Zenyatta’s Slight and USC’s Plight
Before you ask, the answer is no.
Zenyatta will not be named Horse of the Year, despite her 19 consecutive victories before Saturday’s crushing disappointment at the finish line.
Those naive enough to think she still might get the vote don’t understand the Eastern bias in horse racing. If Zenyatta couldn’t win the honor last year when Rachel Alexandra won for beating 3 year olds while the grand lady of the sport beat the best horses in the world, she won’t win this time after Blame, a distinguished animal in his own right, hung on to beat her by a short head in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The real question is what will Zenyatta’s legacy be?
Yes, it was tarnished somewhat when she fell too far behind, then couldn’t quite get there with her usual furious finish this time. But Saturday’s performance also wiped away any doubts about her legitimacy.
With her style, falling so far back then having to weave her way through traffic, it is amazing she could win those 19 in a row. Somewhere, somehow, you would have thought racing luck would have doomed her. It almost did a couple of times.
Saturday, unfortunately on the biggest stage of all, it finally caught up with her. But while she got beat, she also defeated such proven stakes winners as Quality Road and Lookin At Lucky. Ran them both into the ground, as a matter of fact.
Blame was too good, though, a proven animal who had won several Grade 1 races and loved running at Churchill Downs. Zenyatta was dealing with dirt for the first time in many races, and obviously had some trouble with the footing.
Jockey Mike Smith blames himself, but he really shouldn’t. He got her to where she had a shot at the end, but Blame seemed to have just enough in the tank to hold her off.
It was great theater, though, and while we’re talking about legacies, somebody should make it official now.
Zenyatta is the greatest female race horse of all time.
And not even the Eastern voters can take that away from her.
USC had to depend on a rare blocked PAT return for two points to pull off that late night victory against Arizona State.
And while the effort said a lot about the Trojans’ character, coming off an emotionally devastating beating by Oregon, the game also divulged some hard truths about the Trojans:
1. The defense is still a work in progress. It played well in the first half, blitzing away and creating chaos for the Sun Devils. But in the second half, against a relatively mediocre quarterback, USC was roughed up repeatedly and seemed fortunate to get out alive at the end when ASU’s kicker missed a 42-yard field goal.
2. The offense needs Robert Woods. The team’s most exciting player had a sore back, and after Matt Barkley somehow missed him when he was wide open by 25 yards on the opening play, Woods was reduced to a minor role. Without him as a primary target, Barkley struggled for the second week in a row.
3. John Baxter has made a huge impact with special teams. The Trojans blocked two punts and the 34-33 game turned when Tyron Smith blocked the PAT and Torin Harris scooped it up and raced the length of the field for two points.
Some quick hits after another big sports weekend:
Nice game-winning 51-yard field goal by UCLA’s Kai Forbath, although there definitely seemed to be a home team official on the clock, giving him an extra second. USC fans better hope the crosstown rivalry game doesn’t come down to a late kick attempt by Forbath . . .
So much for the completely broken down Brett Favre, huh? . . .
Michigan 67, Illinois 65: Nice defense, guys . . .
The Lakers might not be tested until their Christmas Day date with You-Know-Who . . .
Wonder if Pete Carroll still thinks Charlie Whitehurst is the Seahawks’ quarterback of the future? . . .
I’ve seen jockey fights before, but I’ve never seen anyone as enraged as Calvin Borel at Friday’s Breeder’s Cup battle. Come on, Calvin, you’ve got to keep your composure better than that . . .
The Chargers might be enigmas, but their quarterback Phillip Rivers isn’t. He is playing spectacular football . . .
Boise State’s Kellen Moore completed 19 consecutive passes at one point and threw for 507 yards against Hawaii. Don’t count him out of the Heisman race yet . . .
Speaking of the Heisman, I read where some voters already have crossed Auburn’s Cam Newton off their list because of last week’s so called controversy. I sure won’t, until something is actually proven . . .
By the way, he’s fallen out of the top three or four in the Heisman race, but Michigan’s Dennard Robinson demonstrated he’s the real deal before getting injured again in that score-a-thon with Illinois. “Shoelaces” not only can run, he can throw the heck out of the ball . . .
The Raiders are relevant again. Guess the Clippers still have hope . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF