MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Moments after the Eclipse Awards ended Monday night, Zenyatta owner Ann Moss came off the stage eager to call her mare in Kentucky. They keep in touch by video phone.
“I just can’t wait to tell her,” a beaming Moss said. “We won!”
Zenyatta beat Blame to win Horse of the Year, besting the only opponent ever to defeat her on the track.
The award caps a remarkable career for the popular Zenyatta, one of the sport’s greatest mares. She was 19-0 before losing her final race to Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last November.
“This makes it all OK after getting beat last time,” said Mike Smith, Zenyatta’s jockey.
Zenyatta received 128 votes and Blame 102. Goldikova, the other nominee, received five votes for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters.
Moss’ husband, Jerry, feared they might vote for Blame because of the head-to-head defeat last fall. Was he surprised to win?
“A little bit, because we lost the big race,” Moss said. “I guess it’s our turn in a way.”
Zenyatta was runner-up for Horse of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
“We always hoped,” Ann Moss said. “We hoped last year, and the year before that. We’re just so happy. She’s such a gift.”
Zenyatta’s three-year body of work and charismatic personality swayed voters her way. She has been racing’s leading lady and boosted its popularity, while Blame wasn’t widely known outside of the sport.
When video highlights of the three finalists were shown before the award was announced, the ballroom crowd reserved its applause for Zenyatta. And after the Mosses accepted the trophy, the crowd gave Team Zenyatta a standing ovation.
“We’re such a niche sport,” said Jerry Moss, a music executive. “The fact she transcended all that and people were interested in seeing her — she was a crossover hit.”
Zenyatta cost the Mosses only $60,000 when they purchased her as a yearling in 2005, and she went on to win 13 Grade 1 stakes, including five last year.
Blame ran against stronger competition than Zenyatta in 2010, and his wins included the Stephen Foster Handicap and the Whitney at Saratoga. But the 4-year-old colt finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which may have lost him some votes.
Al Stall Jr., Blame’s trainer, said his camp wasn’t disappointed Zenyatta won.
“It just fell that way,” he said. “Nobody is surprised. She was the overwhelming favorite. She had transcendent powers we didn’t have.”
Zenyatta’s now at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky awaiting her first breeding date, with the stallion to be chosen in the next couple of weeks before she’s bred in late February, Jerry Moss said.
“She’s doing extremely well at Lane’s End,” Moss told the crowd. “Hey, you can look it up every day on Zenyatta.com.”
Ann Moss wore a tag for Zenyatta’s foal on her finger.
“As a broodmare she’s going to be fantastic, too,” Moss said. “I think she’ll pass on the greatness.”
Other Eclipse Award winners included Todd Pletcher as outstanding trainer, Ramon Dominguez as outstanding jockey, WinStar Farm as outstanding owner and Adena Springs as outstanding breeder.
Pletcher earned the trainer honor for the fifth time by finishing far ahead of the runner-up, Zenyatta trainer John Shirreffs, 168 votes to 28. Dominguez finished ahead of runner-up Garrett Gomez, 124-60. WinStar Farm edged Jerry and Ann Moss 100-81.
Blame was chosen top older male. Zenyatta was chosen top older female for the third year in a row.
“It has been just an unbelievably remarkable ride,” Jerry Moss said. “All the letters and postcards and photos and trophies and little emblems and poems we get every day from people all over the world — we’ve got to thank these fans. I hope as an industry we can keep these fans. She touched these people in a very special way. They all just loved her.”
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.