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Girls Against Boys

Is Zenyatta or Curlin the Horse of the Year?

There's somethingto be said for perfection. Last Friday at Santa Anita Park, the 4-year-oldfilly Zenyatta completed an undefeated season by winning the $2 millionBreeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. Dropping to last out of the gate, as is herhabit, the muscular bay inhaled her seven rivals around the far turn and seizedthe lead 200 yards from the wire. It was a dominant performance, withjockey Mike Smith doing little more than shaking the reins at her a few timesover the 11⁄8-miles. "I've never felt something like this," hesaid.

Owned by A&MRecords cofounder Jerry Moss and his wife, Ann, Zenyatta is now seven for seventhis year and nine for nine in her lifetime. With the defeat of Curlin in the$5 million Breeders' Cup Classic last Saturday, she is beginning to getserious support as Horse of the Year. Though she has never raced against theboys and was tested just once on dirt, Zenyatta thoroughly dominated herdivision, finishing the year with four straight Grade I victories. Nohorse accomplished more in 2008.

Still, it would bea mistake to fault Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year and the top moneywinner in North American history, for his performance at Santa Anita. Afteraccomplishing so much as a 3-year-old in 2007, he could have spent this yearearning millions in the breeding shed. But wine magnate Jess Jackson, who ownsan 80% share of the big chestnut, instead showed a willingness to enter hiscolt anywhere, anytime. Curlin also won four Grade I races this year andnever lost on dirt.

Jackson andtrainer Steve Asmussen were reluctant to try the Classic, which was run over asynthetic racing surface new to Curlin and not to every horse's liking. Butthey gave it a go for the good of the game, a gesture that became moresignificant after Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown dropped out of the Classic,and into retirement, with a foot injury last week. The Santa Anita surface maybear at least part of the blame for Curlin's listless performance lastSaturday. When the Horse of the Year is announced in January, it would be ashame to see his handlers punished for good sportsmanship.

Isiah: The Strangeness

UNTIL LAST WEEK, the era of bizarre Isiah Thomasheadlines appeared to be over for the Knicks. Since being demoted frompresident and coach to a vague, titleless post last April, Thomas, 47, hadspent little if any time with the team. Sources say his absence was asked forby new president Donnie Walsh, who hoped to distance the club from the man whopresided over 41⁄2 losing seasons and was a codefendant in a sexual harassmentsuit that cost the Knicks $11.6 million in damages.

But Thomas has reemerged. Early last Friday morning anambulance was called to his Westchester County home, and authorities said a47-year-old man was treated for an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Thatwould have been enough for the tabloids to savor, but later in the day Thomastold the New York Post that it was his 17-year-old daughter Lauren (above, withThomas) who had a medical issue. It "wasn't an overdose," he said."My daughter is very down right now." That drew a rebuke from Harrison,N.Y., police chief David Hall, who said, "It wasn't [Thomas's]daughter," adding that his officers "know the difference between a47-year-old black male and a young black female" and questioning why theex-coach was "throwing his daughter under the bus."

Go Figure

0 Passes attempted by Navy in a 34-7 win over SMU lastSaturday.

3 Service academies that have won games this seasonwithout completing a pass; Army did so against Eastern Michigan on Oct. 11, andAir Force did it against Houston on Sept. 13.

475 Career goals scored by the Capitals' SergeiFedorov, the most by a Russian-born player in the NHL.

24-4 The Patriots' record against teams making theirfirst visits to Gillette Stadium; the Rams lost on Sunday in their first tripthere.

7-29 The Raiders' road record since 2003, the worstmark in the NFL.

120 Countries in which the Harlem Globetrotters haveplayed; Bosnia and Herzegovina was added to the list last week.

$58,100 Price of a 1967 Lincoln Continental auctionedby Boston's Franciscan Children's Hospital to an unidentified buyer last week;the car was donated to the hospital by ex-Red Sox star Manny Ramirez earlierthis year.

$156,900 Asking price of David Beckham's custom-made2002 Bentley Arnage T, which was put on sale last week.





LADIES FIRST Zenyatta romped at the Breeders'; Curlin (below) was upset by Raven's Pass (top).



LADIES FIRST Zenyatta romped at the Breeders'; Curlin (below) was upset by Raven's Pass (top).