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Serena Williams bests Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra in Associated Press' Female Athlete of the Year vote

Zenyatta Zenyatta loses!

Rachel Alexandra finishes seventh!

Not to worry.

The two female equine stars became part of the backstretch chatter -- if the not the winner's circle -- following Tuesday's vote for Female Athlete of the Year by members of the Associated Press.

The undefeated Zenyatta ran second to tennis star Serena Williams and unbeaten-in-2009 Rachel Alexandra was seventh. Williams won easily, 66-18, with Rachel Alexandra receiving 10 votes.

"That's pretty darn good," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday, adding: "And hey, how did Serena finish ahead of Zenyatta?"

The results show that, in thoroughbred racing, this indeed was the year of the female, a lift that allows the sport to brag about having two of the top seven female athletes of 2009.

"We already knew it was an impressive year for the sport with not one but two females distinguishing themselves as all-time greats," National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. President Alex Waldrop said. "With this vote by the AP, their historic campaigns transcended horse racing and captured the attention of sports fans around the world."

After the Williams-Zenyatta exacta, the female vote was rounded out by Kim Clijsters (tennis), Lindsey Vonn (skiing), Diana Taurasi (basketball), Maya Moore (basketball) and Rachel Alexandra.

Rachel Alexandra Horses have occasionally received support from voters for AP awards in the past. In the AP's Top 100 athletes of the century, 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat was No. 81, just ahead of Cal Ripken Jr.

The 5-year-old mare Zenyatta capped a 5-0 campaign in 2009 with a rousing last-to-first win over males in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, while 3-year-old filly Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness Stakes and then beat older males in the Woodward Stakes at Saratoga to complete an 8-0 season.

Baffert says year-end sports honors are "wow" awards, and horses deserve to be included.

"It's for doing something extraordinary and spectacular and these horses did that and deserve the recognition," Baffert said. "They're about half human, anyway."

-- Associated Press

Top photo: Zenyatta, with jockey Mike Smith aboard, shortly after winning the Breeders' Cup Classic race at Santa Anita Park. Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Bottom photo: Rachel Alexandra, with jockey Calvin Borel, shortly after winning the Haskell Invitational race at New Jersey's Monmouth Park.  Credit: Bill Kostroun / Associated Press

 
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