Zenyatta lost her quest to retire at a perfect 20 for 20 yesterday, losing the Breeders' Cup Classic by half a head, to a very good horse named Blame. But even in defeat, she gave us the heart-pumping excitement she is known for. Starting in a mere canter as the other eleven horses sprinted away from her, she was way, way back early on in the race, fifteen lengths behind the leaders, and barely looked as if she was involved.
With the Churchill Downs dirt flying in her face on a chilly November evening, Zenyatta rallied and began to catch up. When she set herself down to open up her long stride, here she came, picking off the pack one at a time. With just a quarter of a mile left, her jockey Mike Smith threaded her between horses and she ran like we've seen her do it before, flat out, running her huge heart out to catch the horses in front of her. Impossibly, it looked like she would do it again. And she almost did. She passed everyone, and caught up to Blame, only to lose the race by mere inches.
The crowd of over 72,000 was stunned. Her jockey broke down in tears at an interview shortly thereafter. How could the Queen lose? Impossible.
But Zenyatta, even in defeat, lost no fans. If any, she gained more in this race, proving that at six years old she is every bit as much a racing machine as she was at age three, and a crowd pleaser and people lover as well.
No matter what the future holds for this great mare, I say "Long Live the Queen." She has brought more new fans to the sport of horse racing then any horse, movie, or book I can remember in a long, long time.
In a year or two, few will remember the name of the one horse that beat her. But Zenyatta's legacy - her heart stopping performances, her physical presence and charisma, her record of 19 wins and 1 second, will live on.
Did you watch the race? Will you remember it? I know I will.