Last weekend, Zenyatta, one of the greatest racehorses in America, proved that she is one of the all-time greats. Rocketing from last-to-first in a desperate finish where she won by a tiny margin, Zenyatta became the first racehorse in American history to win 17 top-level races in a row.
Zenyatta has never lost a race and her victory last year at the Breeders' Cup Championship over male horses was absolutely incredible.
But despite her greatness and how much I love watching her run, I want Zenyatta to place 2nd soon. Here's why:
Zenyatta has owners who shunned risk. When she began racing, Zenyatta quickly dominated the older female division. She'd fly away from the field so easily that it was clear the other mares were completely outclassed. But Zenyatta's owners wanted her to retire undefeated. So instead of launching to greater challenges against the bigger, stronger male horses, Zenyatta competed endlessly against horses she'd already vanquished.
What really annoys me about this is that when Zenyatta finally did race against the top males, she totally blew them away. And that's so disappointing! It tells me that she belonged in the top-ranked competition all year instead of competing solely against the smaller, weaker females.By trying to maintain a perfect record in order to get their horse into the Hall of Fame, Zenyatta's owners have chosen to go with the easier races for almost her entire career. It's a horrible shame, in my opinion.
Greatness in racing, and in innovation, and every other aspect of life, comes from taking on the tough challenges and succeeding more than failing.
That means champions can't be afraid of having a bad day. The best racehorses ever in America (Secretariat and Man 'o War) both lost - and then came back twice as strong in their next race. Of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, only two never lost a race, and they aren't even in the top 10.
So I actually wish that Zenyatta had lost last weekend. Because then her owners wouldn't have to make every decision while fearing to ruin her perfect record. Then, they could pit her against the best horses in the country again and again - and if she lost, they could say "It's no big deal. She'll get them next time."
That is how you achieve greatness. And all the people and businesses out there who are afraid to take on the greater challenges should take note. Because it's not about never failing - it's about getting right back out there and proving yourself all over again.