I opened the L.A. Times this morning and, as always, turned first to the Sports section on the off chance there was an article on racing. There, just below the masthead, was a teaser for an article on page 10: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-dwyre-zenyatta17-2010jan17,0,2904380.column?track=rss
For a moment, I could not believe my eyes: Zenyatta was going to race again! It’s hard to explain why this news made me so happy. It’s not just that she is a champion racehorse, undefeated in 14 races (so far). Her popularity with fans far and wide, including me, rests not so much on what she does during a race as in what she does before and after. Her running style is dramatic and breath-taking, dropping back to the tail end of the pack early in the race and then simply inhaling her opponents with a stretch run that is second to none, but even if she raced in a less eye-catching style she would still be a fan favorite. Why? Because this big beautiful athletic mare radiates with joy each time she walks over the the track.
In the paddock before the race, she struts her stuff, showing off to the other horses and the people gathered at the rails. ”Look at me,” she seems to say. ”I am beautiful and graceful and made to run. So hurry up and let’s get out there and have some FUN!” While the other horses walk sedately in the post parade, Zenyatta is practicing her dressage moves: the Spanish walk, piaffes, side passes and other intricate steps that some horses take years to learn to do under saddle, which she does naturally for the sheer joy of it. This is a horse who loves to run, whose sole purpose in life is to show off her talents and be adored. She is happy, and her happiness rubs off on all those around her.
After the race, she canters back to the winners’ circle, hardly drawing a deep breath and looking ready to take part in the next race on the card. She is led into the winners’ circle to have her picture taken and suddenly the pawing hoof stills and she poses, stock still for the first time since she has left the barn. As soon as the photos are done, she begins to move again, so full of life and boundless energy that she can’t keep still any longer. Then she walks back to the barn, with a spring in her step that is usually lacking in a horse who has just run a race.
So, this is why the news that this mare will continue to race thrills me to the bone. I will get to vicariously experience her joy again. Long live the Queen of Racing and long may she reign!