Monday, March 15, 2010

Zenyatta won. Rachel lost. And?

As the horse racing world hails Zenyatta for remaining undefeated after her win in the Santa Margarita and reels from Rachel Alexandra's surprising loss in the New Orleans Ladies to the John Sheriffs trained Zardana, the reaction to these events has been nothing but disheartening. The sights and sounds I heard on track at Santa Anita and read on the internet make me almost feel ashamed to be a horse racing fan. Something that was already bad for racing was made worst by the actions of inconsiderate people. Now not only will the "Showdown at Oaklawn" not happen, the divide between the "Zenites" (Zenyatta Only fans and Rachelians (Rachel Only fans) will grow ever wider. The chance of these two sides at least begrudgingly accepting that there is a chance that the other horse is better is now been put on the shelf.

There is a difference between cheering for your horse to win and wishing ill will on a another horse. I heard people, some of whom who did not place a bet, absolutely belittle Rachel after her loss. Some quotes from Santa Anita on Saturday (cleaned up to be printable): "Proves what a fraud she is!" "Zenyatta was screwed over for HOTY!" "Put that (bleep) down, she ain't worth (bleep)" and such. This crass behavior does nothing to help our sport. Think how many 1st-time track visitors were out there at Santa Anita, those who only were brought along by others who told them about Zenyatta. Those people saw grown men and women, who claim to love the sport, openly asking for one of their stars to be put down. I heard several people saying to their friends, "She was great and all, but all of that other stuff was a drag. I don't want to be around people like that."

Then I go check the internet, hoping to see at least some rational behavior from people about what happened. But no. What I saw was the Zenyatta fans hurling insult after insult toward Rachel and her connections. It was disgraceful. The Zenites just ripped Rachel fans on everything and anything. Saying things without thinking such as: "This proves Rachel shouldn't have been horse of the year!", "Rachel couldn't hold Zenyatta's souvenirs!", "Rachel is nothing more than a cheap claimer" and such. The Rachelians were just as bad, stooping to the level of the Zenites to defend their fallen idol. The trash talking was so bad, i turned off the computer. I had friends who were wondering what happened to Rachel & Zenyatta, people who I had prodded for years to come to the track, asking if one of them had killed somebody, because all they could find was the negative stuff about them. The talk was so bad, people were having not-so-private meltdowns throughout social media about how their feelings for Rachel were horribly wrong. For no good reason people were doubting that their long-crafted opinion was wrong based on one race. That the actions of Saturday had some effect on what happened on 2009.

There is a difference between being a "fan" and being a "fanboy". A fan cheers for what he loves to do it's best and can accept when they are beat. A fanboy can only be happy when not only his team/horse/club wins, it is belittling the opponent as well. The fan will cheer for the competitor to put up the best fight possible, so it knows that its team earned it. A fanboy will cheer for the worst in the other team, so it has more ammunition to taunt them with endlessly. The way both sides acted yesterday proves that the war between the Rachelians and the Zenites will not end well for anyone, especially the sport of horse racing.


  1. I came here to check out your ten cents, but what I got was much more than least 12 cents. That is a compliment, I promise. Great to see a new blog of quality from a young racing fan, well done!

    Rachel or Zenyatta? I love Rachel now and forever, but I root for Zenyatta in all of her races,that is...until she faces Rachel.

  2. You have pinpointed an illness that perpetuates American sports today. It is ugly.

    "Back in the day," fans supported their teams while appreciating a good contest regardless of the outcome.

    Also, I am noticing that many fans are forgetting that they are spectators - many seem to believe that they are the show.

    It is a new time, certainly not a better time in the sports world.

    Thanks for another insightful column.

  3. Bless your heart, Chris. Given the royal bashing I took and claims I had "invented" the euphoria at Santa Anita at Rachel's downfall, I thank you greatly for this post.

    It seems there are fewer and fewer places one can go and support both of these horses without getting dragged into the Sophomoric arguments between both camps.

    I'm so sick of hearing that Rachel was "given" Horse of the Year, or on the flipside that Zenyatta's 2009 campaign (outside of the Classic) was noteworty apart from being undefeated (Pepper's Pride?). :-)

    Keep posting - hopefully you can change people's opinions one fan at a time. If you succesfully convert fanboys to fans, you will have left your mark on the game and done much to advance the sport.

    By the way, you also gave me reason for pause here and self reflection (that's the hallmark of a strong writer). I think I'm guilty as well of worrying too much over Rachel. God knows my years as a St.Louis Rams fan (and even my beloved Crimson Tide of Alabama in recent years prior to Saban) should've prepared me well for dealing with defeat, but it still stings.

    I appreciate this wonderfully written post tremendously.

  4. Kevin,

    You have no idea what pain is.

    Try living in the Cleveland (Browns/Indians) area for sixty years. We have been on life support for at least the last forty.

  5. I'm a Clippers/LA Kings fan. At least your teams have a title.

  6. "Also, I am noticing that many fans are forgetting that they are spectators - many seem to believe that they are the show."

    Well put, gib. While I think some of the back-and-forth banter is actually good for the sport, comments about "putting a horse down" are classless.

    Nice work Chris.

  7. Very nicely written! I hope Rachel runs again and even if she comes in last, I will still cheer her on!

  8. Right on, very well said! I cheer both fillies on when they run but am a much bigger Rachel fan. Enjoy them while we can, they only come around once in a lifetime.