SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There's an indescribable x-factor that some horses have. A presence. An energy. Between her majestic physical stature and fan-friendly personality, Zenyatta embodied the term greatness.
"The fact that she was a girl was really popular because so many women were fans of her," explained Zenyatta's trainer John Sherriffs. "She was so excellent and she excelled at racing so much. She came from behind. It seemed impossible that she'd get to the wire in time and somehow she'd manage to get there."
The filly won 19 of her 20 career races. She would prance to the starting gate, a dance of sorts that would drive fans wild. So when word that her half sister, Eblouissante, would be racing in Saratoga on Saturday, a small crowd gathered in the paddock to see whether she shared the same charisma as her sister.
The cameras clicked. Eblouissante stood at attention, nearly as tall as Zenyatta. Her presence wowing the onlookers - she was brilliant, an exact translation of her French name.
"The expectations are certainly high, but you always have to keep in mind, she is her own horse," John said before the Grade III Shuvee. "From the very beginning, Zenyatta wanted to beat other horses in workouts. She'd try so hard. Eblouissante, on the other hand, is like this really talented horse who doesn't know she has that ability... she didn't know if she was a race horse, she had to get to the next gear."
Eblouissante could not muster any late-race heroics like her sister. She finished last in the Shuvee, 30 1/2 lengths behind the winner. It probably didn't help that she was spooked in the gate and nearly hit her head when she acted up. It was also only her third career race, her first since January and her debut in a Graded Stakes.
She will likely race again this summer at Saratoga, and Sherriffs looks forward to helping her reach the high levels of expectations she has.
"She is a joy to watch train."
Not to mention, it doesn't hurt to be reminded every day of your all-time favorite.
"We can see her looking out over the hay down the shed row just as Zenyatta used to do. And the long ears, she has those long ears. So it's just like having a part of Zenyatta back in the barn."
But with a blemish like Saturday's loss on her record, Eblouissante will never rival the greatness of her sister. Nor should anybody expect her to - her trainer says it would be unfair.
"I could never go there... I don't think you can really compare another horse to Zenyatta."