Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Blame

Expert Opinion

John Pricci on the DRF bloc voting Blame as Horse of the Year:

The shocking portion, however, was Daily Racing Form’s tally, a margin that looked very much like a third judge at a heavyweight title fight who was looking the other way while a battle was joined.

Joe Drape on the same subject:

Not surprising, but how un-expert. (via @raypaulick) DRF block went for Blame 38-21. How can DRF say it’s the authority on horse racing?

The argument could be made that the DRF bloc made the least shocking, most expert pick, going for a male winner of multiple Grade 1s over main track dirt with a narrow edge in speed figures (five triple digits to Zenyatta’s four) — a horse who beat the other the one time they met in the race that everyone said would decide the title (before the race was even run). They voted the dogma, which, most years, nicely aligns with what happens on track. That it didn’t this year says much more about how ultimately unsatisfying both leading HOTY contenders’ 2010 campaigns were than it does about DRF voters’ judgment.

Based on the rancorous debates of the past couple years surrounding the HOTY title, Todd Lieber argues in the Thoroughbred Times that Eclipse voters should have set criteria to guide their votes:

It would be up to others with far more knowledge and greater standing in the industry than this correspondent to determine what those criteria should be, but since I’ve raised the issue I will at least hazard a suggestion. The honor should go to the horse with the most consistent record of achievement at the highest level of racing during the year. To be sure, this will not stifle debate, but it would at least focus the questions.

Well, that’s awfully vague. How about a points system for HOTY?

How International

Are the World Thoroughbred Rankings?

Once again, the final tables have a slightly depressing pro-European and pro-Turf feel, despite the obvious desire to internationalise the process. Of the 69 horses of three years and upwards rated 120 or more, over half (36) are trained in Britain, Ireland, France or Germany, while all bar 13 achieved their best performances on grass.

Blame comes in #2 among older horses.

Zenyatta Feminista?

I’ve tried to stay away from the 2010 Horse of the Year debate. I don’t have a vote, and if I did, I might have been tempted toward the same conclusion as Alan Shuback before narrowly landing on Zenyatta as my pick for the honor. That would seem to put me on the same side of the debate as most female fans and voters. Steve Davidowitz, opening up his HOTY vote to fans for the second year in a row, reports quite a skew in the responses he’s received:

Get this: The actual tally of 147 fans that sent me E-mails and posted comments on this website was an astonishing 132 for Zenyatta and only 15 for Blame!

That imbalance of opinion similarly was skewed by the presence of so many female voters in my poll, as only 24 men voted, while 123 women participated.

The male vote was split down the middle, 12 for Blame and 12 for Zenyatta.

Looking at this another way, only three of the 123 women in my poll voted for Blame!

Turf writers’ ballots revealed so far are running along similar lines: Four of five women* have voted for Zenyatta; nine of 19 men for Blame, nine for Zenyatta.

12:00 PM Addendum: *Four of six, with Alicia Wincze casting a vote for Blame.

1/6/11 Addendum: Wow, Jennie Rees — who said she was going to vote Blame HOTY in a blog post a couple weeks ago — didn’t vote for either leading contender. “Very late in the game, I decided just to not vote in the Horse of the Year category — I made the decision not to make a decision.”

The Numbers

The Racing Post’s Rating of the Breeders’ Cup Classic:

All the best dirt horses in America featured and it produced an above average winner, and, for that matter, an above average runner-up. Blame had proved himself a progressive horse in the top division this season and on Saturday he climbed the final pass to the top of the handicapping ranks with an RPR of 131. Zenyatta, in receipt of a 3lb mares’ allowance, matched her previous best ease-adjusted RPR of 128+ from last year’s Classic. On the raw figures, this was the best performance of her life.

Both Blame and Zenyatta received a Beyer Speed Figure of 111 for the Classic. That matches Blame’s previous top in the Whitney, in which he defeated Quality Road, and is one less than the career-high 112 that Zenyatta was given for the 2009 Classic. The consistency suggests we saw the best of both.

How about Uncle Mo? Mike Watchmaker on the Juvenile winner’s BSF:

The 108 Beyer he earned in the Juvenile was the second highest since Beyers were first published for this race in 1991. The highest Beyer ever in the Juvenile was War Pass’s 113 in 2007. But that Juvenile was run over a sloppy, sealed track, and we all know that conditions like that can often produce aberant [sic], untrustworthy figures.

Mo’s figure ties that of Street Sense in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, also at Churchill Downs. Street Sense went on to win the 2007 Kentucky Derby off two preps, which is what trainer Todd Pletcher plans for his young star.

Breeders’ Cup handle, attendance, ratings, and website traffic were all up this year. From Tuesday’s press release announcing the gains:

Traffic to the Breeders’ Cup web site and micro sites, also experienced strong growth. Traffic to the Breeders’ Cup main web site, www.breederscup.com, was up 25% over 2009 and traffic to its specialty handicapping site, www.breederscup360.com, was up 600%.

I’m so pleased. And now that we’re a couple days away from the stress of keeping the BC360 site up, I can delight in the fact that we broke the server on Saturday afternoon — that’s how good traffic was across the BC network. On BC360, every significant metric — pageviews, unique visitors, time on site — showed tremendous growth. We had visitors from 127 countries, up from 90 in 2009, with increased numbers from the UK, Canada, and Australia. All credit to the editors and contributors, and thanks to everyone who visited!

While compiling the final BC360 stats report on Monday, I noticed that the iPad, introduced in January, came in #6 among visitors’ browser/OS combinations, and that not only did it register so high for a new device, but that it seemed to supplant smartphone usage, which was down across devices. Part of that may be due — at least for iPhone users — to the successful introduction of the Breeders’ Cup iPhone app this year, but it also occurred to me that people may prefer the tablet for mobile web browsing over the smartphone experience. Turns out, I may have stumbled onto a trend: “Are tablets the smartphone killer?,” asks Wired. It’s certainly plausible.