2010 Year In Review -From Matt Carothers

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The 2010 racing year started out with a lot of promise and a fair amount of controversy. The former came from the fact that the three biggest names in racing were all returning to campaign once again. Those three (not in any particular order, folks) were Goldikova, Rachel Alexandra, and, of course, Zenyatta. The return of Zenyatta being even more special since she had been "officially retired" just weeks after becoming the first female to win a Breeders' Cup Classic. These three stars, as you can imagine, are very prominent throughout our Year In Review show, which debuts on Wednesday, December 22nd at 8PM Eastern. The controversy stems from the Horse of the Year results that were revealed at the Eclipse Awards on the evening of January 18th. Never in my lifetime, has there ever been such a rivalry involving two star athletes that have never even competed against one another. But we clearly had one between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. The controversy in the vote had more to do with Rachel's margin of victory (which was by more than thirty 1st place votes) than the fact that she won. Although, many would argue that point. Never before had there been two candidates so worthy of this honor in the same year. Now the entire racing world wanted -and when I mean all I can't be more literal - was a showdown between these two transcending, yet completely contrasting, stars. Of course everything was set for Rachel and Zenyatta to finally meet on April 9th at Oaklawn Park until Rachel returned from a long and deserved freshening only to prove that her “one for the ages” 3 year old season had taken its toll. She was defeated in her Apple Blossom prep, as the 1-20 favorite down at the Fair Grounds, and in the process put an end to the "dream matchup" that the racing world not only wanted, but needed. For the second straight year we had a different winner in each of the three Triple Crown legs. Calvin Borel won the Derby for the 3rd time in the last four years with Super Saver, which finally gave Todd Pletcher his first win in racing's most prestigious race. The four time Eclipse Award winning trainer (soon could be five) was 0 for 24 in The Run For The Roses heading into 2010. Many think that Pletcher will go back to back in 2011, as he trains BC Juvenile winner and undefeated Uncle Mo, who, at this early stage is a big favorite. With the skills of Rachel being greatly diminished, Zenyatta became even more of a focal point. Not only did she continue her unbeaten streak, but she did so in front of ridiculously huge crowds. The flare and manner in which she won would literally put these throngs of fans into frenzy. Racing's unanimous MVP headed into this years' Breeders' Cup a perfect 19 for 19. The 2010 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs was a huge success for racing. Handle for the two day event was up 13 percent from a year ago. More importantly, people were watching. ESPN's last hour of coverage on Saturday, thanks to Zenyatta, had nearly three times as many viewers as the year before. Friday, we will take away; the infamous fight after the BC Marathon between Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano, good but not great performances on the track, and the Ladies Classic being held under the lights for the first time. Saturday, however may go down as the single greatest day of racing in North America, and no, that is not hyperbole. We had Uncle Mo, with arguably the best performance in the Juvenile since Arazi made that "Arazi type move" in 1991. You had the great Goldikova win the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile for a record 3rd consecutive time. Not sure if there has ever been a horse with a greater turn of foot. She will try and make it four in a row in 2011. Then there was the Classic. The scene before the race was equally as compelling and exciting as the race itself. As night time descended upon Churchill Downs thousands rushed to the paddock to see Zenyatta do her thing one last time. The crowd noise combined with the hundreds of flashbulbs that were going off simultaneously made for a completely surreal experience. In the beginning, the race itself appeared like it was going to be a complete letdown. With a slow and somewhat awkward break Zenyatta would find herself 17 back early. But in the middle stages of the race when she finally seemed to get a hold of the track and began to make her patented move it was really an amazing sight. Only this time she could not quite get to an outstanding horse in his own right in Blame. Blame got the needed jump on "Big Z", and with a brilliant ride from Garrett Gomez, prevailed a head. In defeat Zenyatta earned the respect of even her most fervent detractors. 2010 really was as they say "one for the ages." And like this past year, 2011 will begin with controversy. Should Horse of the Year go to Blame or Zenyatta? We will find out January 17th.

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