November 6


Posted 11/06/10

Man o'War has long been considered one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses of all time. During his race career he won 20 of 21 races and $249.465 in purse money, an impressive feat in the years just following WWI.

His only loss came in his two-year-old year when he was defeated by a half-length by a horse named, ironically, Upset. Some have erroneously thought that this popularized the term "upset" in sports terminology, although the term pre-dates the horse himself.

Upset had the misfortune of being born in the same year as an extra-ordinary superstar. Upset won two graded stakes races in his career, and ran second in several others, incuding following Man o'War over the line in the Preakness. He was the Sham of his generation - Sham would likely have had much more success on the track were it not for another colt his age named Secretariat.

Today, an extraordinary racemare went to the post for the last time. The incomparable Zenyatta tried to repeat her win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and lost by a nose to Blame after starting from dead last and getting caught in traffic down the stretch. It was announced before the race that she would retire afterwards so she goes out winning 19 of 20 races and $7.3 million in purses.

Blame is no slouch, mind you. The four-year-old colt has won $4.3 million himself. But after the story of Barbaro captured the world's attention, people have been looking for a new racing champion, a horse that would live up to all of our wildly unrealistic expectations and let us revel in their victories, vicariously. Somewhat sadly, we're still looking. And unfortunately for Blame, he will be the footnote to Zenyatta that Upset was to Man o'War.

Zenyatta will retire now and become a broodmare, hopefully producing future champions over the years. In a way, I hope that the connections that be will consider a breeding down the road to Blame. In keeping with Zenyatta's musical name (it comes from the name of an album by The Police), I have a suggestion for their foal's name, courtesy of another singer, Alanis Morissette:

Isn't It Ironic

Hopefully she or he will go on to do great things as well. And we'll be cheering for them all the way.

(P.S. According to The Jockey Club, the name is not taken.)