade I company and her Grade II win at Santa Anita featured two horses who were subsequently retired, one who went 2-8 the rest of the year with wins in a listed stake and allowance race, and another who went 1-4 with three losses by double digit lengths.  Blame defeated winners of the New Orleans Handicap, Woodford Reserve and Skip Away, just in the Foster.

2.) The racing industry owes a debt of gratitude to Ann and Jerry Moss and John Shirreffs for treating us to another year of watching this great mare run.  However, that doesn’t mean that repayment comes in the form of Horse of the Year.  It’s not a question of “she did more for the industry.”  So did Smarty Jones, but like in 2004, the accomplishments of another horse went beyond in 2010.

3.) They put their chips down on the BC Classic.  The team behind Zenyatta cultivated a campaign for 2010 that was completely reliant on a BC Classic win in order to get the Horse of the Year crown.  They tried open company 0 times.  They traveled from California once to meet overmatched fillies like Taptam and Be Fair.  The downside of putting so much emphasis on the BC Classic is that it was not going to be a walkover.  Clearly in the end it was not.

4.) The pre-conceived notions.  It was astonishing to me that some racing writers went out of their way to say that no matter what happened in the BC Classic that Zenyatta is the Horse of the Year for 2010.  Based on victories in five restricted races?  The list of horses who have won HOTY based on wins solely in restricted races is very short and they’ve generally occurred in years where there was a very weak handicap division.  There was a worthy Champion Older Male in 2010.  Blame defeated the two best fields assembled this year.

5.) With regards to the BC Classic itself, stop the stream of excuses.  Zenyatta was as far behind as she was in the BC Classic because of multiple reasons.  She was behind a pace that was significantly faster than any she had seen in better than two calendar years.  She also dealt with kickback for the first time in her career.  However, Mike Smith used those giant strides of hers to get her back into the race by the time the field reached the backstretch.  She was in position at the top of the stretch, her momentum was never stopped during her furious rally, and the race unfolded exactly like it needed to for a victory.  Blame was considerably closer to the wicked pace that collapsed and he shrugged off any other closer in the final quarter.  She ran a very brave race.  He did too.

I have all the respect in the world for Zenyatta.  I saw her live in the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and won’t forget the power of her thundering hooves.  She has been a great story, her personality and charisma are infectious and her sheer size and might are mind boggling.  Her trainer deserves accolades for keeping her healthy, happy, and sound for this long.  However, their only flaw was keeping her confined to restricted company in California and one weak race in Arkansas.  For these reasons, Blame is the deserving Horse of the Year.


10 Responses to “5 reasons why HOTY vote is really simple”

  1. Mary McQuire Says:

    Blame lost this year and won less Grade I stakes than Zenyatta. She beat every horse but Blame yet lost by the tiniest of margins. Couple more strides and he was toast.

  2. lilbunnyfoofoo1 Says:

    Blame was beaten by Haynesfield earlier in the year. Zenyatta blew by him in the BCC like he was standing still. Blame will only be remembered because of his association with Zenyatta, not by himself. He’s just another horse put out to stud before his resilience over the course of more than a season could be proven. Do we really need to reproduce more short term horses that cannot stand the test of time?

  3. sherry2862 Says:

    Blame did not have a better 2010 than Zenyatta do your research. Zenyatta won more Grade I stakes than he did! If you were watching the same 2010 Breeders Cup I was, I believe she beat all of the horses in there and came up a nose short of Blame. Blame won that race on a track he ran on all year and who’s owners prepared him for. How is that any different than Zen running on the West Coast. Did Blame travel West? Moreover, Zen won the 2008 Breeders Cup and put it all on the line to come back in 2010. Talk about courage! The Mosses have done a lot for horseracing and you all should be thankful! They truly care about their horses. Let’s ask Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby Winner — How did Seth Hancock’s Claiborne Farm thank him? I read he died in a Japanese Slaughter house. If you or anyone else can’t see the difference betweeen Blame and Zenyatta, it’s time for you to get another day job. If she does not get HOTY, the injustice will define Horse Racing’s future and rightfully so. After all, it’s a over a week past the Breeder’s Cup and Zenyatta is still giving you something to write about isn’t she? When was the last time that happend in this sport?

  4. FredElliston Says:

    sherry2862 — Shouldn’t you be out on a ledge somewhere?

    There’s a pesky thing about facts – they don’t lie. And in this case, Blame DID have the better year than Zenyatta. Beating-up on Switch and Rinterval does not nullify winning the Stephen Foster and Whitney and – oh yeah – the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

    You show your ignorance by referencing 2008… that was umm, so two years ago! What matters for Horse of the Year is what happened THIS year. T-H-I-S = 2010. And in 2010, Blame beat Zenyatta fair and square when it counted. That should be all she wrote. But, if you want to reference past victories during the year, that’s fine… but again, Blame gets the nod.

    It’s okay. Zenyatta was awesome, she did a lot… but Horse of the Year is about racing accomplishments.

    Racing’s future, I hope, is about branching-out and trying new things… or challenging your horse. Staying home in So. Cal with the hot babes at the beach ain’t gonna cut it, nor should it.

    Perhaps the one who should be asking about the day job is you…

    And finally, if Ferdinand had a vote, he’d vote for Blame too.

  5. nicktammaro Says:


    Your post shows you to be horribly uninformed. Seth Hancock’s Claiborne Farm sold Ferdinand as a breeding prospect when many Japanese breeding entities were interested in American horses. He in no way was responsible for Ferdinand’s unfortunate demise. The insinuation you make is irresponsible.

    As for this remark, “If you or anyone else can’t see the difference betweeen Blame and Zenyatta, it’s time for you to get another day job”

    I cannot be sure if you’re referring to their racing prowess, their accomplishments, or their respective owners. Nonetheless, these horses are inextricably linked because of their stirring stretch battle and more so because Blame could very well end up being the only horse who beat her.

  6. Jim C. Says:

    “They tried open company 0 times.”

    The Breeders’ Cup Classic was “open company.” Nick, name one, just one, U.S.-based older mare in the past 20 years that was a classic router and REGULARLY ran in stakes races against males. Even Rachel Alexandra, after he ambitious 3-year old campaign, ran against females only in her 4 year old year.

    “They traveled from California once to meet overmatched fillies like Taptam and Be Fair.”

    Nick, you forget that Rachel Alexandra’s connections had committed to this race. A date concession was granted, and $5 million was put on the table. You cannot fault Zenyatta’s connections that the match-up did not happen. Were they supposed to chase Rachel Alexandra in the summer all over the East Coast? You forget that Just Jenda was also entered in the Apple Blossom; in August, she won the G2 Molly Pitcher at Monmouth.

    You also cannot fault Zenyatta’s connections for her first race, the G1 Santa Margarita. It was her first race after a lay off, and a prep race for the Apple Blossom, where she was going to meet Rachel Alexandra. Zenyatta gave 15 pounds to the runner-up, and up to 17 pounds to other fillies entered in that race.

    Zenyatta’s next race after the Apple Blossom was in the G1 Vanity in June, where she carried 129 pounds, and defeated St Trinians, who was the betting favorite of the Big Cap, and the No. 3 ranked older female in the country by the DRF. Blame never carried anything close to 129 pounds all year. Zardana was also entered in that race; she defeated Rachel Alexandra, the reigning 2009 Horse of the Year, earlier in the year.

    Zenyatta also faced a terrific filly in Switch in the Lady’s Secret. Switch, earlier in June, defeated Blind Luck, the top 3 year old in the country (male or female, according to Ragozin), in the Hollywood Oaks.

    Tell me, Nick were you criticizing Personal Ensign for not running often enough against males, and leaving New York as often as Woody Allen? I just love your East Coast double standard. If Zenyatta were based on the East Coast, won the Apple Blossom, Ruffian, Personal Ensign, and Beldame, and lost by inches to Blame, who got a perfect trip over his home track, there would be virtual unanimity that she was deserving of Horse of the Year.

  7. Sherry2862 Says:

    To Fred: Should you be out on a ledge somewhere? What you failed to see in my writing is what Zenyatta has done to thousands…she has brought a passion out to defend a title that is rightfully hers, not only in 2010, but in 2009 as well. No other horse has done that or captured interest in the horse racing industry like Zenyatta is doing right now. If you need more proof, scour the internet to see what horse touched their lives and love these fans have for her. Ignorance with a reference to her 2008 win? Is that not fact? Where is the ignorance in stating the fact Zenyatta won it. In holding to your theory, is it not ignorant for you to reference Blame’s 2010 win when that too is fact? The FACT is Blame won on his home track. I’ve read every article I can find and no where did any expert writer mention of his travel to the West Coast as you incinuate Zenyatta should have traveled East. Perhaps you are closer to the edge if you don’t see that difference.

    To Nick: I did not make an incinuation that it was anyone’s fault what happened to Ferdinand only where he came from prior to his tragic ending. It is fact and not irresponsible. The statement you made about it being irresponsible was your inaccurate INTERPRETATION of my comment.

    The debate for HOTY will continue by far more knowledgeable people than me. Zenyatta is the reason I take the time to write a reply on this column. However, what you cannot debate is the fact that Zenyatta is the most loved and talked about horse in 2010.

  8. nicktammaro Says:

    Sherry- How was one to interpret your comment? Looks to me like you’re casting a bit of blame (no pun intended) on Seth Hancock.

    Jim C – Thanks for the reply. Of course my statement about Zenyatta facing open company 0 times dealt specifically with her 2010 campaign pre-Breeders Cup. Her connections’ choice of the Santa Margarita draws no argument from me, it was a logical prep. Sure, Rachel Alexandra was withdrawn from the Apple Blossom. That doesn’t change the fact that what was left was weak. However, in the following five months her connections opted to run her against open company 0 times and take her on the road 0 times despite saying that was part of their intentions for 2010. The restricted races against inferior company don’t do much for HOTY credentials, even if they have a questionable “GI” designation.

    My point, from the beginning, has been that a mare who did not win what was set up as the defining race of her season is not worthy of winning HOTY when the rest of her season consisted of restricted races, unless there are no legitimate other players in the discussion (3YOs, Older Males, occasionally a 2YO).

    As for Personal Ensign, she defeated males in the Whitney. She also hailed from a stable that was well represented by older males at the time. She also won 0 HOTY trophies despite going undefeated.

  9. Jim C. Says:

    Nick said: “It’s Horse of the YEAR. What that means is that 2007, 2008, and 2009 campaigns don’t count.”

    Yes they do, Nick. Here’s why. On October 2, 2010, (i.e. THIS YEAR), she established the modern American record of consecutive victories by a Grade 1 level horse. That steak extends back to 2007.

    Like I said, if Zenyatta was based on the East Coast, and won the Apple Blossom, Ruffian, Personal Ensign, and Beldame, and lost by a nose in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (and edged her nose past him two strides after the wire) to a horse who had a great trip on his home track, we would not be having this conversation.

    If you do not think Zenyatta turned in the best performance in that race, then, as Bob Baffert has stated, you do not know how to watch a horse race. Saying that Blame had the better performance is tantamount to saying that Exceller had a better performance than Seattle Slew in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup because Seattle Slew won the race.

    As for your knocking her pre-Breeders’ Cup 2010 campaign, it included 5 grade 1’s. As for them not being against males – so what? There has been no U..S.-based 6 year old mare in the past 20 years that regularly ran against males in Grade 1 level route races. As I said before, Zenyatta’s connections showed up for the Apple Blossom, a race to which the 2009 Horse of the Year had committed after receiving a date concession, and after $5 million was put on the table. Her campaign is every bit as impressive as Azeri, who ran a California-based filly campaign in 2002 and won Horse of the Year. One telling fact regarding Zenyatta’s campaign is the fact that the top 3 year old in the country (male OR female, according to Len Friedman), Blind Luck, was pre-entered for the Lady’s Secret against Zenyatta. But Blind Luck’s connections instead opted to give ten pounds to her chief rival in the Cotillion rather than face Zenyatta.

    The fact remains, Nick, that Zenyatta was the most impressive horse in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup, and put horse racing back on the map. She is deserving of Horse of the Year, and will likely win it. There are a lot of Eastern writers who are in her camp this year. Wish you had a wider perspective and were one of them,

  10. FredElliston Says:

    Most impressive horse in the BC? Oh God. I hope you bet… because I could use some of your money. In fact, why don’t you throw-up your email address, I’ll send you my mailing address, and you can send me a check.

    Blame should be Horse of the Year. There is no “glove doesn’t fit” stuff here… it’s cut/dry.

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