The 2009 Horse of the Year is a Mare
Not only that, but the main rival of Rachel Alexandra for the honor was another mare, Zenyatta! The top male horses were no match for either of these mares last year. This story is from the New York Times
Rachel Alexandra Wins Horse of the Year
By BILL FINLEY
Published: January 18, 2010
Unbeaten on the racetrack last year, Rachel Alexandra won again Monday night, defeating her rival Zenyatta to take horse racing’s top prize, the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
Rachel Alexandra received 130 votes to 99 for Zenyatta. Two voters abstained, and one ballot was voided.
Perhaps no other Horse of the Year announcement has been as anticipated, and never had the outcome been as much in doubt. There was little to separate the two horses, both females and both victors over males last year. Neither lost a race in 2009, and both recorded historic feats.
The voters might have ultimately leaned toward Rachel Alexandra because she had the longer campaign, winning more races (eight, to five for Zenyatta) and defeating males three times, as opposed to once for Zenyatta.
Rachel Alexandra beat top colts in the Preakness and the Haskell and defeated older horses in the Woodward. She was the first filly since 1924 to win the Preakness, the middle leg of the Triple Crown, and the only filly to win the Woodward.
Zenyatta did everything she could to wrest the title from Rachel Alexandra, who once appeared to have an insurmountable lead in the Horse of the Year race. After winning her first four starts of the year, all in California and in races restricted to fillies and mares, Zenyatta ended her season with a thrilling victory over males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. It was the first win for a female horse in that race.
Rachel Alexandra did not compete in the Breeders’ Cup because her owner, Jess Jackson, does not like synthetic racing surfaces. The main track at Santa Anita has an artificial surface known as Pro-Ride.
While rare in USA, female horses outclassing the top males is relatively common in international racing. If it were not for the incredible value these two mares have as broodmares, they might dominate horse racing for many years to come. They may finally race against each other this year. The feats of Rachel Alexandra are especially unusual because she is so young, yet she handily defeated top older horses in the Woodward Stakes.
Human male racers have a substantial edge over females, but one never knows; that gender barrier may also fall some day. Men must already know, though they may bury it in their subconscious, that women are at least their equals mentally, but the male edge in sports is sufficient for many men to keep their notions of superiority intact. In other species, whatever edge males may have is inconsistent at best. In horse racing, the Horse of the Year competition for last year was no contest; no male had a chance of winning that honor.