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Question of the day: If Zenyatta wins on Saturday, should she be considered the greatest horse of all time? [Updated]

November 3, 2010 |  9:03 am

Zenyatta_300 Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses, and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Eric Sondheimer, Los Angeles Times

All debate should end over who is the best horse of all time if Zenyatta does what she has always done: win for the 20th and final time on Saturday in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

How can anyone argue she isn’t the best horse with a record of 20-0?

I’ve watched her since she was a 4-year-old, and what’s most remarkable is that in a sport where there are no sure winners, she is.

She always starts last and somehow always rallies to win. She runs only as fast as her jockey needs her to run. She has faced speed horses, come-from-behind horses, traffic troubles, won on dirt, won synthetics, won at six furlongs, won at 1 1/4 miles. She dances before races, she poses after races.

Secretariat was great, but Zenyatta is greater because she has never lost.

[Updated at 10:54 a.m.:

Tom Jicha, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Win or lose, undefeated Zenyatta is one of the greatest horses ever and deserves the Horse of the Year title she was denied last year. However, she might not be the greatest horse, or even female horse, at the Breeders’ Cup this year.

Goldikova, 6-5 favorite in the Turf Mile (for comparison's sake, Zenyatta is 8-5 in the Classic), also will be bidding for a third consecutive Breeders’ Cup championship. Unlike Zenyatta, who will be racing outside her gender for only the second time in 20 starts, European based Goldikova has defeated males numerous times.

Zenyatta is a sure Hall of Famer, but when her plaque hangs alongside the likes of Man O’War, Seabiscuit, Secretariat and Ruffian, she will be overmatched.]

[Updated at 2:21 p.m.:

Kevin Van Valkenburg, Baltimore Sun

Watching Zenyatta is like watching a tank with a Ferrari engine. She starts out slow, and then you cannot believe your eyes once she gets going, seeing a horse that big go that fast. She's more than 17 hands tall, not unheard of for a thoroughbred, but she weighs 1,200 pounds and has the hindquarters of a rhinoceros. Watching her accelerate through traffic is a  thing of beauty. If she wins the Breeders Cup Classic and finishes her career 20-0, she'll definitely go down as one of the most remarkable horses of all time.

But no way is she the greatest horse of all time. Sorry, it's not even close. All due respect to Zenyatta, but an undefeated record isn't everything. She's never run in the mud, never won wire-to-wire, never defeated a horse considered one of the all-time greats and never had a race like Secretariat at the Belmont in 1973. Citation, Man O'War and Secretariat -- just to name a few -- would leave her in the dust. 

She's a great horse. But greatest of all time? No way.

Robert Foltman, Chicago Tribune

If Zenyatta prevails Saturday, she would be only the second horse to win two Breeders' Cup Classic races, joining Tiznow's wins in 2000 and 2001 -- not to mention being the only filly/mare to win of the series' crown jewel -- and it would be her third straight Breeders' Cup victory to go along with her Ladies Classic win in 2008. She would also be a perfect 20-for-20 in her career.

Does that jump the classy lady ahead of the incomparable Triple Crown-winning Secratariat? In my book, it does.]

Photo: Zenyatta arrives at Churchill Downs on Tuesday. Credit: Bill Lester / Associated Press