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Zenyatta falls short in quest for perfection

| November 7, 2010 8:00 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Put the blame on Blame for breaking Zenyatta's magnificent winning streak - and a lot of hearts, too.

Jockey Mike Smith wept. Owners Jerry and Ann Moss stood in stunned silence. Trainer John Shirreffs trudged slowly back to the barn, hands in his pockets.

Nineteen times the people behind Zenyatta led horse racing's superstar to the track. Nineteen times they'd celebrated with her in the winner's circle.

Not this time.

Blame beat Zenyatta by a head in a thrilling finish at the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday night, handing the 6-year-old mare her first defeat.

Zenyatta threaded her way through traffic from last place while the crowd of 72,739 urged her on as she unleashed a monstrous closing kick under the lights at Churchill Downs.

It was so close, a matter of inches, the result had to be resolved by a photo - a picture that saddened not only Zenyatta's owners and trainer but millions of fans around the world.

It was so close, Ann Moss said she was hoping her horse had "stuck her tongue out" at the finish.

Smith blamed himself for the loss. He walked off the track with his head down, dirt stuck to his face.

"It was my fault," he said, sobbing. "She should've won."

Blame went to the front in mid-stretch, then fought off another gutty run by the massive mare, who lagged well behind 11 rivals - all boys - in her customary style.

Sent off at 5-1 odds, Blame ran 1? miles in 2:02.28 and paid $12.40, $4.40 and $3.80. Zenyatta returned $3.60 and $2.80. Fly Down was another 3? lengths back in third and paid $8.60 to show. Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky finished fourth.

Zenyatta proved she could beat the boys last year when she rallied from behind to win the $5 million Classic at Santa Anita. It was one of her 17 wins on synthetic surfaces in her home state of California.

During the two-day Breeders' Cup championships, American horses earned 12 victories while Europe-based horses won twice.

European import Goldikova successfully defended her title in the $2 million Mile for the third consecutive year against 10 rivals, including nine boys. Dangerous Midge won the $3 million Turf, and Pluck won the $1 million Juvenile Turf.

Big Drama led all the way to win the $2 million Sprint; Chamberlain Bridge won the $1 million Turf Sprint; and 37-1 long shot Dakota Phone won the $1 million Dirt Mile.

Uncle Mo won the $2 million Juvenile, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his third win of the weekend.

In the Juvenile Turf, Rough Sailing was euthanized after breaking a major bone in his upper leg when he slipped and fell going into the first turn. Jockey Rosie Napravnik wasn't hurt.

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