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TrackNotes: To Paraphrase George Costanza, If Zenyatta Fans Want To Believe Their Horse Really Won, Then It Isn't A Lie

I watched it so you didn't have to.

In an excruciatingly boring and comedically painful awards ceremony Monday night, we learned that there wasn't really much suspense after all as Zenyatta was named the 2010 Horse of the Year in the 40th annual Eclipse Awards.

Paradoxically, while the basic tenet that issues of comparison between horses be settled on the track was thrown out the window with this most syrupy of results, it also made for a television show that couldn't, and may never, sustain suspense of any kind. To wait through 21 different categories to hear the results of the battle for HOY between Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame and Zenyatta, vanquished in the same race, was barely worth it.

Unlike baseball MVPs or Cy Youngs who are chosen before the season is over, racing has, or hopes to have, we thought, all questions of superiority settled on the dirt, the turf, or the synthetic oval.

You wish you could have been in the ballroom at Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel - the atomically bad standup stylings of MC Kenny Rice aside - to be able to ogle the rich people and drink lots of their expensive wine. Would have been much less agonizing.

Because you knew Ramon Dominguez (highest earnings of the year) would be named Jockey of the Year; Todd Pletcher (highest earnings of the year) would be named trainer of the year; Frank Stronach's Adena Springs stables (most starters, most winners, highest earnings) would be named Outstanding Breeder of the year.

The list goes on: Blame, Older Male; Zenyatta, Older Female; Gio Ponti, Male Turf Horse; the magical Goldikova, Female Turf Horse; Lookin At Lucky, Three-Year Old Male; and the no-brainer Uncle Mo, Two-Year Old Male.

While the fetching Christina Olivares was quite pleasing to the eye in her TVG hosting duties, we still missed trainer Bob Baffert, fueled by a few highballs, making his own brand of mischief.

It was truly inspiring to see Marylou Whitney, whose family has been in Thoroughbred racing since the century before last, receive an Eclipse Award of Merit and then proceed to advocate on behalf of backstretch track workers and condemn the apathy toward horses whose racing days have ended.

It's been 100 years for Seth Hancock's Claiborne Farm and Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Gallant Fox, Nijinsky II, Sir Gallahad III, Nasrullah, Round Table, Secretariat and Swale in the racing business. If the ballroom crowd thought the second Award of Merit was a bone tossed to Claiborne and their Blame before losing Horse of the Year, they were wrong. But the lukewarm applause for this backbone of American racing sure made you wonder what they were thinking.

I guess we won't all die after "Team Zenyatta" received the Special Eclipse Award for promoting her and making her available to the public for pictures at her barn. But that's quite ironic considering her connections pretty much staycationed in 2010, pounding on a game but overmatched colony of females in Southern California. In a handicapping sense, it was boffo in SoCal, not so much back east.

Seth Hancock sat very still when Zenyatta was announced the winner. Perhaps more stone-faced than the obligatory statue that is sure to be commissioned for the big mare. The only question there is will they get it done in time to plant it at Hollywood Park before they bulldoze the place? Or just site it at Santa Anita right away?

Hancock and trainer Al Stall, Jr. also could not have been happy with the vote totals, which figured to be much closer. It was 128 to Zenyatta, 102 for Blame, and 5 for Goldikova, the Euro who may very well have deserved the award herself. Only the staffers at the Daily Racing Form got it right as they went with Blame, 38-21.

You try to come up with the reasoning why members of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association were so lopsided for Zenyatta. They cite the 60 Minutes segment and a shoutout from Oprah as proof Zenyatta was thrust to the forefront of America's collective imagination and into the hearts of young and old alike. They talk about the boost Zenyatta has given, or will give the industry. I don't see it, and I'm probably not the one to ask, but my sports betting buddies never seemed too fired up about it.

The Tribune and Sun-Times and the New York Post had no news of Zenyatta's big award on their home sports web pages the next day, but the New York Times did, so I guess that's mainstream, right?

But things are down all over and a call for a wagering boycott in California might just be working after the racing lords of the left coast raised the takeout on exotic wagers yet again.

And it's tough when guys like me who know the score know they'll never resolve the Life At Ten betting scandal in November's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic.

Zenyatta's got tons to do to save horse racing.

Perhaps we just lump Blame's heroic finish over Zenyatta in with touchdowns that aren't touchdowns, or makeup balls-and-strikes calls by grandstanding umpires, or that's-okay traveling by the hoopsters. After all, this is the age of fluid officiating, isn't it?

To paraphrase George Costanza, if Zenyatta fans want to believe their horse was really the winner, all things considered, then it's not a lie.

What an exciting time we live in. What started out as "my horse is faster than your horse and we'll settle it right here" has been turned completely upside down. Imagine, we can have things any old way we want them.

But I think I saw what I saw. I sure hope nobody comes around to take away from me the $12.40/4.40/3.80 Blame paid me that memorable evening.

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Thomas Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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