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An Awesome Loss

November 8, 2010 - Al Stephenson
I'm not exactly a big horse racing fan. I do tend to watch the Kentucky Derby if I'm not doing anything else, but I don't bet on the nags and have a tendency to not pay a lot of attention to the sport. Saturday was different.

Zenyatta was a name I had heard of a few times, but I had no idea what she had accomplished before her final race at Churchill Downs. She was taking part in the Breeder's Cup, putting a perfect 19-0 record on the line. This was to be her last race and she had a chance to do what no other horse had ever done. Winning all 20 starts in a racing career was unheard of.

So my interest was piqued and I tuned in to watch the chance for history to be made. As I watched Zenyatta "dance" on her way to the track, weaving her way through the massive crowd in the paddock area, I was mesmerized. To be honest she seemed nervous to me. I also had no idea that she had a history of coming from behind with a strong stretch run that took her to the winner's circle each time.

As the horses broke from the gate and Zenyatta fell to the rear, I was immediately convinced that the hype was not warranted. Nothing changed my mind as she stayed dead last down the backstretch. I felt bad that she was going to embarass herself. I have always loved the underdog and despite her record, she was going up against the boys. Some would say that she was out of her league and until the frontstretch it appeared that they would be right.

Then one of those special moments in sports unfolded. Zenyatta came blasting through the entire field. She caught the leader with some fifty yards to go and victory again seemed a likely conclusion. But Blame was a great horse and held on to win by a head depriving us of that historical moment.

Disappointing? On the contrary, I was smiling. To win would have been great, but to come storming back like that only to come up "oh so short" still gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. Had she stayed last, there would have been a big letdown, but to see her gutsy finish was just plain awesome.

The view from my seat suggests that if you saw the race live, you should feel privileged. You got to see a great race horse run a courageous race and despite what others might think, I don't feel there is any disgrace in coming in second.


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