Whipped Titan runs down rivals to make World History, then run-down Bruins whip rival Titans to make World Series
In big time College Basketball, there is “88 STRAIGHT.” In big time Pro Basketball, there is “33 Straight.” In big time Baseball, there is “56 Straight.” In the big-time Rivalry, there’s “8 Straight.” And now, finally, in big time Horse Racing, there is “17 Straight.”
On Sunday afternoon at Historic (and soon to historic in another way) Hollywood Park, under suddenly overcast skies, six-year old Mare ZENYATTA did what Citation, Mister Frisky, Hallowed Dreams, and Cigar just barely missed: She won her 17th straight Horse Race. She came CLOSE to losing, but no Cigar. As always, Zenyatta came from the rear of the pack, and even though the race had only 6 horses, Zenyatta lost ground around the final turn by having to take a wide route.
Roaring down the stretch — whip flying — still trying to catch a couple of horses, Zenyatta looked like she may be in trouble, and may taste defeat for the first time in her entire life. As she came up to the leader, there was a moment where the leader seemed to surge, as if she was going to be able to hold off the challenge. But then Zenyatta found another gear, or the leader just couldn’t sustain her push, and Zenyatta was able to get a neck in front a few yards before the finish line. The final margin was ruled as a half-length, but it looked a lot closer for the majority of fans in the bleachers, who were all clutching Zenyatta Bobble-heads as the real thing galloped to immortality.
If you’re wondering why I stuck the term “big time” in there, it’s because there was a horse named Peppers Pride that won 19 out of 19 career races, but they were all in New Mexico — definitely NOT “big time” — so it doesn’t count.
Zenyatta didn’t have to beat JUST 5 other horses and the ghosts of 4 more — She also had to beat the “Curse of Trojan-Hater,” whose Kiss of Death down in Del Mar may have caused Cigar to LOSE in his try for #17, only a decade after the Curse had cost HEAVY favorite Seattle Slew a race back at Hollywood Park. And with about an 1/8th of a mile left, it looked like the Curse may be alive and well. But Zenyatta is not superstitious… just super… and undefeated… and unparalleled. How’s that for a Whole ‘Yatta Love?
For those of you who are wondering about that filly from the Triple Crown last year, Rachel Alexandra — She was beaten recently, by one of the horses that Zenyatta just trumped on Sunday. NOT THAT THAT MEANS A WHOLE HELL OF A LOT, just, “for what it’s worth.” Past performances are important, but they don’t tell you everything — Just ask Cal State Fullerton, who had won three straight against UCLA this year before the Bruins won the two that mattered… even after being down to their last out in Game 2.
On Sunday night, the Bruins were a “run-down” after the first half-inning, but gave up only 1 hit for the next 8 innings, while collecting 8 runs, on 12 hits of their own. Two of the early Bruin runs scored when Fullerton’s Center Fielder dropped a routine fly ball. Since the Titans lost Game 2 after a couple of huge miscues, this one in Game 3 must have had them all thinking that THEY were the cursed ones. CSUF never got back into the game after that, so the Bruins advance to Omaha for their first College World Series since 1997. Maybe the JW on the Bruin caps can inspire another Bruin Championship. Maybe the Lakers should try it — They lost in Boston to go down 2-3 in the Best-of-7 Finals, with Game 6 at Staples on Tuesday night, and Game 7, if necessary, on Thurday night, also at Staples. If the Lakers are to pull this thing out, Kobe will need help. He was unstoppable in Game 5, but not one single teammate had a good game to go with him. One thing is for certain: If Kobe is THAT HOT in Games 6 & 7, he’ll need only a little help. L.A. will be favored in Game 6, and again in Game 7 if they get there, so I guess L.A. is still the Favorite to win the Series, even though they are the ones with their backs to the wall. And they should be fine, as long as they PLAY like their backs are against the wall.
Below are 5 more photos of the Baseball game on Sunday night, and then 18 more shots of Zenyatta (and jockey Mike Smith). I’m not a regular at the Track by any means, but I have never seen a horse show as much personality and cockiness as Zenyatta did before the Race. She was playful, and had a bounce in her step, as she responded to the cheers of the overflow crowd. With her Gene Simmons tongue sticking out, she danced and pranced and kicked her legs out like a Lipizzanner Stallion, and then pawed playfully at the dirt like she was counting someone’s age. Then she seemed to playfully push her groom, as if to nudge him towards a group of pretty women, ala Herbie the Love Bug. Of course during the post parade, she reacted to the roar of the crowd by stopping, turning to the grandstands, and posing. I have seen one other horse do that in such a regal fashion (Cougar II with The Shoe aboard, at the very same spot on the very same track some 35 or so years ago, iirc), and of course you will tell me that the jockey is subtlely commanding the horse to take this curtsey, but I will still choose to believe otherwise. Anyway, take a look at some of these photos of Zenyatta, and see if I was able to capture any of that rare, bubbly personality. But first, Go Bruins!