But Rachel Alexandra had the more dominant overall year - with five victories considered more impressive than the rest of Zenyatta's 2009 performances - and got the nod from turf writers and racing secretaries who voted for horse of the year. Rachel Alexandra received 130 votes; Zenyatta got 99.
"Either filly deserved this award," Jess Jackson, owner of Rachel Alexandra, said at a ceremony last night in Los Angeles.
Rachel Alexandra drew comparisons to legends such as Ruffian, besting top 3-year-old fillies by 20 1/4 lengths in the Kentucky Oaks. She bested the top 3-year-old boys in the Preakness and Haskell before beating older males in the Woodward Handicap, becoming the first female to win that race.
Jackson decided to skip the Breeders' Cup Classic because it was being contested over Santa Anita's synthetic surface. Rachel Alexandra had never raced over the surface and Jackson's colt Curlin had lost the Breeders' Cup the previous year over the same surface.
All five of Zenyatta's victories this year - and 13 of her 14 career victories - were over synthetic surfaces. However, that could change soon. Zenyatta owners Jerry and Ann Moss announced after the Breeders' Cup that Zenyatta would retire, as expected. The unexpected news came in recent days: that Zenyatta was back on the track in training.
Over the weekend, Moss announced that Zenyatta would race again in 2010 as a 6-year-old. With Rachel Alexandra also heading back to the racetrack, the expectation is that the two superstars will finally meet this year.
"We're hoping that each horse taking their course can win their way to an ultimate match," Jackson said.
Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Eclipse Award winners
Two-Year-Old Male: Lookin At Lucky
Two-Year-Old Filly: She Be Wild
Three-Year-Old Male: Summer Bird
Three-Year-Old Filly: Rachel Alexandra
Older Male: Gio Ponti
Older Female: Zenyatta
Female Sprinter: Informed Decision
Male Sprinter: Kodiak Kowboy
Male Turf Horse: Gio Ponti
Female Turf Horse: Goldikova
Steeplechase Horse: Mixed Up
Owner: Godolphin Racing
Breeder: Juddmonte Farms
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Apprentice Jockey: Christian Santiago Reyes
Trainer: Steve Asmussen